Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Richmond Night Market

As you can see on this map Richmond is highlighted in red. The city of Richmond is located on what is called Lulu Island and from what it looks like I believe to be reclaimed marshlands. I know this because there were dykes everywhere and that makes sense because its lower than sea level and is surrounded by water on all sides. Sucks for them if a big earthquake hits..

For those of you who don't know, my husband and I live in Port Coquitlam (Poco). On the map it doesn't look far but it actually is quite an undertaking to drive through Vancouver traffic from Poco to Richmond. I checked google directions and the route we took was 40 kilometres and it took an hour to drive in 6pm traffic on a Friday night. Not too bad..

To say Richmond is an immigrant city is an understatement. 60% of its residents are immigrants and 70% of those immigrants are Chinese. Putting it bluntly, there may be a traditional China Town in downtown Vancouver, but Richmond is like a China away from China. And theres not just Chinese but pretty much every other Asian immigrant group you can think of. But from what Ive seen and heard Id say the far majority are Mandarin speakers and practically every commercial building in the area has Chinese letters THEN English letters. I was surprised that their local Starbucks store and sign wasn't written in Mandarin.   

So anyway, for quite a while I had been hearing tons about the Richmond Night Market and how awesome it is. I was hardly told anything about the food but told that there was tons of interesting stalls with practically anything (most like black market stuff). With sellers who were happy to haggle. I thought, that sounds cool, so I dragged Steven along in his sleep deprived state on what I thought would be a spectacularly awesome date. And well... It was pretty pathetic actually. Except for the food. THAT was amazing. Don't get me wrong it seemed pretty popular with the local residents. There was a big stage with Asian radio DJs doing a kind of Amjerican Idol thing and getting folks to do karaoke (rather badly I thought!) or playing Psy's Gangnam Style over and over again... Im like, thats ok, I know Asians are really into that but Im not, so I left that area and walked around the stalls which I came to find were quite frankly very disappointing. The stalls had the same things in them - bedazzled cell phone cases and random electronic junk that really were just junky; pokemon and other asian manga stuff that I believe should be reserved for children not grown men, glittery fake costume jewelery for women and lots of 'sponge bob square pants' socks and other stuff that you typically find in trashy 1 dollar lucky dip buckets. I guess I was hoping to see more fake higher end stuff or actual asian homewares (which I really actually love!). The only thing we did buy non food related was a man selling 'As seen on tv' microfibre mops.

On the other hand, despite their shoddy merchandise stalls Asians really do know how to make some amazing and weird food! And I was in the mood to eat some strange new stuff. They had a lot of foods I had never seen before and others Id heard of but never tried. I ended up trying some squid which Id never had before and hoped would taste like calamari (which it didn't). The flavour was awesome but it was a lot more chewy than I thought and felt like I had to bite through nerves or something like that. The second thing I ate which I would definitely eat again was a Korean deep fried sweet pancake stuffed with seeds, nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon. Delicious!

Contrary to what a lot of ignorant white people think, I think the Asian population puts just as much pride and presentation into their food as any other country. I think we hear so much about horror stories involving minced up dogs, contaminated milk and stir fried crickets from the western media we lose sight of how to appreciate their version of food appropriately and with delight. Having spent time in Japan when I was 16 Im a huge fan of Japanese bento lunches and desserts. They make their food look like art as well as taste good.

Overall Id say if you're non asian you should go for the food experience not for the merchandise stalls. Try to eat a little bit of everything and ask for samples and they will give you bits and pieces gladly if it means you'd be a potential customer. Look at their pokemon and gawky stuff if you will but take any seller who says their stuff is "One of a kind" with a grain of salt lol. And be prepared to listen to a lot of Gangnam Style..

Rachael Ray's Summer Corn Fettuccine

Summer Corn Fettuccine

Above is the link for the actual recipe that I followed. 

It calls for fresh corn and fresh herbs. Its barely spring here in Vancouver so no fresh corn and I haven't quite had time to grow a decent amount of herbs so all I had was dried thyme and dried basil which I used (probably a little bit too much!) and a can of corn. It still tasted pretty good! Also I hate the taste and smell of bacon so that was out and I just cooked a bit of sliced ham from the deli and added it in.

The recipe in the book is pretty good. Nice visual cues with instructions. Bullet points. Not too complicated. Once you've made it successfully you can easily make it again without the book from memory. Easy to switch around ingredients for future use.

Monday, May 13, 2013

McDonalds salads and library books!!

