Chinese Chicken and Pork in False Creek and the Awesomeness of the Internet

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUL!

Chinese in Gastown

Atlas’s dad has a philosophy that we are born with a spirit and a body.  The body is tied to this earth and will return that way when its time is finished, but the spirit can live on in a new body.  And that spirit is always looking for the good in life, the good people, the good experiences, and so it will actively seek out those who it remembers were good in a previous life.  His family and our family, he says, get along so well because our spirits were friends in a previous life.  It’s a lovely sentiment.

As a child in a military household I moved around quite a bit, and I never stayed in any city longer than five years — until I moved to Ottawa, that is.  So every time we moved I felt like I was starting a whole new life, with new friends, and that my old lives were somehow over.  Visiting the west coast this summer was for me a revisiting of an old life, a way of showing my husband the way I used to be (and I’ll have more on that in a later post).

I had a friend in elementary school when I was living in Esquimalt.  Her name was Jordana* and we were friends from when my family was posted out west in grade three, to when her family, also military, was posted away at the beginning of grade five.  When she moved away I thought I would never see her again.  This was of course before Facebook and even email (this was the early nineties) and so the only way to reach each other would have been through letters, and if you’re never going to see a person again, what’s the point in wasting a stamp?

Our grade four class picture, for embarassment’s sake.  Jordana is third from the left in the centre row, and I’m sixth, with my bad-ass Casio watch and my hefty bangs.  This photo is courtesy of the gentleman sitting directly below me in this shot.

I joined Facebook in 2007, twelve years after leaving the west coast and fifteen years after I had last seen Jordana, and we reconnected over the internet.  At this time I was getting ready to move to Newfoundland with the Pie and she was settled in Vancouver, so it was unlikely we were going to run into each other any time soon.  Even so, we communicated back and forth sporadically and learned we had much in common.

Chinese in Gastown

Then my brother decides to get married out west, and Jordana and I figured this was our chance to finally meet up after TWENTY years apart.  She and her partner Daniel live in False Creek, a nice old area next to the water.  On our last night on the mainland, the Pie and took the SkyTrain from Coquitlam to Vancouver and trailed our way over to their place for dinner.

Chinese in Gastown
Their view of False Creek.

And you know, it was instant chemistry between the four of us (which, if you have ever tried to make friends as a couple, you know is a hard thing to accomplish).  Jordana and I talked our faces off for about four hours straight, while the quieter gentlemen exchanged views on computers and other manly endeavours.  We took a walk along the seawall after dinner, and Jordana and I both took a ton of pictures. Obviously.

Chinese in Gastown

And the food, cooked by Daniel, was excellent (yes, I’m finally getting to the recipe, sorry).  We had an amazingly tender chicken and a barbecued pork dish with the most incredible dipping sauces.  While Daniel’s not super keen to share his recipes, Jordana was very persuasive and so I now have them in my hot little hands.  And while Cait and Jul were here (and since they brought most of the spices from Ottawa for us), we decided to try it out.

For the Chicken:

First you start with a whole chicken, about 1.6kg or 3 1/2lb.  Take off all the fat that you can see and wipe down the inside with a paper towel, or two, to remove any goop in there.  Gross, but worth it, trust me.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Then find yourself a pot large enough to fit a bunch of liquid and a submerged chicken. Into that pot, chuck 1.5L (6 cups) water, 250mL (1 cup) soy sauce, 250mL (1 cup) shaohsing wine (also known as shaoxing), 150g (2/3 cup) light brown sugar, 1 large knob of ginger, peeled and sliced, 3 cloves garlic, sliced, 4 heads of star anise, 2 sticks cinnamon, and 3 pieces dried mandarin peel.

Yeah, that’s a hefty load of ingredients.  Cait and Jul brought the more far-out stuff with them from Ottawa, as I can’t get it here.  Anyway, bring all those ingredients in the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer all that spicy goodness for about 20 minutes.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Then you can submerge the chicken, breast side down, in the pot and raise the heat again to bring it to a boil.  Then turn it down again and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Flip the chicken over and allow it to simmer for a further 3 minutes, then pop a lid on the pot and remove it from the heat.  Let the chicken cool in the stock.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

When the stock is cooled you can take the chicken out.  If you plan to use the stock later (which you really should), then you need to strain it, bring it to a boil again, and then cool it and chuck it in the refrigerator.

