Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chinese New Year! - February '08

Let me start off my saying this, "I LOVE Chinese New Year!" There's so many people, dishes of food and hilarious conversations that can be found at our Chinese New Year celebrations. Good times... oh, good times!

I thought I would combine my Chinese New Year posts in one entry, that way all the awesome pictures are in one place.

~ ~ ~

My grandpa decided to host his during the weekend (before the actual date of Chinese New Year) so that everyone could join in the festivities. My grandma chose to host hers on the actual day.

So during our drive to his house, I saw how beautiful it was outside. It had snowed last night and everything looked so pretty. It was one of the storms that hit most of the eastern coast. Here's a picture of a large mountain of snow near my house.

As we drove along the parkway, I saw that most of the trees had a cute coat on, so I took a couple of pictures. I think this is the best one.

Once we arrived at my grandparent's house, we started the prep work; washing and slicing veggies, chopping up meat, fixing the broth, setting the table, etc.

Then my grandpa arrived with all of the meats from Chinatown: BBQ pork, soy chicken, roast pork, squid, pig stomach and duck. We finished everything, but before we could eat, we had to first invite our ancestors to come have the feast, give thanks, pray for good luck in the future, and then burn hell money and coloured paper so that they have money to spend and different coloured material (to make clothing).
Yum yum. So that was all at my grandpa's place. Now for my grandma's place...

We (my dad and I) got there early to help my grandma and uncle prepare everything because everyone else was working. We did the prep work and then my uncle and I left for Chinatown to bring home the tasty meats. You usually have to go to pick up your meat around 10:30ish if you want to beat the rush hour. The stores that sell the BBQ meats will be packed the weekend before and the weekend after Chinese New Year, because different people host their Chinese New Year event at different times. We ran to one place to try and buy some meat, but they didn't have any roast pork when we were there, so we picked up what we could and ran across the street to grab the roast pork.

It was almost 10:45am when we got across to the other store, the Kowloon Market. There was a line here. It was pretty long. Let's see, I see about 10 heads here. I took this picture about halfway down the line, so imagine how long you would have to wait. Look at the roast pork behind the dude with the green and white shirt. Everyone who was in this long ass line wanted a piece of that. They obviously had more in the back, but I'm assuming they were being prepared. My uncle (he's near the front of the line) said that he thought that the guy in front of him was going to take the rest of the roast pork, because there was only about a handful of ribs left. Luckily, he only took two or three. How tense. I would freak out if someone in front of me took the whole thing. Anyway, we got a couple of ribs and left enough for two people (or one greedy bastard).

I should also mention that their bakery was practically cleaned out. They still had their usual things on the table in front of the shelves of baked goods though. I should've known. *Tear* If you wanted something from the bakery, you would probably have to call ahead and find out when they're baking. We don't buy anything from the bakery during Chinese New Year. My grandpa brings some back randomly though. Anyway, yeah. If I could describe how busy and full it was in the stores, I'd compare it to Boxing Day. This is our Boxing Day. Everyone is shopping for meat, there are crazy line ups, everyone is trying to get something, and things run out quickly. Does that sound like Boxing Day to you?

Wow, that's a lot random talking I just did. So back to buying the ribs...

After we bought the ribs, we headed back to my grandma's house. The table was pretty much waiting for the meat and the hot pot when we got arrived. Here's a look at 4 dishes that were prepared, starting clockwise with the top-right dish: two kinds of mushrooms with shrimp and squid, shiitake mushroom and bamboo, chicken and Chinese broccoli, and sugar snap peas with shrimp.
  Here's a close up of the hot pot. I'm focusing on the daikon - the star of my grandma's soup. You can see some nappa cabbage, fish balls, and I think I see the tail of a shrimp.
Anyway, it's too bad you guys can't taste this soup, because this soup cures all. I mean, I say that about to pho, but that's just because I love to eat it. This, however, does cure... err... you... of some things. There's so many good things my grandma adds to this soup; nappa cabbage, carrots, onions, daikon, chicken bones, chicken meat, shrimp, and other things. How is that not good for you? Come on. I want to master this recipe. This is the best soup someone can have - just look at it.

Alright, so moving on... here's the table when everything was finished. Starting from the top-right again: rice pot, platter of meat, hot pot, sauces that go with the meat (the two small containers beside the meat plate), the four stir fried dishes, chow mien with shredded napa cabbage, carrots and bean sprouts, jang (aka zongzi), a plate of baked goods (hmm, don't really remember buying that. I guess there were some baked buns left), a plate of fruit (the thing in the yellow bag is lychee, green and purple grapes, and apples), a cantaloupe, red bean jello (beside the cantaloupe), salted sunflower seeds, some cans of pop, incense, hell money, coloured paper, tea pot, alcohol, bowls, utensils, tea cups, shot glasses, the candles and the incense base.

