Moved to

Hi Everyone,

I’ve moved to a new domain. Please find me at I’ll be blogging from this new site from now on.

See you there!


Chinese Five-Spice Braised Beef with Daikon

I had asked my mum for her Chinese  five-spice braised beef recipe probably a good ten years ago if not longer. I used to make it a lot but eased up the past few years as I tried to eat more healthy. I had a craving for it the other day so marched on down to my favorite butcher shop Drewes Bros. Meats (which also happens to be around the corner from me – how convenient!) to buy some meat. They offer high-quality meats and seafood.

In the past, I’d buy all my meat at Ranch 99, Costco, and Safeway since it was so cheap. However, a number of years ago, I started to educate myself on grass-fed vs corn-fed and antibiotic vs antibiotic-free and factory feedlots vs pasture. Can we say yikes! At that point, I realized that I needed to pick and choose the type of meat I bought.

Since I cook a lot of Chinese food, I preferred going to the Chinese market for a lot of my meats because  the cuts I need can be slightly different at an Asian versus non-Asian market. For example, I make this “1-2-3-4-5” ribs dish (I”ll blog about it in a future post) but I like to use ribs that are cut into much smaller bite sized pieces. Or the non-Asian market may not offer what I’m looking for (e.g. beef tendon). The great thing about a butcher shop such as Drewes is the owner has told me that he can basically get anything I need usually within a day or two depending on when I request it. And they can cut the meat any way I want.

At Drewes, I told what I was making and asked them what cut I should use. I tried to explain the cut I usually got at the Asian market (“it’s cut relatively thin, long, can have this casing on it, and they roll it up“, fully admitting I didn’t know what it was called. They called out a few different cuts and I just gave them a blank stare. I guess I was hoping they’d magically know what I meant. They were polite and suggested I find out what the cut was and let them know. I ended up choosing the beef brisket and got 3lbs worth.

I also had bought a daikon from the San Rafael farmers market the previous weekend so decided to add that to the mix.

The brisket was a bit larger than I’d normally use but thought if I was going to have this braise for over 2 hours, I’d like to have some leftovers for lunch.


2-3lb beef brisket

3-4 large slices of ginger

1 C water

1 large daikon


2 tsp five-spice powder

2 anise

1 tsp Chinese cooking wine

2 tsp light soy sauce

2 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp oyster sauce

Boil water in a pot. This will be used to blanch the meat to remove excess fat.

Prepare marinade. In a small bowl, add 2tsp five-spice powder.

Add 2 pieces of anise.

Next comes 1 tsp Chinese cooking wine.

Add 2 tsp each light and dark soy sauces.

Add 1 tsp sugar.

Add 1 tsp oyster sauce. Psst, this is my go-to brand.

Mix all marinade ingredients together. Set aside.

Peel the daikon and cut into thick discs. Set aside.

Cut the meat into 2″x2″ chunks.

Once the water is boiling, drop the beefs chunks into the water. Leave for about 30 seconds then remove to a separate plate. You will probably have to do this in batches unless you have a huge pot.

Take another pot (or wok) and heat it up over high. Add a bit of canola oil. Cut 3-4 large slices of ginger and add to the pot. Brown the beef. Do in batches if necessary. Don’t try to cram it all in the pot.

Add marinade to the pot and mix together.

Add approximately 1 C of water to the pot and stir.

Add daikon to pot.

Bring to a slow simmer and cover pot. Check periodically and give meat a quick stir. If it looks like the water is evaporating too fast (fast simmer happening?), adjust your temperature down (make sure to maintain slow simmer) and add a bit of water. Braise for at least 2 hours.

Once done, separate the meat from the sauce. Once cooled, place the sauce in the fridge for a few hours to harden. Scrape off the layer of fat. Re-add sauce to the meat.

Here are the results.

The meat was tender and not dry which was my biggest concern. Anna thought it could a bit more salt so I added 1 tbsp each light and dark soy sauce to the pot after it was cooked and mixed in. That seemed to work. I felt it needed to have another texture other than pure meat with every bite so next time I’ll add beef tendon . I also would like to experiment and maybe use a blend of meat like brisket, cheek, and/or shank and see how that works. I also think I could add the daikon in towards the end; maybe at the 1 or 1 1/2 hour mark. They were good but a little too soft and broke up too easily. Finally I think I will adjust the marinade ingredient measurements and see how the taste changes.

Overall, I’d make this dish again as I prepared it but will be experimenting as outlined above.

