Monday, June 27, 2011

Koi Asia Takes Over Pho Mi 108 - Updated

I heard some rumblings back in April that my favourite pho restaurant was closed. We’ve been going for almost five years! Sadly, Pho Mi 108 is no longer there. It was taken over and the name was changed to Koi Asia. I wanted to try the place out so Andrew and I dropped by the restaurant a few days ago.

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Koi Asia serves Canadian-Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food. Most of the items on the menu were Canadian-Chinese fare. Wonton soup, chop suey, egg foo young, and the dreaded sweet and sour chicken balls – that kind of thing. I’m guessing that they want to do a lot of take-out and delivery orders.

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The “traditional lunch bowls” looked decent. I was thinking of getting the bean sprout fried noodles (without the bean sprouts) and beef with black bean sauce. But then I saw the pho. I had to try it. Maybe next time...

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To be on the safe side of things, I asked the waitress if the bean sprouts came in the pho. She replied that the bean sprouts, lime, and basil were served separately. Just checking.

I had read from a few places that the pho was different. What lies! My bowl of pho looked the same stuff. It smelt like the same. And it even tasted like the same stuff that Pho Mi 108 had once served. The only difference was the large amount of noodles. They gave me a lot of noodles! You can still see soup in the bowl in the picture above, but once I mixed the noodles into the soup, all I saw was the rice noodles. I feel like the soup is a bit sweeter than usual. Maybe I need to squeeze more lime juice next time.

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We tried the Vietnamese spring rolls to see if the recipe had changed, but nothing was changed. The spring rolls had the same filling and were even fried in the same manner. These were just as greasy as usual.

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Andrew got the grilled pork and chicken, and Vietnamese spring roll vermicelli bowl. He said there weren’t enough peanuts and the nuoc cham wasn’t very strong. I told him that the restaurant makes their nuoc cham like that so that it’s less off-putting to some of their customers. Overall, Andrew said that it was okay, but that homemade vermicelli bowls are much, much better. The main reason was because everything can be customized easier. True that.

Koi Asia has a small Thai section on their menu; stuff like tom yum soup, Panang curry, stir fried lemon grass (with chicken or beef), and pad Thai.

Their Vietnamese items include spring rolls, pho, bun bo hue, and vermicelli bowls.

I was very pleased that they didn’t change their pho. I’m pretty sure the chefs from Pho Mi 108 were still around. I wonder if they’ll stay on to help with the Vietnamese section of the menu or if they are just here to train the new chefs. No matter what happens, I hope the pho doesn’t change.

Their service was lacking that evening, even though there were only two other tables being occupied. I actually had to walk up to the guy, who was standing behind the counter, and hand him the menus and our order. *Le gasp* It bugs me, but it won't deter me from future visits.

Since they do free deliveries over $20, maybe I'll try to get some pho delivered to be in the evening. In any case, I’ll definitely come back to try their Chinese and Thai dishes in the future. I’ll be back to see if they change the pho, too! That’s a guarantee.


*Updated on Jan. 2012:
The quality of their Vietnamese dishes, like the pho and hu tieu, have dropped significantly. I'd stick to the Chinese section of their menu. I'm on the lookout for a new pho place close to our house. Any suggestions?*


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3825 Richmond Rd., Unit 5A
Ottawa, ON
613-596-0760
Koi Asia on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ottawa's Chicken and Ribfest 2011

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Just like many other Ottawa residents, our family had ribs from Ottawa’s 20th Annual Chicken and Rib Cook-Off for dinner.

I brought my wallet, a camera, and a re-useable shopping bag (for the ribs) and met Lucy downtown earlier today. Our goal: To bring some delicious ribs back to enjoy at home. But before we met up, I did some scouting. I started from Elgin Street and Sparks Street.

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Keep walking down Sparks St and you’ll see a porta-potty and a porta-sink. This was a great addition this year, since there wasn’t anything last year. Well done organizers. Well done. I think I saw one more porta-potty and two more porta-sinks on Sparks St.

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Texas Outlaws.

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I think if you cross Metcalfe Street, you can find Bibb’s BBQ. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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Gator BBQ Company.

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Cross O’Connor Street and you’ll find Silver Bullet.