As for the chicken, well it’s now up to you to do what you want with it. You can chop it up in a salad, or slice it thickly and re-form it on a plate (which is what we’re going to do).  You can also fry it in peanut oil and serve with salt and pepper and lemon juice.  It goes well with cilantro and the dipping sauce we’re going to make in a minute.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

For the Pork:

This recipe calls for pork neck, which I can’t find here.  I know it’s a poor substitute, because the consistency is all different, but I’m going to use a pork shoulder here.  I’m sorry.  If you can’t get a neck, try to find something with a bit of fat on it, if you can.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

First you want to mix up your marinade.  Take 4 tablespoons fermented bean curd, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 5 tablespoons shaohsing wine, 3 tablespoons yellow bean sauce, 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 4 tablespoons fine sugar, and 3 garlic cloves, minced.  Stir that into a frenzy.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Cait described the Yellow Bean Sauce as looking like “someone threw up in a bottle.” Seems about right.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

I was more grossed out by the fermented bean curd though.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Cut the pork into 4cm (~2″) strips and pour the marinade over the meat.  Leave that for about 2 hours.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Preheat your oven to 240°C (this is 464°F, so I would err on the side of caution and go with 450°F).

Fill a baking dish with water and fit a wire rack over top.  The ones with the folding legs are handy here, as you can use more water, and then it will keep the pork moist. Put the pork onto the rack and cook for 30 minutes.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Remove the pork from the oven and heat up 6 tablespoons honey.  Brush that over the pork and leave it to cool.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

For Sprinkling:

Slice up some fresh cilantro to sprinkle over everything.  As well, mince up some ginger and mix it with some black rice vinegar and leave that to sit for an hour or so — it goes fantastically with the chicken.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Serve the whole thing with some scented rice and some steamed greens.  We fried up some baby bok choy as an accompaniment over jasmine rice.

Chinese Pork and Chicken

Chinese Pork and Chicken

*Jordana is a blogger herself, and a much busier person than I am.  She writes about fashion here and here, and about travel here.  She even has her own online clothing store.  Check her out if you’re interested!

Get Your Fix at Re-Up BBQ

Re-Up

You may recall a while back that I mentioned my cousin’s food cart being featured on the Food Network’s Eat Street.  

Re-Up

What started out as something to do on a lark by my cousin’s husband Michael and his friend Chester, both former professional chefs, has turned into a wildly successful enterprise, with two food carts operating in downtown Vancouver and, most recently, an indoor restaurant in New Westminster’s River Market (they own the crab shack next door, too!).

Re-Up

When we were out west, we were finally able to taste the southern barbecue goodness that Re-Up has to offer.  If you were wondering, the food carts got their name from the proprietor’s favourite show, HBO’s The Wire.  To “re-up” is to replenish your stash of drugs when dealing on the corner.  And, as Michael says, this pulled pork is addictive, and the carts are on the corner, so it made perfect sense.

We made a visit to the new restaurant and enjoyed a fantastic family lunch.

Re-Up

Even baby Ari made an appearance, and Ando held onto her while my cousin Lindz had her own lunch.

Re-Up

We also got a tour of the premises, which included a gaze into the magic smoker.

Re-Up

And a sojourn into the freezer. Lindz wanted to see if the whole family would fit.

Re-Up

Where we got to look at stacks and stacks of bacon.

Re-Up

And brought some home with us.

Re-Up

We also enjoyed the commissioned graffiti that only restaurant employees can see.

Re-Up

I went with the traditional pulled pork sandwich for my lunch, and was not disappointed.

Re-Up

The Pie had two.  He was mighty full.

Re-Up

The girls enjoyed biscuits with chili.

Re-Up

Tego especially enjoyed the fresh coleslaw.

Re-Up

And a pile of brisket on mashed potatoes.

Re-Up

Washed down with Re-Up’s own custom sodas.

Re-Up

At that point it wasn’t just Ari who needed a nap.

Re-Up

You can visit Re-Up’s website, “like” them on Facebook, and/or follow them on Twitter.  And if you’re in the Vancouver area, make sure to pay them a visit in person.  Enjoy!

Re-Up

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Happy Birthday Ando!

Capilano Suspension Bridge

When we were much younger, my brothers and I sailed with my dad on his ship across the strait from Victoria to Vancouver to see the sights.  Back then, I was too terrified to attempt the crossing at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but the time had now come for me to face my fears.  Ando, his wife Teedz, and my two nieces, Tego and HG, decided to attempt the bridge while we were out west, and the Pie and I thought we would tag along.  I’m really glad we did.  In recent years, the rainforest surrounding the bridge has been turned into a huge educational conservation area, with lots of interesting stuff to see and do.  Admission is pretty steep ($28 for us students), but it’s worth it.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Right off the bat, you head across the 450ft (137m) bridge, suspended from cables 230ft (70m) above Capilano River.  The Pie told me that the bridge would support 96 elephants, so I was not to worry about falling.  As long as there were no elephants around.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tego continually watched me for my reaction every time the bridge bounced under the feet of the hundred or so people crossing it at the time.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

