Sunday, October 25, 2009

*Updated* Toronto Trip #3 of 4: Takoyaki and Lots of Chinese Food – August 22 & 23, 2009


I added the addresses and hyperlinks.

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This is the third trip in the series. Again, The Diet was pretty far from my mind.

You can check out the other posts here:

Trip #1
Trip #2
Trip #4

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Chinatown Festival

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As we were driving to Toronto, Christine received a text message from a friend who excitedly told her about takoyaki (fried octopus dumplings) at the Chinatown Festival that afternoon. We told our dad that there was a food festival in Chinatown, so he was game.

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Finding the takoyaki stall wasn’t difficult because it had the longest lineup. The huge signs with the cute octopus mascot were also helpful.

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An order of six takoyaki balls cost $5.00, which I felt was pricey. I’m constantly reading about the deliciousness of takoyaki, so I didn’t mind paying. Plus, this was the first time we four siblings would eat takoyaki, making them worth the price.

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Step 1: Oil the takoyaki pan.

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Step 2: Pour the batter.

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Step 3: Sprinkle shredded beni shouga (pickled ginger). It's the red stuff above.

Step 4: Drop in chunks of cooked octopus.

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Step 5: Sprinkle tempura crisps for texture. These ones looked suspiciously like Rice Krispies or Special K. When I ate them, I couldn’t tell what they were.

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Step 6: Start turning them over as they begin to cook.

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Step 7: When they are golden all over, remove them from the takoyaki pan and into a serving tray.

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Step 8: Brush on okonomiyaki sauce liberally.

Step 9: Sprinkle powdered seaweed seasoning (the green stuff in the shaker).

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Step 10: Squirt Japanese kewpie mayonnaise all over, and devour them while they’re still hot!

I have to admit, the takoyaki were disappointing. The batter wasn’t crispy; rather, it was soft and squishy. That was a shocker. I was also surprised to discover that they were almost hollow. When I texted my reaction to Jimmy, he quickly replied that we ate fake takoyaki. They were crappy takoyaki that was produced to appeal to the general mass. Lame.

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While I was waiting in line, we passed by the Creative Zing stall that was selling t-shirts and accessories with some really cute designs. I admit, I bought this shirt completely on impulse. I wanted to buy more, but I restrained myself. Now, I’m thinking I want another one to keep this one company.

That afternoon, takoyaki was a bust, but my t-shirt was a definite positive!

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House of Gourmet Blah Blah

We met up with family and walked over to the House of Gourmet BBQ Blah Blah (we really love this place) for dinner.

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We started with the house soup. It was just a whole bunch of scraps boiled down for their essence. Man, don’t ever underestimate the flavour locked in those scraps. Beyond its looks, this soup was exceptional. It was gentle but flavourful, and I can’t even begin to list the many ingredients tossed into this soup for flavour. Everyone at the table loved it.

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I can’t remember this dish, but it looks like braised mushrooms, pork belly, and fried tofu served over blanched baby bok choy.

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The soy sauce chicken was incredible. They marinate the whole chicken in a marvellously subtle soy sauce, and it turns out both sweet and savoury, in perfect harmony. The skin is definitely the best part because it has absorbed all of the flavour from the marinade. Soaking it also gives the skin a wonderful bouncy texture. Actually, not quite bouncy… more like slightly resisting as you bite into it. It’s just got a great feel when you bite. It’s best if you nibble on it with your front teeth to savour the texture. It’s less than QQ noodle texture (al dente), but slightly more than soft tofu. It’s heaven.

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Christine ordered her noodles, as per usual. This time, it was made with choy sum, which is more tender than gai lan. The smokiness in the rice noodles is second-to-none, and they were perfect that night. I would cry if I couldn’t eat these noodles from this restaurant anymore. It would just be sad… so sad.

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We also had stir-fried lobster with ginger. It was good. That’s all I remember.

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This dish was the star of the show. It had baby corn (yes!), perfectly cooked squid (yes!), large shrimp (yes!), sugar snap peas (yes!), scallops (hell yeah!), and deep fried soft tofu (orgasmic!). I may be exaggerating a little bit, but the tofu was incredible. Crispy shell that gently broke way to the slippery, gelatinous blorp of tofu. Ah, it was heaven. Out of all of the ingredients in this dish, my entire family agreed that the tofu was a sleeper hit!

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Here is the full spread for nine people. At 12 o’clock on the table, there was also sweet and sour pork chops. They were meh. At 6 o’clock on the table, we had beef and gai lan. Also meh. We couldn’t finish all of the food and had to pack a lot of it to take out. Most of us were waddling back to the car.

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Noodle Breakfast at Congee Dynasty

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Since we stayed over at a relative’s home in Mississauga, we didn’t feel like driving all the way back to Chinatown for breakfast. Instead, we went to Congee Dynasty—a place that my family frequents pretty often. Well, everyone but me, since this was my first visit.

We had almost 20 people at breakfast, so we split up into adults’ and kids’ tables, respectively. I was stuck with at the kids table; however, we definitely got the better food.

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First up was youtiao wrapped in steamed rice rolls, served with three sauces (sweet soy sauce, hoisin, and sweet sesame). I fell in love with this, having only had them a few times before. All of the textures and different sauces made me feel like I was eating many different dishes. We had two orders of this dish, and everyone hastily gobbled them up.

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This fried spicy turnip cake dish was also a big hit at the table. It was my first time eating this, so I thought it was lumps of rice noodle or something. It was crispy, soft, mushy, bouncy, oh my goodness, so many different textures and mouthfeel! I would definitely order this again.

Then we had a trio of noodle dishes.

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Fried chow mein with beef and black bean sauce.

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Dry rice noodles with beef and bean sprouts.

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Christine’s noodles.

In general, the noodles were good. I only got a little bit of the chow mein before my cousin devoured it. The flavours were familiar. If you’ve ever had chow mein before, imagine it with a little black bean sauce, and that’s exactly what it tastes like.

I really liked the dry rice noodles because it contained chili oil, which was something unusual. The spiciness was a slow burn, so if you’re not careful, you’ll start choking. Which I did. Multiple times. And I STILL loved the dish. I’d get it again fo sho.

Christine’s noodles are still better at the House of Gourmet, but that was to be expected.

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The damage. Well, we did pack some of it to go, but it was mostly Christine’s noodles. It just couldn’t compare with the noodles we ate the night before, so we focused on the other dishes.

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I don’t think I’ve ever eaten this luxuriously. I had tummy aches from being too greedy and scarfing down food. I also threw The Diet out the window, which I happily returned to on the following Monday.

To summarize: takoyaki was bad, t-shirt was cute, fried tofu rocks, Christine’s noodles are only good from the House of Gourmet blah blah, fried turnip cakes are a big YES!, and chili oil should probably be added to everything I eat.

The trip was freaking awesome!

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I’m too tired to post all of the hyperlinks and addresses, so I’ll return to this post and update it later.

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Toronto Chinatown Festival
Dundas and Spadina
August 22-23, 2009

House of Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Congee Dynasty Cuisine on Urbanspoon


  1. Wow, I totally forgot that we ate all of this that weekend. Dinner at the Gourmet House was definitely amazing. I think the highlight that night was the deep fried tofu. We have to order that again!

  2. Definitely. The next time Jimmy and I visit Toronto, we'll be eating there and ordering the seafood and tofu dish.


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