Herb Roasted Chicken

For my birthday, I’m hosting a murder mystery dinner party which requires a food component.  The game recommends something French – Coq au Vin.  I am most definitely NOT cooking that, considering the book / movie Julie and Julia.  While comedic and interesting in both, its not something I wanted to replicate in real life.

So what do I turn to?  Rotisserie chicken.  Hurray for prepared food!  Then I started thinking, what if I make my own roast chicken?  I’ve done it before a couple times, but never at home (ironic), but I need to try it out before the actual party.  So I set out to make a roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, miso gravy and crispy lemon salt cauliflower.

The herb rubbed chicken in the oven ready to be cooked

Cauliflower mixed and ready to be baked

I was working with a new ingredient this time – miso.  I’ve had lots of miso before, but I’ve never cooked it.  The paste came in a bag and it was very salty.  I used it to make a gravy.  Did you know, if you googled searched miso gravy, the a lot of them are from Vancouver and make reference to The Naam?  I guess miso gravy is a Vancouver thing.

Mixin’ up the miso gravy

For the most part, everything turned out pretty well.  I think I slightly overcooked the chicken – my oven is on the warmer side than most.  The gravy didn’t have a very strong miso taste and it didn’t taste like the one from The Naam.  The cauliflower probably could have used a little more salt and baking in the oven, but I was too hungry.  The mashed potatoes?  Turned out great.

The finished chicken yum yum

See all that juice and flavour on the bottom? Funny story.  In the middle of roasting the chicken, I noticed that the top was a lot browner than the rest of the bird.  I decide to pull it out and cover it in tin foil otherwise I was scared it would burn.  When I took it out, the oil and juice start splattering everywhere (I’m guessing from the cooler air in the kitchen? I don’t know). Turns out my fire alarm didn’t like that and it kept on going on and off for the next 10 minutes or so.  To get it to turn off, I did a pretty Chinese thing: start fanning the fire alarm.  Nothing was burnt and it all turned out okay in the end:

The finished table – delicious

I would call this a successful experiment.  Next up: some vegetarian options for my dinner party!

Excuse me while I go and do some research.

P.S. Sorry for the horrible photos – I was more concerned about what was going on in the oven and on the stove than taking photos.

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Greek Summer Festival

Over the weekend I went to check out the Greek Summer Festival held at the St. Nicholas & Dimitrios Church in Vancouver.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I knew there would be food, but I was half expecting stalls to walk around and other activities.

Once I got there, however, it quickly became apparent that it was primarily food and entertainment.  There was a stage set up at one end of the food stalls and there were cultural dance and music the whole time I was there.

To get your food, you go and place your order with the cashier who gives you a piece of paper which you exchange for food.  It definitely cuts down on wait time.  You got your food pretty fast.  They had set up tents to cover the eating area – good thing too with all our hot weather this past week.

We ordered the lamb dinner which comes with massive amounts of lamb, Greek rice, Greek salad, pita and tzatziki sauce.  The lamb was delicious!  A bit on the salty side which had me craving for more rice, but very flavourful.  You could definitely taste the lamb flavour.  The rice was good as well – very flavourful.  I just wished there was more of it to go with the lamb.  The rest of the dish wasn’t anything special.  The pita was extremely dry though and even with the tzatziki sauce, it wasn’t very good.  But that lamb… mmmm so good!

We also got a pork souvlaki wrap but it wasn’t very good.  In anticipate of the crowds, they had mass produced these wraps and kept them warm until someone wanted one.  As a result the pita was very dry and had no flavour and the pork was overcooked.  It was extremely difficult to eat.  The whole thing didn’t have much flavour – all it really tasted like was tomato.  Even the tzatziki didn’t help.

Finally for dessert, we tried the Loukoumades which are doughnuts covered in honey and sesame seeds.  My first bite, a huge gush of honey burst into my mouth.  I wasn’t expecting it at all, but definitely made eating the rest of them entertaining.

It was a great evening.  The food was better than what I expected.  Now I just have to find a restaurant that makes lamb just as delicious as the one served at the festival!

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

I just came back from an outdoor screening of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in my local park.  While the movie had its moments, it got more and more ridiculous.  It was funny, just really absurd.

What really got to me was the general message it was sending to kids about food and how you should treat food.  With today’s growing dependence on fast and on the go food, and the increasing obesity rate in children, this is definitely a good movie to subtly make kids aware of what they are putting in their mouths.

Spoiler Alert!!  Stop here if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know what happens!