The view of the river (a little low at this time of year) from the middle of the bridge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Once across, there were tons of things to see and do to get kids (and grownups) more in tune with the nature around them.  One such activity was to test out your wingspan.  HG was not pleased to be ONLY halfway between a raven and a great horned owl. She’s trying to make herself longer in this shot.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tego was happier to be a great horned owl, almost a goose.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

And the Pie broke the mould by being a giant, and an eagle at the same time.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

We were surrounded by so many ancient and massive trees, cedars and firs and all sorts of things.  It was quite a shock to come from Newfoundland, where trees are maybe the height of a house and live for about 40 years, to see things like this Douglas Fir, which was 205ft tall, 20ft in diameter, and about 1300 years old.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tego learned quickly what it means to be a tree hugger.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

HG didn’t find the tree’s height all that impressive.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

We also took part in the relatively new Treetop Adventure, which I actually found more nerve-wracking than the big bridge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Teedz, Ando, and HG were happier than me.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

But we got some great views and learned a whole bunch of stuff.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Then we crossed back over the bridge …

Capilano Suspension Bridge

And went on the park’s newest attraction, the Cliff Walk, which is a wee construction sticking out from the side of the Capilano gorge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tego watching to make sure I don’t freak out.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Because the floor is made of GLASS in some parts.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

HG again was unconcerned.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

In fact she ran ahead while I clutched the rails.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Once our ordeal was over, the Pie and HG were pleased to accept their certificates for having completed every activity station in the park.  What you can’t see (because it matches his shirt too well) is the Park Explorer button that HG won for completing the Tree Top adventure.  She gave it to her uncle because it didn’t go with her outfit.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Definitely worth a visit!

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Connecting and Reconnecting on the West Coast

As you know, my eldest brother Krystopf got married to the lovely Atlas on the 7th of July in Vancouver, and the Pie and I took the opportunity to head out west and explore both Vancouver itself and Vancouver Island, where I spent five years of my childhood.  It was a good opportunity to see old friends and old places again, and we met so many new people who are now part of our (extremely large) extended family.  It was also fun to show the Pie some of the places I remembered growing up.

We saw and did so much in the 12 days that we were gone that I can’t even begin to cram it all into one blog post.  I will therefore be doling it out every couple days (interspersed with your regular DIYs, so you don’t get bored!) for the next little while.  I learned some new recipes while I was gone and we ate soooooooooo very much food, so you’ll get to hear all about it.

We’ll start off slow, though.  The weather while we were out west was remarkable, in that it was sunny every day (which you know is rare for that side of the Rockies).  We stayed at Atlas’ parents’ house in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver, and their house is perched halfway up a hill with a great view of the river and surrounding cities.  This is the night-time view.

Hooshang's Garden

Atlas’ parents have a fascinating little garden at this place (they also have a hobby farm outside of town where they keep all sorts of things).  I’m a sucker for sunshine shining on plants (because I see it so rarely here in St. John’s), so I took tons of pictures of the wee garden, which was right outside our bedroom window.

These look like giant thistles, but I’m sure they are something else entirely.

Hooshang's Garden

Those things that look like beans are actually curly leaves.

Hooshang's Garden

But I wish they were beans.  I like beans.

Hooshang's Garden

And so many flowers tucked in every corner.

Hooshang's Garden

Hooshang's Garden

Hooshang's Garden

Hooshang's Garden

And some illicit flowers as well.

Hooshang's Garden

You might be familiar with this plant.  It’s called giant hogweed, and its sap, if you get it onto your skin, acts as a magnifier for UV rays, so you can easily get yourself a third-degree sunburn if you aren’t careful.  They are a banned plant in Ottawa, and probably many other cities as well.  Atlas’ parents, however, cook with the seeds, so they keep the plants around.

Hooshang's Garden

They made me feel quite tiny wandering between their stalks (careful not to touch them, of course).

Hooshang's Garden

And it seems I wasn’t the only visitor to the garden on this day.

Hooshang's Garden

The ladybug kindly stayed still long enough for me to take a million photos.

Hooshang's GardenMore to come in the next little while: new recipes, daring tree-top adventures, massive festivities, and me with tons of makeup!  Stay tuned!

Vancouver Ho!

On home turf... sort of.

Today the Pie and I head west yet again.  This time Papa John and Mrs. Nice have flown in to babysit Grenadier while we attend Atlas and Krystopf’s wedding with my parents.  We will be starting off on the mainland, and then after the wedding we’ll make a trip back to Victoria to catch up with some old friends, whom I haven’t seen since the early 1990s, and old landscapes, which I haven’t seen since 2001.  I look forward to showing the Pie the place where I spent an awesome five years of my life.

Posts will be as regularly scheduled, plus daily tidbits from the marvelous technology that is in my magic phone.  Then a nice trip digest upon our return.  See you then!