As you can imagine, the homemade feast was moan-inducing. I over-ate again. No surprise there. I can't help myself. This is my Thanksgiving. This is when I stuff myself to the point where I waddle when I walk. I'm looking forward to next year's celebration! It's more than a month late (>_<), but Happy Chinese New Year!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Bún bò Huế and Guong- January 16th

When we go over to my aunt's house, we usually have pho, vermicelli salad with spring rolls and beef/pork, or something else Vietnamese. Today happened to be bun bo hue and guong day. Once we got to my cousin's house, all you smell was a wonderful smell of soup. There was a slight sweetness in the air too. When I wandered off to check what smelt so good, I took this picture. It looks like there's a lot of grease, but it was only a thin layer. You might be wondering why the oil seems to be glowing. I wondered the same thing and asked my aunt... unfortunately, I forgot what she said.
Before the main course, we all had salad rolls (aka guong). We had a couple of fillings to choose from: cooked shrimp, this noodle thing with pork, vermicelli (not shown), lettuce, bean sprouts, basil and some other herb that smelt fishy.

To assemble your own salad roll, pick your fillings and place them near the bottom of one side of the softened rice paper. (I put some lettuce, the noodle thing with pork, and some vermicelli. I was told after I made it that if I wanted the noodle thing, then I was not to put the vermicelli and vice versa. Woops.) Once you've placed your filling, take the bottom of the rice roll and bring it over the filling.
Tightly roll the rice paper over the filling once, then fold in the sides so that the filling doesn't pop out.
Finish rolling up your salad roll - tightly. Now you're ready to dip in the fish sauce mixture and eat. The fun thing about eating these, is that they're so easy to make, and everyone can make their own. This is something nice and easy for the kids to make. Encourage them to make their own. The first picture is the finished product of our wrapping lesson.

I usually don't eat these because I'm not a big fan of it. I find them to be too plain. I was starving today, so I thought that I'd give it another shot. I also thought that guong was all that we were eating for lunch, and that the bun bo hue was for dinner. I wasn't thinking. I had made and consumed 3 rolls. Everyone else had 3 or more. It was surprisingly satisfying. I wasn't full at that point, nor was I hungry. I wasn't going to complain.

Then my aunt told us to stop making and eating so many salad rolls, and to save space for the bun bo hue. Oh boy. I get to eat the delicious smelling soup! My aunt had made the soup the previous night and had let flavours of the soup bloom by lightly simmering the soup all morning. That's why the house was filled with the smell of the sweet elixir. My aunt started cooking the noodles (they're like udon noodles) in boiling water, we started clearing the table, and set the table. Once the noodles were done, my aunt cranked the heat up for the soup and brought out the toppings from the fridge. On the plate there were: cubes of congealed blood, onions, processed meat, tendons, slices of meat and more tendons. There was also a small bowl of sliced green onions and cilantro. The soup started to boil and everything was ready.

Everyone took turns at filling their bowls of the noodles, their toppings and finally the hot soup. In my bowl, I just had some sliced meat and green onions. The soup was really good. My aunt chose not to make it spicy. The soup was sweet and favourful. I really enjoyed my two bowls of this stuff. It was nice that it wasn't pho or Phnom Penh noodles for once - not that I don't want them. I can't wait to have this again. It's definitely going on my "favourite" list of things to eat.


Costco Goodness - January 9th

Yes, hello there. There's a lot to catch up on... let's get to it!

I'm sure everyone has been to Costco before - I still call it Price Club. When we go to Costco, it's always around lunch. I used to love going because of all the samples, but I've kinda grown out of that. After we shop around and pay for it all, we try and find a table at the food court (if you can call it that). Oh yes, we're one of those people who help fill the tables, for what seems like all day.

They don't have much on the menu, but their hot dogs and fries are amazing. Not only do they taste good, but they're so cheap! A ¼ lb. all beef hot dog and a drink (with free refills) for only $1.99. Come on. That's so cheap! Oh, and if you're feeding a group of people (like we do) we just get hot dogs for whoever wants one and then get fries to share. I mean, they're only $1.99 for them - and they're good! I believe they use Cavendish fries, because they taste and look like them. So you can feed a group of 6 people for less than $20.

During the summer, we usually share the hot dogs and save space for some ice cream at the end. Their ice cream is awesome! Vanilla and chocolate soft serve ice cream all in a waffle cone. They give you so much that you can share it too. I can't remember the price of the ice cream, but I'm sure it's under $1.99.

How can you not go to Costco and not eat at the food court? You shop after you eat? Are you dumb? Next time, go before lunch so that you can experience the cheap, but delicious, food.



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