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Eating With My Hands at Lamesa

23 Oct

Any chance I get, I love to eat my food with my hands. Bacon? I eat with my hands. Scrambled eggs? Piled on toast and eaten with my hands. I have been known to eat gooey, rich chocolate cake with my hands and no one can convince me otherwise that it doesn’t make for a more joyful experience. (You people and your cutlery-for-pizza ways? I do not understand you.) So when I was invited to take part in a kamayan dinner at Lamesa last night, I was genuinely excited. Sitting down at a table draped with banana leaves and eventually adorned with brightly coloured, intensely flavoured food is my idea of a great dinner. Every Sunday, Lamesa is offering this kamayan (translated, means “hand to mouth”) dinner for a very reasonable $40/person that would be great for everyone: a group of friends, a family, a date. Best to make reservations and to know that this is not a fast meal: the idea is to sit with those you care about to share and enjoy a meal together. It’s a Filipino tradition that the owners and chefs want to bring to our awesome city and I think it’s a fabulous addition. It’s a feast for the senses.

Refreshments in hand, our table watched (and drooled) while head chef Rudy Boquilla and chef de cuisine Joash Dy elegantly placed the four different sauces on top of the banana leaves. First was the bagoong caramel, a fermented shrimp paste, followed by a soy garlic puree, sawsawan gel and housemade hot sauce. The sawasan gel was a table fave: thick, sweet and salty, it was made with soy, vinegar and garlic. Every once in a while, I would find another little pocket of it hidden under rice and I’d swipe whatever bite of food I had in my fingers through it. They could bottle and sell this stuff.

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Next to be served was a salad comprised of sour mango, arugula, radish and pretty heirloom carrots paired with mango chutney. This was followed by a sisig lettuce cup: iceberg lettuce piled high with chopped chicken, pork and beef cooked with chili, garlic and onions. Light and crunchy, these were light bites that helped to balance the rich meats that were to come.

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In the middle of the table, chef Dy spread out generous heaps of garlic fried rice topped with crispy garlic bits. On top of the rice, mussels and clams cooked in a broth of coconut milk, ginger and garlic. In between the shellfish, smoked, boneless bangus (marinated milkfish) were artfully placed. The smokiness of the fish and the brininess of the shellfish were making our mouths water. Next to come was the hands-down winner of the night: the crispy chicken adobo wings. This is not to say that the kare kare oxtail (braised in a peanut garlic sauce) wasn’t succulent and beautiful, because it was; but, this chicken was incredible. Maybe the best fried chicken in the city. A grand statement, to be sure, but it has to be tasted to be believed.

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The array: smoked fish, mussels, corn, oxtail, chicken adobo wings, rice, kale chip, pea shoots, lettuce cup and chicken tinola broth.

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Halved calamansi, pickled egg and mango chutney.

 

Not to be left out were the grilled corn, bok choy, kale chips, sweet purple yam cornbread, pickled egg and fresh calamansi that dotted the table. To say this was an epic meal would almost do it a disservice. It was a fun meal. A balanced meal. An “I am so full but can’t stop eating” meal. An “oh my god, did you try this with that??” meal. A meal one does not soon forget. Check out Lamesa at 669 Queen St. W., just west of Bathurst. They will be putting on the kamayan dinners every Sunday night – don’t forget to make reservations!

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Before…

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…after.

 

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Pad Thai

24 Feb

By request, here is a great Pad Thai recipe. Don’t be intimidated: it’s really not too difficult. It’s going to require a bunch of ingredients, but the steps are not complicated. If you can have everything ready, so much the better as once you get cooking, things go quickly. I ended up making this dish twice in a week it was so yummy. Feel free to add more veggies if you want more crunch, or more chili powder if you want it to have more heat (or omit it entirely if you want no heat at all!). You can make it vegetarian by replacing the chicken with tofu or add shrimp for some extra protein: any way you make it, it’s going to taste great.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 lb boneless chicken breasts, sliced as thinly as possible
1 pkg 5mm rice noodles
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 ts cornstarch
1/2 c soy sauce
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3c fish sauce
2 tb tamarind paste
1/4 ts white pepper
1/2 tb chili powder
1 tb vegetable oil
2 eggs
4 c bean sprouts
1/2 c crushed peanuts
6 green onions, sliced
1 c fresh cilantro
4 lime wedges, for garnish