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Then I think it’s the Alabama’s Freshly Squeezed Lemonade stand.

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The two-time defending champs of the best ribs at the Ottawa ribfest; Camp 31. The photo at the top of this post was from Camp 31.

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And finally, the last competitor this year is Uncle Sam’s BBQ.

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Here’s the breakdown; in total, Lucy and I bought two and a half racks of ribs and a quarter of a chicken from three different places. Six people helped to eat everything. We got a full rack of ribs with coleslaw and beans for $24 at Billy Bones. Lucy probably added three or four pumps of their BBQ sauce. Most of it is hiding underneath the ribs.

When we lined up for the ribs, they had just changed the coals so we had to wait until they were hot again. Good thing they had a mechanical fan to speed things up. The downside was that all the smoke blew in our direction. They had put a few racks of ribs on the grill when they were heating up the coals, so the ribs were extra smoky.


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Doesn’t it look tender and tasty? Billy Bones’ sauce was quite sweet. Lucy said that if the ribs hadn’t been smoky, the sweetness of the sauce would’ve been “…sickening.” The beans were really sweet, but that’s probably from their sauce. As you can see from the two pictures above, the tender and moist ribs were slathered with their sauce.

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Jimmy made a spinach, mushroom, bell pepper, and red onion salad to eat on the side. We definitely needed some veggies, especially I ate too many ribs and felt sick afterward in 2009.

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We got a full rack of rib combo at Camp 31. Camp 31 was one of our favourites last year, but the ribs we were given were mostly tough and dry. There were only two or three moist ribs – which only Mom and Dad were able to enjoy. The beans had a more rounded flavour than the beans from Billy Beans Bones. The beans from Billy Bones was sweet at first and then there wasn't much flavour after that.


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Jimmy was unlucky and got a really tough piece. It looks like jerky.

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I also picked up a bottle of the Ragin’ Cajun BBQ sauce ($6) at Camp 31. It was pricey, but we all really liked the kick it gave. I liked how the spiciness also lingered and cut through all the grease.

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This was the chicken and rib ($15) from Silver Bullet. The sweetness of the ribs reminded her of the Chinese ribs (the one on the roast pork) we get, because hoisin sauce is brushed onto the roast pork ribs. Most of the ribs had a lot of tender meat. Silver Bullet’s rib pieces were the most consistent in both size and amount of meat, but they can’t really control the latter. I believe the organizers provide the chicken and ribs.

The one thing that I found funny was that out of the ones I walked by, I think Silver Bullet was the only place that had some kind of branding on the white boxes. I’m surprised no one else has picked up on it.

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The chicken had no flavour. One of the reasons why we got it was to try out the Rajin’ Cajun sauce I bought at Camp 31. The chicken from every stand is and then finished off on the grill with a bit of their sauce. If you decide to buy a bottle of BBQ sauce from one of the competitors, you should get some chicken to mop up the sauce. That’s what we did.


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After everyone had a chance to try everything from each of the three boxes, we chose our favourites out of the three stalls:

1st place: Billy Bones
Dad, Lucy, Richard, and Andrew all liked the ribs from Billy Bones the most.

2nd place: It was a tie between Silver Bullet and Camp 31

It was hard to judge the ribs from Camp 31 because most of the ribs were dry and tough. Mom’s favourite was Camp 31, but that's cause she got a rare piece of rib with tender meat. It's too bad their ribs weren't consistent. Jimmy mentioned that this would’ve been his favourite if the ribs were as moist and tender as Silver Bullet’s. Since Silver Bullet’s ribs had a lot of tender meat, Jimmy was able to enjoy this more.

I didn’t cast a vote because I barely ate anything. After spending two hours walking back and forth on Sparks Street, the perfume of the smoke and ribs just got to me and ruined my appetite. I’m also not a big fan of ribs. You can see my empty plate at the bottom of that picture. I struggled to finish everything (at least I was able to finish my salad).

This is probably the end of this year’s ribfest for us, but they’ll still be around for you all until Sunday, June 26th. I'm not sure when the official judging begins, but I'll update the article whenever I find out.