The basic premise of the movie is that this kid (Flint) invents a machine that can turn water into food.  This invention is especially important because the inhabitants of the island he is on only has access to sardines.  Of course things get out of hand (mutant giant food!) and the Flint has to go and fix it or else the whole world would be crushed by a pile of food (dun dun DUNNNN).

The city is overtaken by gluttony with everyone putting in requests for different foods.  The machine is overworked and ultimately starts making mutations.  This intense consumption of food can be seen throughout the movie.  In one scene, the child of a police officer is seen eating too much candy and he ultimately falls into a food coma.  The child can only be revived with a stalk of celery.  This definitely sends the right message to kids.  The mayor of the city can’t stop consume and is overtaken by his mission to make money and as the story continues, he gets larger and larger and can’t stop eating even when his survival is at risk.  He is blinded by his need to consume more and more, be it food or money because, to quote his character, “bigger is better.”

The whole message from the movie is that bigger isn’t always better, that gluttony is bad, and too much of one thing really isn’t healthy for you.  I think it comes across pretty heavily, but to a kid, probably much more subtly.  No matter what you do, you can’t always get what you want and what you may want may not necessarily be the best for you.

After watching these cartoon characters stuff themselves on food, it got a little gross.  Definitely turn me off junk food.  There were some killer gummy bears that make me not want to eat the ones I have and not to mention be afraid of my teddy bear.

I loved some of the puns and witty one liners – definitely my kind of humour!

  • “You may have seen a meteor shower, but I bet you’ve never seen a shower “meatier” than this.”
  • “My forecast? Sunny side up.” (in reference to it raining eggs sunny side up)
  • “I know we all blame Flint for this. In fact, the minute he steps out of that car, I’m gonna slap him in the face. He made a mess of things, but that mess was made to order, and it’s time we pay the bill.”

Overall the movie was funny, ridiculous and gross at times, but good for a laugh and mindless amusement.  Aside from all the food themes, there were many typical kid story morels thrown in there which made much of the plot predictable.  But after all, this movie was targeted to kids and the fact it was enjoyable for those older (but still a kid on the inside) makes it even better.  I just wish I could have seen it in 3D with all the falling food!

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EAT Vancouver

There two major conventions happening at the new convention centre downtown: Eat Vancouver and E.P.I.C.  I wanted to go to both, but only ended up going to Eat Vancouver.  It was pretty cool, wandering around the stalls, tasting and seeing new things.  I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t that much food.  You have to pay to enter, but if you want food, you have to pay extra for it.  About half the stalls weren’t even food related.  There was a travel section, but didn’t really relate at all to food, so I was a bit disappointed.


I did make some discoveries though.  This place in downtown Vancouver called Bonchaz has the most AMAZING buns ever.  I really like their Apple Cinnamon ones.  I also tried these salmon nuggets that were so good.  They were pretty much smoked salmon jerky, but even better – I must find this in a grocery store!

Salmon nuggets – delicious!

One stall was handing out kettle corn.  Normally I don’t like kettle corn because its usually too sweet, but this one was actually really good.  It was only lightly sweet and lightly salted.  A good mix.  The only thing I bought was some dry curry that you can mix with yoghurt, mayo and sour cream to make the most amazing dipping sauce ever.  Delicious – can’t wait to try it out.

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Goulash from a Hungarian

Last weekend, our Hungarian intern was in Vancouver for a couple of days before he left to head home and he offered to make Gulyásleves, or goulash in English, for us.

CIMG0582 copy

I’ve never had goulash before, but it was delicious.  In many ways this reminds me of a Chinese soup that my grandmother and mother taught me to make: 蕃 茄薯仔湯 (literally tomato and potato soup).  There are many versions of it, but the one I’m most familiar with uses oxtail as the main protein.  We usually drink the soup after dinner.

At the end of the night, I had a huge pot left over.  I ate it for the next couple of days.  And now I have the recipe:


  • 5 carrots, sliced 1 cm
  • 3 potatoes, 2×2 cm cubes
  • beef chunks, small pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3.2 litres water
  • paprika
  • parsley, a dozen leaves or so
  • salt

Dough Mixture (csipetke)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • flour, as needed
  1. Cook onions until clear in oil.  Remove from heat.
  2. Add paprika as needed, enough to color the onions in the pot and stir.  Add beef chunks.  Mix.
  3. Pour in water.  Add salt and stir.  Bring to a boil and turn down to medium heat.  Simmer for an hour.
  4. Add potatoes and carrots and simmer until tender.  Add parsley.
  5. Mix together dough and drop into the soup.  Add salt as needed.
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Benkai Pre-Opening

A couple weeks ago I wrote a review on Yelp about Benkei Ramen on Robson St. which is their original location.  Last week, I received an invitation via Yelp from the Service Manager for the Benkei group to attend a pre-opening event at their newest location on E 5th Ave.  Its hidden among a bunch of random warehouses and business buildings.