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, stir the cornstarch and soy sauce together. Add the chicken, stir to coat and put in the fridge while you get everything else ready.
2. Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Be sure to stir the noodles every few minutes so they don’t stick together. Drain and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the tamarind, fish sauce, brown sugar, white pepper and chili powder until thoroughly combined.
4. Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute. Then toss in the chicken and its marinade. Cook for roughly 7 minutes.
5. Remove the chicken from your pan and add the eggs, stirring them constantly so they scramble. Once done, add the chicken back to the pan. Cook both the eggs and chicken together for 1 minute.
6. Add the noodles and sauce to your pan. Using two utensils, toss all the ingredients together so they are thoroughly combined. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the bean sprouts and repeat.
7. Divide the Pad Thai among four bowls. Garnish with peanuts, cilantro and a lime wedge.

Vietnamese Pork & Vegetable Lettuce Cups

5 Jun

With the weather taking a turn for the better, the desire to eat a little lighter has kicked in. These lettuce cups are a little bit labour intensive – nothing hard, just a lot of vegetable chopping – but they pack a lot of flavour in each bite. The sauce is salty and spicy; the filling is crunchy and satisfying. The recipe is very adaptable: you can make it vegetarian, spicier, milder, switch up the fillings, use tortillas instead of lettuce, etc. You can certainly substitute the pork for turkey, chicken or beef and use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

3 tb vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, diced
3 carrots, diced
handful mushrooms, chopped
1/2 bunch asparagus, diced
1 pkg ground pork
4 ts chili paste (I used sambal oelek)
2 tb fish sauce
2 ts brown sugar
juice of 3 limes, zest of 1 lime
1 head of butter lettuce, washed & separated
1 bunch of mint leaves, torn

Directions

1. Heat 1tb of oil in a large pan or a wok to medium-high heat. Add in the garlic and 2ts of chili paste. Sauté for 1 minute.
2. Add in the pork, onion, peppers and carrots. Break up the pork with a wooden spoon. Cook 5 minutes and then add in the mushrooms and asparagus. Cook 3-4 more minutes until the pork is no longer pink. Allow it to cool a bit.
3. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining oil, chili paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice & zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. Scoop the filling into the lettuce cups, then top with some sauce and garnish with mint. Should you like your food on the spicy side, you can also top with a little more chili paste or hot sauce.

Roast Chicken & Smashed Kimchi Potatoes

13 May

In the mood for something easy, something reliable, but with a twist? Try this recipe from Bon Appétit! I had it whipped up in about 40 minutes from the time I turned on the oven to plating. You can find kimchi in most large grocery stores but I got mine at the Lisa Marie market and it was quite tasty. You could also head on over to Koreatown and have fun going through the markets there!

Serves 4.

Ingredients

1.5 lb small potatoes (new, fingerling, whatever you’ve got)
vegetable oil
salt & pepper
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 jar kimchi (roughly a cup) plus 1/4 c liquid
1 tb rice wine vinegar
4 c greens

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450. Toss the potatoes with 1 tb of vegetable oil on a foil-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes, turning once.
2. Rub the chicken thighs with garlic and season with salt & pepper. Heat 1 tb of oil in a pan to medium-high. Place the chicken skin-side down in the pan and cook until the skin is browned and crisp, 10 minutes.
3. Place the chicken skin-side up on the baking sheet and cook for another 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
4. With a large spoon, gently smash the potatoes. Spoon the kimchi over and roast until warmed through, no more than 5 minutes.
5. In the meantime, combine the reserved kimchi liquid, 2 tb of vegetable oil and rice wine vinegar in  a small bowl.
6. Scatter the greens over the chicken and potatoes, drizzle half of the dressing and toss gently. Plate and finish with the rest of the dressing.

chicken kimchi

Hot Pepper Noodles

11 Apr

I modified the original recipe from Bon Appétit to make it spicier and saucier. It also calls for chicken which would be tasty, but we were looking to make a vegetarian dish. Shrimp would also be excellent!

