News and links – Chinese New Year edition

Happy Chinese New Year! Gung hay fat choy! Tonight is the eve of the new year, and when I think of new year I automatically think of food. If you are interested in celebrating the Year of the Rabbit, here are a couple of interesting links for you.

Chinese New Year 2011

by Leticia L, on Flickr

And if you want to see what I get to eat during this time of year, check out this series of posts from a couple of years ago: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

Enjoy the new year! I know I will, if I can manage to roll myself out of my chair after all that food.

 

 

Christmas tips

Here’s a little Christmas present, from me to you.

Tip #1: Always check the expiry date on your baking powder before trying to actually bake anything. You will save yourself frustration, wasted labour, and baking that doesn’t turn out correctly.

Tip #2: If you don’t want to cook or eat leftovers on Christmas Day, head to Chinatown. Asian restaurants are pretty much the only places that are open on the 25th. Dim sum, anyone?

There will be a new Morocco blog post before the new year. One with lots and lots and lots of photos. Have a Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) everyone!

Green onion cakes

Summer in Edmonton means festivals, and festivals mean food. There are certain food items that you usually expect to find at Edmonton’s festivals, one of which are green onion cakes. It always baffles me why people insist on standing in long lines for this. I can understand if they’re looking for the puffy kind that you can usually find in restaurants, but more often than not the kind that I see people eating are the flat ones. Don’t they know that they can easily make them at home themselves?

Just a warning – this is not a “how to make green onion cakes from scratch” kind of post. Screw that, I don’t have the time! This is my patent-pending “how to make green onion cakes the quick, cheap and lazy way” recipe.

Green onion cakes

Ingredients
1 package of frozen green onion cakes, can be purchased at any Chinese grocery store
a neutral cooking oil like canola or sunflower oil

my favourite brand of frozen green onion cakes

my favourite brand of frozen green onion cakes

Directions
Heat a non-stick frying pan somewhere between medium and medium-high. Add oil to the pan. You will need more oil than you think; I usually use a bare minimum of one tablespoon (and sometimes more) per side for each green onion cake. The dough will soak up the oil very quickly so if you don’t add enough oil the cake won’t cook properly and if you add too little the cake will be too oily.

Stick your still frozen green onion cake in the pan. (I don’t recommend defrosting them because the dough will stick together and then you will have one very tall green onion cake blob instead of multiple green onion cakes.)

partially cooked green onion cake

partially cooked green onion cake

The green onion cake will start to change colour from white (frozen), to partially translucent (defrosted), to golden brown (cooked). Flip it once one side has lightly browned. Make sure to check on them as they cook, as they can easily burn. Once both sides are nicely browned, slide them onto a plate and you’re all done!

fully cooked green onion cake

fully cooked green onion cake

Be careful of eating them right out of the pan because they will be piping hot and you will burn your fingers and/or mouth. Eat plain, or serve with your favourite condiment (Sriracha, etc.).

Double Greeting Won Ton House, Edmonton

If you are looking for cheap and greasy Chinese food, this is the place in Edmonton to get it.

Double Greeting has been around for longer than I can remember. I ate here as a kid, and I still eat here as an adult. It’s one of those places that look a little dingy but has a steady set of loyal customers – both Asian and non-Asian.

The key to ordering here is to stick to noodle and rice dishes. Won ton too, of course. The congee is okay too.

Beef chow fun is one of my standby dishes at noodle cafe such as Double Greeting. There are variations of it that you can order – seafood instead of beef, more vegetables, etc. This is one of the dishes that I use as a bellwether to test the quality of food at a restaurant.

Double Greeting’s beef chow fun has lots of tender beef, lots of bean sprouts (but not too many), the noodles are firm but soft and not at all gluey, and the dish has enough grease on it to make the noodles shine but not so much as to make it taste really oily in your mouth. Oh, and see the slight char on the noodles? Yum.

beef chow fun

beef chow fun

Another dish that I order a lot – mostly because I like it and not because I use it to judge the food at a restaurant – is salted fish and chicken fried rice. A good version of this dish will have a little bit of egg, small to medium sized chunks of tender chicken and plenty of shredded salted fish scattered throughout the rice. Too much fish means the rice is oversalted, and too little fish will mean the rice is bland.

salted fish and chicken fried rice

salted fish and chicken fried rice

I was let down by Double Greeting’s version of this dish. It wasn’t greasy, which was good, but they skimped on the salted fish and as a result the rice was bland and I was craving flavour. I would rather have Spicy Garden’s version.

If you are in the mood for rice at Double Greeting, I suggest trying the pineapple and chicken fried rice instead of the salted fish and chicken.

