for the past 4 months, I have had the opportunity to cook lunch 4 days a week at a local grocery store here in downtown kitchener (or as they call it, DTK). since it’s just me running the show (while the other cooks handle the catering side of the business), it’s been a huge learning curve; a really ideal way to test recipes and to get feedback for it. I get to share my experience through the food that I make while pushing people’s boundaries a little with asian inspired flavour bombs ;)
do you love thai mango salad but live in a place where mangos don’t grow naturally? ‘cause I do! and green apples are a great substitute. they give a similar crunch and tanginess that green mangos have, plus, they don’t need to travel 11,000 km to get to your plate. pair this with our chicken and squash penang curry and maybe even this coconut chia pudding, and you’ve got a thai feast ready in no time.
hai everybadee! today we are going to make sundubu-jjigae, a korean spicy tofu stew!
I have to give full credit to maangchi, ‘youtube’s korean julia child’, for teaching me everything I know about korean food. with the addition of just a couple ingredients to your pantry, you can enter the world of maangchi too! for this recipe, you’ll need sesame oil, korean chili powder, some sort of asian cooking wine, and kimchi. all can be found at your local korean or east asian grocery store.
similar to mapo tofu, sundubu jjigae packs a whole lot of flavour in a short amount of time. small quantities of bacon make this dish flavourful, affordable and an easy weeknight option. serve with rice of choice.
it wasn’t too long ago that I had my first real deal kung pao chicken. I always thought of it as an americanized-chinese-mall-food-court thing, often looking way too electric orange for comfort, and always mixed with an assortment of previously frozen vegetables (including the dreadful baby corn) note: fresh baby corn is actually amazing but really difficult to come by in north america
banana muffins baking in the oven has got to be one of my favourite smells in the world. as the maillard reaction goes down and the bananas begin to caramelize, an intoxicating, golden aroma fills the room and brings me right back to early memories of the first thing I ever baked. this version (based off a recipe from reid’s mom) is extra fibrous and filled with lots of good stuff for when you’ve been eating too much take-out and need a gut cleansing. perfect for an on-the-go breakfast, or as a snack, any time of day. we sometimes sub the bananas with pumpkin or chestnut purée to mix it up a bit. serve with a knob of butter for extra unctuousness.
one upside of it being the dead of winter is that it’s also citrus season!!! from pomelos to clementines, blood oranges to navel, we’ve got some beautiful, tropical imports that remind us that there’s still colour in the world. this slaw uses one of my favourite citrus fruits - pomelo! it’s a sweeter, milder grapefruit that’s less bitter. combine that with easily available winter veg and a dressing that’s shelf stable for a week, and you’ve got an easy, healthy option for lunch or dinner. for added protein, toss in some cooked chicken.
we first had rice soup for breakfast in chiang mai, thailand with a lady named we. before starting the day cooking with her, she fed us this beautifully simple and nourishing bowl of rice soup that kept us going for the rest of the afternoon. it made me wonder why I didn’t always have rice soup for breakfast since it’s super easy to make, eat, and heat up again for more than one occasion. toss a few eggs in for some added protein and you’re set for the day. her version had ground pork and chilis, but I’ll recreate that another time.
my fav butter chicken will always be from bombay mahal on st. laurent in montreal. that might be the case until I go to india, but I heard the dish is rather north american, just like general tso’s. still great in its own way, just a different category all on its own.
bombay mahal was the best place to go when you didn’t want to cook or just got in from a long travel day. be sure to try their delicious baingan bharta too - no where else I’ve been does it better! anyway, my excitement put me off track and I’m really here to tell you that this butter chicken is pretty damn good.
the amount of butter might be alarming, but I’ve already it cut down from a lot of other recipes. butter is in the name for a reason! and it’s so luscious and creamy because of it. serve with basmati rice and naan.
I have to pay homage to the thai-viet restaurant I worked at in montreal for this one, restaurant hà. this salmon is so damn flavourful, you’ll be shocked at how incredibly simple it is to make. the main ingredient is store bought tom yum paste (yes, I actually cheat sometimes), which you can usually find in the sauce or canned goods section of an asian market, or in the international aisle of a larger grocery chain. the salmon is even a bit forgiving when overcooked (but it won’t be!) as the decadent and luscious coconut sauce pairs beautifully coated on the fish. it’s a stellar contrast between vibrant and delicate flavours all in one bite!
for not being a celiac myself, it says a lot when I say that these are my favourite chocolate chip cookies ever. they’re crispy on the outside, chewy and melt-in-your-mouth on the inside, and perfect with a glass of milk. store them in an airtight container at room temp for a couple days and they’ll go like hot cakes. I always microwave them for 20 seconds to get them back to their freshly-baked-out-of-the-oven state. my microwave sucks though, so adjust your seconds accordingly or you’ll have a melty mess. still a melty delicious mess, but not what you want. this recipe makes 36 cookies, but we always divide the dough into 3rds and freeze 2 portions in ziplock bags. whenever we’re craving some fresh baked cookies, we just defrost a bag, ball up the dough and pop them in the oven! efficiency for the win!
This is definitely our favourite tomato soup recipe ever! It's buttery, velvety, tangy, sweet and the perfect accompaniment for crisp and gooey grilled cheese. The key is letting your onions cook down so that the natural sweetness of them balance out the tartness of the canned tomatoes. Simple and delicious, this is an effortless recipe to add to your repertoire.
When you ask a local in Thailand what they cook at home, the answer is often some version of Pad Ka Prao. This minced pork stir fry is made with 'holy basil' or ka prao, a peppery cousin of the commonly found sweet basil in North America, but since holy basil is difficult to find, feel free to substitute either Thai or Italian basil -- just don't let a Thai chef catch you calling it "Pad Ka Prao". We love this dish because it's super easy and packed full of flavour. Serve with steamed rice, a crispy fried egg with a yolk that oozes over and some steamed veg, and you've got dinner in under 30 minutes. We make our version farang spicy but if you can handle your chiles like a true Thai you can toss in a few more.
Massaman curry is one of my personal favourites. It's a go-to recipe when I host private dinners for larger groups, or have a free Sunday to spend cooking. It is rich, complex, and packed with SO much flavour, and I get giddy when I smell the paste frying. The aroma that fills the room is INCREDIBLE. After leaving it for a while to bathe and bubble in its own deliciousness, you're left with a magical, golden curry with beautifully tender chicken or beef. Damn, I'm mouthwatering again. This recipe definitely takes time 'sans aggression', but trust me, it is well worth it.
There's something incredibly satisfying about eating with your hands, but sometimes it seems like everything in the world is held by the glutens. Pizza, burgers, wraps, sandwiches - gluten makes an excellent handle. But then there are tacos. I drive Jannell nuts trying to turn everything I can into tacos. Breakfast-tacos, stupid-fusion-tacos-that-should-just-unfuse-and-be-served-on-rice tacos, vegetarian-tacos, and these. These are my favourite tacos ever, modelled after a taco stand at Jean Talon market in Montreal that sells exactly one type of taco: cochinitas pibil. They start with the meat - pork shoulder slowly braised in achiote paste, garlic and orange juice. Then you add some refried beans for a nice soft texture to round out the pork. Throw some pickled onions, hot sauce and cilantro into the mix and you're done.