Aphrodite’s Organic Café and Pie Shop

Towards the end of our trip in Vancouver we were finally able to arrange a get together with our family friends (brother and sister and their respective spouses) for breakfast.  It was difficult finding an open day since between their families and ours we had eight kids all with different schedules that we had to work around. There was school, skiing at Cypress, dim sum with the grandparents, naps, The Nutcracker Ballet – the list went on and on.  Then there was the matter of who would take care of them. Luckily  we had two sets of grandparents who were willing and able. Problem solved!

Even though our friends live in Vancouver, I was tasked with providing breakfast restaurant suggestions. I ended up with a list of five places: Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe and Pie Shop, The Dutch Wooden Shoe Cafe, Twisted Fork Bistro, Deacon’s Corner, and  La Brasserie. I had a few more in mind but thought they might not be appropriate (e.g. one is a bar that added food which got good reviews). In the end, the consensus was Aphrodite’s and that one won more because it was close to the friends place which made it easier to arrange babysitting. I hope to try the others later this year when I’m up again.

What attracted me to this place was the pie. I love pie. Especially strawberry-rhubarb pie which is not very common in the States (or at least California) but is found everywhere in Canada so I like to get my fix when home. It didn’t hurt that this place tried to use local organic food.

We were running a bit late but so were our friends  so it all worked out. After sitting down, I ordered a coffee which was great. Forgot to ask what it was but I liked it. A lot.

Besides the regular menu, they had a brunch menu which had a variety of items from bennys to a standard “eggs and bacon with a side of toast” type of option. Mark ended up getting the Aprhodite’s Stuffed French Toast which was described like this: Stuffed with seasonal fruit cream cheese, served with maple syrup and organic chantilly whipped cream.

Marie and I got the Aphrodite’s breakfast which was three organic eggs with your choice of bacon, sausage, tofurkey sausage, ham or tofu. Served with home fries, multigrain toast and garden greens. They had all the standard type of sausages like turkey and pork but what caught my eye was the elk.  If I remember correctly I think Marie had the same. The cafe sources all its sausages from Oyama Sausage Company. Marie vouched for the company and said it’s the best. I must admit the sausage was great. Not too salty and great taste. The bread was only ok for me but it was a multigrain bread which tends to be more dry when compared to the unhealthy white bread. Overall, I enjoyed my meal a lot.

James ordered the tourtière which was my other choice but hesitated because nothing beats an authentic tourtière from Quebec and was worried I’d be disappointed. However, he liked his dish so I’ll consider giving it a try next time.

Finally, Anna ordered the Smoked Sockeye Salmon & Fresh Basil Benny. She didn’t enjoy the meal as much.  Thought it was only ok and wouldn’t make a special trip back here.

For some reason, I think I forgot to get a picture of Serena’s dish. Darn it.

I can’t forget that they brought some raspberry jam, peanut butter and butter for our toast.

Even though we were all stuffed, we had to try the pie.

We ordered an apple pie with whipped cream and a strawberry (or was it raspberry?)-rhubarb pie and four forks. Everyone loved the apple pie while people were only ok on the other one.

The service was friendly and attentive. All in all I liked this place and would come back here. However, given the number of new breakfast places popping up in Vancouver, it’ll probably be awhile before I get back here.

Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe and Pie Shop

3598 4th Ave W
Vancouver, BC

Aphrodite's Organic Café and Pie Shop on Urbanspoon

Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

I’m back! It’s taken a good week to get settled back into a routine and still not quite there yet. We had no food in the house so had to go to  Rainbow Grocery to restock all our pastas, rice, flour, cereals, and oils. Unfortunately I found out that they don’t offer the 20% discount off entire bill anymore. Bummers.

I started reviewing my Vancouver/Honolulu notes and photos and decided to start off with one of the last restaurants we went to while in Vancouver. My parents wanted to treat Anna to a king crab birthday dinner and the plan was to go to Kirin. My mum called to book a table for eight for Saturday December 18th evening and pre-order the king crab but was told that there was a banquet reserved for that night and they might run out of crab. My first thought was, can’t they just order more?

Anyways, we decided to call Dynasty on W. Broadway to see if they could accommodate us. Although they were busy that night, they were able to reserve a table for us and pre-order the king crab. I’d only been to Dynasty for dim sum but never for dinner so was looking forward to trying something new.

Dynasty was hopping the night of the dinner. We got a good table near the window which had a view of the mountains. All the tables were full with a small banquet on one end of the restaurant occupying a good portion of the tables. If I remember correctly, it was for an wedding anniversary.

My mom said to look in the tank for our king crab. It was pretty easy to find. See it?

My parents told me the crab was going for $33 per pound which was up significantly from last year ($25 per pound I think). This mean this puppy cost TWO-HUNDRED and SEVENTY DOLLARS! Let’s just say I ate every morsel of meat and then some.

The waiter brought the crab over to our table before bringing it to the kitchen.