With my new job as a barista I usually finish work exhausted with extremely sore feet (which Ive been told is the norm for workers everywhere lol). But with my work so close to the public library I decided to stop in and check out their books. 
Maybe its the coffee fumes or just my general exhaustion but Ive hardly been cooking these days let alone eat much. My most popular meal over the last fortnight has been nothing but a variety of salads, some home made and some store bought with a bit of protein added in. The best store bought salad Ive had so far actually came from McDonalds. That sounds horrible - a 'good' salad from McDonalds?!! You must be mad I hear you saying. Hey well try it before you bash it I always say! Here it is - 

Im not saying Im totally naive and foolish to think its healthier  than say a homemade salad especially with the chicken in it. But given the hurry I was in and the starving sensation in my stomach and the McDonalds drive thru calling to me I was relieved that I had a choice other than a 1000 calorie Big Mac. And here in Canada it only cost me approx $7 and the salad was huge and it came in a container I actually took home and reused for my other leftovers because it was so sturdy and had a lid.

For those curious heres a link to McDonalds nutrition information on this salad - 

The specific things I liked about it was the teriyaki chicken, edamame and decent sized portions of red pepper and crunchy lettuce. This wasn't a pathetically limp tiny portioned salad. You know the ones Im talking about - the advertising gloats about the real veges in it and when you open it up you discover only tiny reconstituted veges or none at all. Gross. Not this one. I was actually really pleased. I don't think I'd go back continually just for this salad - Id much prefer try and make a homemade version. BUT if you've got the money to burn and McDonalds is all thats around and you don't want bloating and gas from their other options - try it, its delicious. 

So ANYWAY, I was in the library and and these are the cookbooks I got:

I know Im a fantastic home cook. Im pretty good at picking a recipe and usually every time getting it bang on perfect. Cooking reminds me that I am good at science (as opposed to what my high school science teacher believed) - its chemistry isn't it? The thing Im discovering with working full time is my need to plan. Previously when I was a energy filled housewife I had this uncanny ability of going to the refrigerator at 5 o'clock in the evening and eyeing up what was there and within 30 seconds knowing what I would make and then making it all within 30-45 minutes. I never planned my meals, I just cooked and everything was done from scratch. 
Now that Im working that super power has all but disappeared. Now when I think of food or look in my fridge I tend to look like this - 

- Persona staring at box of moving pictures in brain dead state otherwise known as "The Nothing Box"

So I got out those four cookbooks for various reasons:

Jamie Oliver: I love this guy but usually I can only do his recipes after watching him do it on tv. Largely because he writes the majority of his recipes in a way that Im not used to - combining the ingredients into the recipe sequences. I got his 'Food Revolution'  in hope that Steven would take a peak and try a few because theyre written for the inexperienced cook. I also got it because this book specifically goes back to basics and inspires me to change my favorites every now and then and because hes a POM and I grew up on British cooking so its all a comfort to me.

Rachael Ray: Again, like Jamie Oliver I can only make her recipes after watching her. Additionally her previous cookbooks were a nightmare to read. As someone who is visual and unfamiliar with her American-Italian food I NEED pictures and her books had zero pictures! And I need descriptions of what the recipe is about since she highly favours spices and chilies in her food. So does Jamie Oliver but at least he warns me in his books. Once Ive made a recipe and I like it, I don't need picturessince I can just use the mental reference. However, I like her energy and I like her recipes and how east coast American they are. So she has lots of Italian, Irish, Jewish, European influences that Ive never heard of that I want to try out.

Martha Stewart: I like Martha Stewart in the capacity as I liked Michael Jackson - I like their talent but not them personally. Martha Stewart despite her private issues and horribly perfect home decor is a fantastic cook and this cookbook especially I would rate up there with 'Joy of Cooking' or Betty Crocker. Its an American Edmonds cookbook. Nothing but American classics. Some of the recipes Ive heard of before and some I havent but this is the 3rd time Ive gotten this book out and that should tell you something. Like most American's she uses far too much fat and carbs than what Im used to in home cooking so I usually adapt it to make them healthier.

Cajun and Creole: Since I moved to Canada Ive been really interested in Southern food particularly the food history of Louisiana with mexican, african and french influences particularly their seafood!. Im slowly getting myself used to spices I would have never tried in my childhood. With our proximity to the US and our ability to buy their food cheaply  I want to really have a go at making some of these recipes esp the ones involving crab and shrimp!

So with some planning around my work days, I will try to make at least 2 recipes from these books during the week and I will put my tryouts and thoughts on them here :D