We have a few tips on how to conquer the ribfest this year... 
  1. Bring cash, patience, a raincoat and maybe an umbrella.
  2. Go with at least one other person. You’ll be able to cover more stalls that way.
  3. If you are planning to enjoy ribfest with a group of people, you should try getting some things from a bunch of the competitors.
  4. Unless you plan to eat on one of the patios on Sparks Street, you should bring a re-useable bag that you can get at the grocery store. You can enjoy your chicken and pork products along Spark Street if you don't want to take them very far. You can only sit and enjoy your meal at the various patios if you buy a beverage from them.
Despite the weather, I hope you can all go downtown and enjoy the chicken and pork stuff this weekend. I know it’s still early in the event, but what was your favourite place this year?


Update: Here are the winners of Ottawa's Chicken and Ribfest 2011...

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Billy Bones knocked off Camp 31's powerhouse and took home the best ribs and sauce title and trophy.  Camp 31 did place second place in both categories though.

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Bibb's BBQ took home the trophy for the best chicken. Texas Rangers and Boss Hog's came second and third respectively.




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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homemade Ribs

After lunch last Sunday, Mom and I marinated some fresh pork ribs. We rarely make ribs, but when we do, its usually marinated Chinese-style. I wanted to try a North American version.

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I’m pretty sure the marinade contains salt, sugar, and an acid. It’s pretty general, right? I made a paste of garlic and brown sugar in our mortar and pestle.

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I tried to do the same with some onions, but it didn’t turn into a paste… ah well. I sprinkled some sea salt and dry mustard. Mom then added some of her simple syrup. That’s it. Everything was mixed together in the container and then thrown into the fridge.


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The ribs were made two days later. I put it in the oven at 250 degrees for about two hours. I wanted to bake it for at least two more hours, but people were hungry so we didn’t have time. The ribs were then barbequed on the grill. Dad and/or Mom whipped up a homemade BBQ sauce and mopped it on the ribs a few minutes before they were ready.

The ribs weren’t that great. They would’ve been much, much better if the ribs had been able to bake for at least 3 hours. The family didn’t agree with my opinion. All the ribs on the table were devoured in no time at all.

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We had a simple side salad of spinach and carrots.

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My grandpa had brought over two fishes (that he got from a fisherman on Bate Island). These were lightly dusted with cornstarch and then pan-fried. It was served with a small dipping dish filled with fish sauce.

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Our starch came from rice. Man, we’re so Chinese! We also had a side of a slaw that Mom made earlier.

Speaking of ribs, Ottawa’s chicken and ribfest begins tomorrow (June 22nd) and will run until June 26th.  While we all wait for it to begin, you can read all about what we enjoyed during last year’s ribfest here.

Spring Roll Bún

I love my mom’s spring rolls. The filling for the spring rolls that she makes is totally different from all the spring rolls I’ve had at other restaurants.

Earlier last Sunday, I had the chance to learn from the master herself. And unlike her usual “cooking lessons,” she actually didn’t step in and take over. I guess that means that I didn’t totally mess up.

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The first step was to shred and cut the ingredients. This was half a cabbage, two medium sized carrots, and half of a red onion.

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Mom helped mince some frozen cloves of garlic while I shredded the cabbage and carrots.

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Once everything was ready, I was told to stir fry everything together with a bit of oil, salt, sugar, black pepper, sesame oil, and a tad bit of oyster sauce. That’s it.

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You’ve noticed that the filling didn’t have any meat. With Mom’s filling, I think it’s fine without the meat, though it does taste a bit better with pork. Lucy helped me wrap the spring rolls, while Mom gave us a refresher course on how to properly wrap them. We froze a tray full of spring rolls for future enjoyment.

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Mom deep fried most of the spring rolls and even made a few shrimp rolls to fry! She briefly marinated the shrimp in sesame oil and salt before wrapping them. You can see some of the veggies and herbs in the background.

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Earlier in the morning, Mom prepared the noodles. These are my favourite when eating this dish! I don’t like the super thin noodles that you’re served at Vietnamese restaurants. After the noodles were boiled, Mom squeezed the water out of the noodles and put them into the strainer. Maybe that’s why restaurants don’t use these noodles.

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When you squeeze the noodles into portions, it makes portion control much easier.

Sunday lunch was delicious! I can't wait until we have this again!

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