We started off dinner with a clear broth soup. It was good.

The soup’s meat and vegetables were spooned out into a separate plate for us to eat. I drank the soup but didn’t touch the rest to save my appetite for the crab.

Next came out the first crab dish which was steamed crab legs in garlic and green onions.

It was pretty good. Here are a few other shots of this dish. Drooling yet?

Here’s the second way they cooked the crab. Although it had the chili peppers it wasn’t too spicy. Pretty well made. Batter wasn’t too thick, good taste, and not too salty.

Then came the pan-fry black cod which was excellent.

We had a Shun Tak Sparerib dish which was very tasty.

Then came the final crab dish which was fried rice with crab.

And finally I think this was snow pea shoot leafs with some strips of ham on top.

For dessert, they offered Malaysian red bean soup which I’ve never had. I forgot to take a picture of it. But basically it was similar (kind of) to the typical red bean soup you normally get at the end of a Chinese meal except it had peanuts in it. Not my thing. My cousin Julie made a cake for Anna which we had at dinner.

Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

777 West Broadway, #108
Vancouver, BC

Dynasty Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cafe Gloucester

This place has been around forever it seems. It’s supposed to be one of the better HK-style places in Vancouver. I’m guessing Richmond has better? Can anyone tell me where?

We headed to this restaurant after checking out Bright Nights in Stanley Park which was pretty good. There’s a train ride you can book online (or at the site itself but better to book online since it sells out quickly especially times between 5pm-9pm) which also gets you into the petting zoo and farm animals. The farm animal barn has two rooms – one with the animals and this other room that is decorated with Christmas scenes.

I kind of question the set up of one particular scene. It had this little boy kneeling beside a bed praying but reminded me of a scene from a horror film! What do you think?

The cafe was pretty empty when we got there maybe a table or two occupied. We got situated and took a look at the menu. A bit of everything.

I always love the Baked Pork Chop with Fried Rice but since my mum was getting that (meaning I could sample) I decided to get the  Spaghetti Milan. What is that you ask? I didn’t know either until I asked. Ox tongue was the reply. I’ll have one of those please.

Anna got the Baked Pork Chop with Curry over Fried Rice and my brother and Dad got this special to share which consisted of beef tenderloin, giant prawn and Japanese eel. It came with a bowl of clam chowder.

The ox tongue dish was disappointing.  Strips of ox tongue but mainly strips of ham filler mixed in with mushrooms in this sweet tomato sauce. It was topped off with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

The baked pork chop dish was better than any I’ve had in San Francisco. Yum.

The baked pork chop with curry dish was good. I haven’t seen this in other places before (at least not in San Francisco).

I asked my dad and brother how their dish was. They said it was ok. From what I could tell the beef was cooked as they had requested – medium rare.  I don’t think this is a standard dish you’d order in a HK-style cafe? The clam chowder was good according to them.

I liked this place and would come back here next time I’m in town. However, I’d probably stick to my favorites like baked pork chop over fried rice.

Cafe Gloucester

3338 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC

Cafe Gloucester on Urbanspoon

Morimoto Waikiki

I couldn’t decide on a place for Anna’s birthday lunch. I had a list but for various reasons none inspired – Chef Mavro, Hoku’s, Alan Wong’s, Nobu, and a few others. Morimoto was on the list but was lukewarm on it as well. Not sure why. Maybe it was because I’ve been eating like a pig the past month!

My cousin-in-law Randy had also gone there for dinner two nights earlier with his wife and a group of college friends. When I asked him how he liked it, he said it was good but didn’t rave about it as must try. So I was like hmmmm.

In the end, Anna decided she wanted to try Morimoto and we made reservations for new years day. Surprisingly it was easy to make a reservation. We even had to change the time an hour before our original time and it wasn’t an issue.

As we were driving there we got confused and actually went to the Ilikai hotel turnaround before being directed to Morimoto around the corner (I think on Hobron Lane even though Ala Moana address?).  Morimoto has valet parking which is free once you get your ticket validated.

The restaurant is part of a luxury boutique hotel called The Waikiki EDITION hotel. We found out that the building was split in two to accommodate this hotel and the existing Ilikai hotel which was on the other side.

The restaurant is up the stairs on the right once you leave your car.

It’s a nice open modern space in pale green.  There is indoor/outdoor seating and the place wasn’t full at all.

We were seated promptly beside the sushi bar and kitchen.

Our waiter came by and gave us menus.

There were a lot of items on the list so we asked the waiter for recommendations. We said we wanted a few appetizers to share and then a main dish for each. For appetizers he recommended Kakuni – the 10 hour braised pork belly and jook and morimoto style poke. He liked the sashimi, tempura, sushi combination lunch set and the sandwich section for mains.