Double Greeting Won Ton House
10212-96 Street, Edmonton

Double Greeting Wonton House on Urbanspoon

Asian Wok Express, St. Albert

Go to any food court in any shopping mall here and I guarantee that you will find a place selling food that is partly Chinese and partly Canadianized/Westernized concepts of Chinese food. You know the ones I’m talking about – those places that pour neon coloured sweet and sour sauces onto dough-covered chicken balls and lemon chicken covered in radioactive yellow sauce. Some friends came up with a term for this Westernized Chinese food – Chestern. (Mostly to tease me but I’m copyrighting it here so I own it now. Ha!)

The Asian Wok Express, located inside a strip mall right next to St. Albert Road, is one such place. A friend and I stopped in there to have a quick meal and I was interested to see that a constant flow of people – mostly doing take out – kept the kitchen staff busy. Service was very attentive and friendly.

Asian Wok Express

Asian Wok Express

My friend was craving some fried food, so an order of spring rolls was on the list, as well as a bowl of hot and sour soup.

spring rolls

spring rolls

The spring rolls were fried just right and tasted fine, but wasn’t anything special.

hot and sour soup

hot and sour soup

The hot and soup soup serving was quite large, and probably could have fed two people. It was nicely spiced but the texture was a little too thick and gloopy for my taste.

satay Shanghai noodles

satay Shanghai noodles

I had satay-flavoured Shanghai noodles. The flavour was great with a hint of heat, and there were plenty of chicken pieces that also held the flavour well. My one criticism was the amount of vegetables in the dish as the ones you can see in the photo plus a few more pieces were probably all I got on the plate. A dish with so many noodles need more vegetables than that.

So all in all, the food was relatively decent. Would I make an effort to go back? Probably not, but if I was in the neighbourhood and wanting Chestern I would not hesitate to stop here.

Asian Wok Express
1 Hebert Road, St. Albert

Asian Wok Express on Urbanspoon

Golden Rice Bowl, Edmonton

While waiting for friends to show up, I  ordered a bunch of dim sum dishes at the Golden Rice Bowl, and then hurriedly took a picture before they arrived and polished off all the food.

Golden Rice Bowl dim sum

Golden Rice Bowl dim sum

They’ve done a good job of spiffing the place up – general renovations in the restaurant and bathrooms, new tablecloths and cutlery, and chair covers. They’re trying to be a little more creative with the food too. One dish I had (sorry, no photo) was a dumpling in chicken soup. It was a nice attempt, but the dumpling was rather ordinary and dense. I would have preferred a true boon tong gao to go along with the soup, which had a strong chicken flavour. Every other thing I had was good (not too greasy, not dry).

One thing did raise my eyebrows though – the bill. They must have jacked up the prices a bit more to pay for all the renos or something. This was one of the more expensive dim sum lunches I’ve had in a while.

With a little more creativity and new ownership, GRB could be one of the better dim sum places if not the best in the city. It will be interesting to see where this restaurant will go. They’re making a huge marketing effort too (commercials, a twitter account, a new website).

Golden Rice Bowl
5365 Gateway Boulevard
Edmonton, Alberta
www.goldenricebowl.ca

*Disclaimer: My parents know the manager of the restaurant, but he never remembers who I am and this review is based purely on my own opinon. I didn’t get any freebies or discounts.

Golden Rice Bowl on Urbanspoon

Spicy Garden, Edmonton

There are a handful of Chinese cafes in the city that I like to frequent. Patterned after Hong Kong-style cafes, the ones here are a pale comparison to ones you can visit in Hong Kong or Vancouver, or even Calgary. The cafes here aren’t innovative, but you can get some great (and relatively inexpensive) food.

Probably one of the pricier of my favourites, the Spicy Garden is probably the most consistent and less greasy of all of them. You can easily get a meal for $8 – $20. They have a wide range of food including congee, wonton, green onion cakes, fried noodles and rice dishes. It’s also the place that I go to pick up great Hainan chicken rice and ja leurng (rice noodles wrapped around Chinese fried long donuts and doused in soy sauce).

Last week I needed a quick solo meal and I had a craving for fried rice, so I popped into Spicy Garden for a quick bite and ordered a couple of other dishes that I regularly choose from their menu.

The first was some mantou – a steamed bread bun. Traditionally it is eaten as a white bun but as a special treat I like to order it deep fried. You can also get some sweetened condensed milk to dip the fried bread, but I find that the bread on its own is good enough for my tastes. This bread is light and fluffy on the inside due to the layering of the dough. The fried part is just a thin layer that gives each piece a quick crunch.

mantou

mantou

The second dish was some chicken and salted fish fried rice. I love this dish because of its contrasts – sharp hits of salt are mixed with the more mild chicken and rice.

chicken and salted fish fried rice

chicken and salted fish fried rice

I stuffed myself silly, and had plenty of leftovers to take home for the next day.

Spicy Garden Restaurant
9700-105 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Spicy Garden’s Dial and Dine web page
(please note that this is not the full menu available in the restaurant; anything off of their full menu can be ordered for pick up by calling the restaurant directly)

Spicy Garden Restaurant (Chinatown) on Urbanspoon