I arrived early, but they were fine with that.  After a couple more people arrived, they took us into the kitchen for a mini tour and to meet the head chef, Kotarosan.  They showed us how they made the broth and the chashu.  It smelled so delicious in there.  There was also someone making gyoza.  They offered to let us make some and then cook it for us, but no one stepped up and tried.

Inside the kitchen; Making gyoza

Making broth base; Chashu cooking away

The first Benkei Ramen restaurant was on Robson, but they are building this 5th Ave store to become the headquarters.  The head chef will be cooking at this location.  During the summer, he will be experimenting with different broths to expand their current menu.  Those giving us the tour, assured us that the 5th Ave location is the place to be if you want to try the newest broths.  To ensure the end product is the same at all locations, guaranteeing quality and consistency, the broths are made at this location and is sent out twice a day to the other locations.  I find the business side of this pretty fascinating – its no different than what McDonalds or Starbucks does with their food, just on a much smaller scale.

The front of house kitchen area where they finish the ramen

Benkei Ramen was originally from Japan and had two partners.  Due to differing expansion visions, they split.  The other partner is now in L.A.  All stores hire those that can speak both Japanese and English – often Japanese students here on a working vacation or those learning English.  At each restaurant, there is a light box decorated with paper art.  These are made by the owner of the restaurant.

CIMG0264Inside the restaurant – you can see the light box against the far wall.

Following the tour, came the tasting.  They presented us with the menu that they have at the other locations.  After playing up the different broth possibilities, I was half expecting to be able to try something new.  They made half orders so we would have an opportunity to try them all.  At my previous visit to the Robson restaurant, I had the Shio.  We tried all the different types.  Each had their own distinctive taste.  I don’t like the noodles they used.  I much prefer the Chinese version of ramen noodles.  These were too chewy and had a weird texture.  You can order side dishes to add more veggies to your ramen, but we chose not to.

  • Shoyu – Light Soy with green onion, bamboo shoots, chashu, nori, spinach in a chicken and pork soup broth.  They claim this is the best soy sauce ramen.  This was okay.  Nothing spectacular, but nothing really wrong with it either.
  • Shio – Heavy Tonkotsu with green onion, bamboo shoots, chashu and bean sprouts.  Its apparently good for your skin and bones and popular with women.  How random – its printed on their menu.  I think of them all, I still probably like this one the most.
  • Miso – Mid Combination with green onion, bamboo shoots, chashu and bean sprouts (seeing a pattern yet?).  The broth is a mix of their chicken and tonkotsu soup with their Miso sauce.  This had a strong miso flavour.  It was okay.
  • Shiro – Creamy Tonkotsu with chicken, spinach, butter, herbs, corn, garlic and milk.  They used ingredients commonly found in Canada to make a new flavour.  I did not like this one.  It was creamy and savoury, but not like a pasta.  It was too liquidly.  [In my haste to eat, I completely forgot to take a photo of this one]
  • Akaoni – Spicy Miso with green onions, bamboo shoots, minced pork, burned garlic sesame oil and roasted sesame.  This dish’s spicy ingredients along with the garlic oil, makes it famous.  I actually really liked this one, but I think if I were to eat the whole bowl, it would be too spicy.

Shoyu and Akaoni

Shio and Miso – I don’t know which is which

They also gave us some chashu rice and gyoza (shrimp and pork).  I wasn’t a fan of either of them.  I’ve had their chashu rice ball before and that was delicious, but this rice wasn’t anything like it.  The gyoza I found was very dry and overwhelmed by green onion.  I don’t like a strong green onion taste, so maybe that is why.  In any case, I felt I could make better gyoza’s at home.


All in all, it was a cool experience to see the behind the scenes of a restaurant.  Learning about their business vision and decisions  was particularly interesting.  Despite this, I’m still pretty indifferent to the food they provide.  They have good broths, but I can’t get past the noodles.  Its good value for money though, particularly if you’re a student as they offer extra noodles for 50 cents with a valid student card.  Maybe if during the summer I’m craving some new ramen broths, I’ll go back and check it out.

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