At first I hesitated to order the pork belly since everyone seems to have it on the menu but went with his two recommendations for appetizers and added a calamari salad. For mains, Anna ordered the Chirashi and a spicy hamachi roll and I ordered the sashimi, tempura, sushi combination lunch set. We also asked for plantation iced tea for each of us. The waiter told us that it’s free refills so he’d order one and bring two glasses.

The plantation iced tea came with the the pineapple juice separate from the iced tea.

I think the balance between tea and juice was off as I more or less just tasted tea so not too satisfying. The Waialae country club, where we were married, still has the best plantation iced tea. It reminds me that I forgot to tell the guests it was an open bar that night. Ooops.

Next came the Kakuni and the poke.

The pork belly tasted great but I’ve just had so many pork belly dishes that I wasn’t wowed. On the other hand, the poke was awesome! I was intrigued by the combination of the various ingredients especially the avocado wasabi sorbet. But it all worked and looked pretty to boot! We were told to sip the drink (far right in picture and can’t remember what it was) to cleanse our palate and then dig in to the poke. The waiter added some yuzu lemon zest on top at the table before serving.

Once we were done that the service started breaking down fast. Up until then it was ok. The waiter wasn’t the friendliest guy and seemed to not want to be there. The other serving staff that supported the waiter were fine and actually more friendly.

We got our calamari salad which a large portion and was surprisingly full of calamari rather than all lettuce.

The calamari was also still nice and warm when I took my first bite. The problem was before I could take a second bite, the supporting wait staff brought all our main dishes which was a little weird but it didn’t really bother us.

The lunch set was great. Nothing that unique but executed well. There was one local fish called opihi which is to the left of the lemon slice below.

Anna really liked her chirashi bowl and thought everything was good right down to the sushi rice.

After we started eating, the main waiter came by, did a double-take and had this look of wtf. He asked us if they served us everything at once and we said yes. He apologized and said he had set it up to space out the salad from the main course. I saw him go speak with a chef, then he came back to apologize again, and said he spoke with the executive chef about the error.

We continued enjoying our meal and taking in the atmosphere when the Morimoto himself showed up behind the sushi bar! It looked like he had been in Hawaii awhile because he was super dark. He started making some fancy multilayer square maki and did not crack a smile while working away and giving orders. I happily snapped pictures and thought about asking him for a photo together.

Well that was until this couple that were clearly tourists stood on the other side of the bar in front of him and asked him for a photo. Without looking up, Morimoto dismissed them. The couple didn’t know what to do and quickly just snapped a picture of him, thanked him and left. To a certain degree, I can understand his reaction since he was working and the tourists were interrupting him.

We were finally done lunch and realized that the waiter never did come back to fill our water glasses or ask us if we wanted refills on our plantation iced tea. When one of the support staff came by to take some dishes away I asked him for a refill on the tea but he never came back. We had also asked that our roll be canceled and found out that the waiter had forgotten to even put the order in.

After paying the bill, we took a few pictures including this one of the bathroom which was super nice. I didn’t want anyone to think I was some weirdo so waited until no one was there.

Morimoto Waikiki

1775 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI

Morimoto Waikiki on Urbanspoon

Happy New Year!

Hello from Hawaii!

Sorry I’ve been absent the past two weeks with posts. Since arriving from Vancouver in Honolulu, it’s been non-stop family, eating, beach, and ocean in no particular order. All fun but tiring. Mix in the kids’ naps and staying at a hotel, it has been difficult to provide regular updates.

I have been updating my and twitter accounts so people that follow me there have an idea what I’ve been up too. Add me on twitter!

I hope to update my blog with all the places I visited in Vancouver and Honolulu in the next month or so. The chronological order might be a bit off but all you want to know is what I ate, right?

Looking at 2011,  I plan to revamp my blog’s look and feel and hope to experiment with a few different types of food-related events, all captured in gory detail on my blog of course! Let me know if you’d be interested in participating. I’ve also been keeping a list of recipes that I want to try so I’ll be blogging about my efforts – the good, bad, and ugly – over the coming year.

Maintaining the blog has been a fun experience so far. Please post comments on it – whatever is on your mind. It’s always a rush to know someone has read one of my posts. Please let people know about it if you like what you see! The more the merrier. It’s always great to meet people that enjoy food as much as I do.

Over the past year, I’ve heard from a few people who have tried a recipe or two or been inspired to cook more at home after reading my blog. I get asked for restaurant recommendations from friends and family all the time. Mainly for San Francisco but also for Vancouver and Honolulu restaurants. Not saying I know what’s good but I do know what I like and enjoy sharing my opinion with others.

Happy New Year and here’s to a great year of eating, cooking, and blogging!