What I did on my long weekend, part 2

Welcome back to the continuing story of what I did on the Saturday long weekend! After my excursion to the City Market, I popped home briefly to drop off my farmers’s market goodies. Next up, the annual Edmonton Heritage Festival!

This is my favourite Edmonton festival. The food, the sights, the culture, Hawrelak Park, the weather – they all combine to make a perfect day. I admit I have a soft spot for this festival; I was a frequent volunteer back when I was a student. I spent many years handing out maps at the information booth, and even spent some time drawing awkward cartoons on kids’ faces (“But I don’t know how to draw,” I cried. “That’s okay,” they said as they handed me a box of face paints.). One year I had a really fun job where I got to wander around the whole park and ask people to fill out a short survey about the festival. It was the best volunteer job I’ve ever had so far, probably because I wasn’t stuck in a tiny booth or in one spot for my whole shift.

After lathering on DEET (to fend off the mosquitoes that have invaded the city) and sunscreen, and carrying a bag of canned food for the Edmonton’s Food Bank, I headed off to Hawrelak Park. I was happy to see quite a lot of people in attendance; from my past experience Saturdays generally aren’t as busy as Sundays and Mondays, and I wondered if there would be a lot of competition due to all the other events happening in the city at the same time. Finding the Food Bank donation box was easy enough because they were everywhere near the bus drop-off, but finding a map or information booth proved to be nearly impossible. Who’s bright idea was it to stick them in white tents with only one tiny sign on the front of the booth? And why were they all open to the middle of the park instead of facing the pavilions?

All the pavilions were using bamboo or recycled plastic cutlery, and what looked like to be recycled plates and bowls. There were a lot of recycling bins around too, but it looked like people were confused as to whether or not they could recycle their cutlery and plates once they were finished with them.

My first stop was at the Thailand pavilion for some pad thai and sweet sticky rice and mango goodness.

Half eaten pad thai and sweet sticky rice and mango

Half eaten pad thai and sweet sticky rice and mango

And then the Boreno tent tempted me by offering laksa on their menu. It was ok but ultimately disappointing to someone who has eaten really good laksa before – the soup wasn’t coconutty enough, the shrimp was deceptive because it was only half of a piece, and there was barely any hot spicing to the soup.

laksa

laksa

A stop at Portugal netted me BBQ sardines and a pastel de nata. The pastel de nata was creamy and a little less sweet than the Chinese version that I’m used to, which I liked. The sardines were big ones, unlike the dinky ones that I’m used to finding in cans, and were a great value for the ticket price. They were delicious and a maybe a tad too salty, but I was a little bit disappointed that they weren’t gutted at all. The bones of the smallest fish were easy to crunch into, but the larger ones had to have the flesh picked off of them. I admit I did eat the heads. And they were yummy. Don’t knock fish heads until you’ve tried them!

BBQ sardines and pastel de nata

BBQ sardines and pastel de nata

I actually had a passing stranger stare at me and emit nervous giggles as I ate Peru’s offering of anticuchos (beef heart marinated in vinegar, oil, cumin). Tender and flavourful, this dish was one of the highlights of the day.

anticuchos

anticuchos

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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

Tropika, Edmonton

I recently stopped at Tropika for a meal, and picked a few things off their menu to share.

Unlike in Malaysia, these portions are quite large. An order of Singapore laksa (made with what looks like a red curry as opposed to a yellow curry) can feed 2-4 people. The flavour of it was good but it was disappointing to find that the majority of the bowl was made up of noodles. It would have been nice to have more sliced of fish cake, tofu puffs, shrimp and bean sprouts.

Singapore laksa

Singapore laksa

Their roti canai is light and fluffy; I would say lighter and fluffier than the ones I ate in Malaysia. The accompanying curry sauce is, like their laksa, more of a red curry than yellow. Their satays (chicken and lamb pictured here) are seasoned well and come with a dish of spicy peanut sauce, pineapple and cucumber. The peanut sauce is probably the best part of this dish.

roti canai and satay

roti canai and satay

Tropika is pretty much the only Malaysian restaurant in Edmonton. I wish there were more choices, but you make due with what you’ve got! I tend to stick to a few specific dishes such as the ones I ordered, or perhaps picking up some mee goreng instead of a laksa. Their pineapple fried rice, served in half of a pineapple, is a great dish for kids or for adults who are looking for something without heat. If you want to try Malaysian food, I would suggest going to Tropika (and staying away from the Thai dishes as there are better places to have Thai food in Edmonton), or try the handful of Malaysian dishes over at Matahari on 124 st.

Tropika
6004-104 Street
Edmonton, AB
or
14921 Stony Plain Road
Edmonton, AB
www.tropikagroup.com

Tropika (South) Malaysian Cuisine on Urbanspoon