Serves 2 hungry people.

Ingredients

3 tb oyster sauce hot pepper noodle prep
2 tb chili garlic sauce
1.5 tb soy sauce
1 ts sugar
10 oz dried rice noodles
2 tb vegetable oil
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 yellow/orange bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1 small onion, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 egg, beaten

Directions

1. In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce and sugar.
2. Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Stir the noodles and cover the bowl for 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
3. Heat a wok to medium heat and add the oil. Toss in the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add in peppers, onion and tomatoes and half the sauce. Toss to coat and cook 3-4 minutes until vegetables have softened.
4. Add the egg, noodles and the rest of the sauce. Toss constantly until the noodles and vegetables are completely coated. Serve and top with basil, if desired.

hot pepper noodle complete

Turkey Meatballs w/ Vegetables & Rice Noodles

26 Sep

New house, new kitchen, new recipes! Tried this one out last night and it was a whole pile of filling, healthy deliciousness. Definitely give it a whirl: it’s easily adaptable and pretty quick to make. J pickled the red onions and cucumbers that he served and it added a great sour bite to the sweet and spicy sauce that accompanies the dish.

You could also serve the meatballs as an appetizer, serving the sauce on the side as a dip.

Serves 2.

Ingredients

1 lb ground turkey
1 egg, beaten
1 tb sesame oil
1 tb chives/green onions, finely diced
2 ts cornstarch
1 pinch chili flakes (optional)
1 ts salt

1 tb hoisin sauce
1 tb rice wine vinegar
1 tb oyster sauce
1/2 tb Sriracha sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tb soy sauce

bell peppers, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1/2 red onion, juilenned

2 green onions, sliced
1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
2 lime wedges

1-2 packages rice noodles, cooked according to instructions

Directions

1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients. Do not overmix. Refrigerate for anywhere from 2 – 24 hours.
2. Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with foil. Dampen your hands and roll out roughly 16 meatballs. Bake 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs and preheat your broiler. Cook for 5 more minutes.
3. Meanwhile, if you plan to stir fry the veg, heat a pan with 2 ts of olive oil to medium and sauté for 4 -5 minutes. If you’re pickling them, however, you can skip this step.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce. Adjust flavouring to taste – some people like it hot, some salty, some sweet.
5. Place the noodles at the bottom of a bowl and layer in the vegetables and meatballs, topping with green onion, cilantro and a lime wedge for garnish. Either pour the sauce on top or serve on the side.

Turkey meatbals

Sauteed Vegetables with Soba Noodles

1 Jun

Currently, I am addicted to soba noodles. In truth, I love any kind of noodle (carb queen!) but these are my latest obsession. They’re easy to make and can be used in all sorts of dishes from salads to stir-frys. Last night, I went on a vegetarian tear, cutting up all sorts of spring veggies and some tofu for an Asian-flavoured dish with a soy-rice wine vinegar-hoisin-Sriracha sauce. If I’d had some mirin, I’d have used that, too, but I just grabbed what I had in the cupboards.

Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients

2 packages soba noodles, cooked
2 tb vegetable oil
1 2-inch piece of ginger, grated or finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
4-5 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed, cut to bite-sized pieces
1 c broccoli
1 – 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 tb soy sauce
1 tb hoisin
1 1/2 c firm tofu, drained and cubed
4 – 5 handfuls of spinach leaves
1 c peas
2 tb rice wine vinegar
Sriracha to taste

Directions

1. In a large pan, heat the oil to medium heat. Add the ginger and shallot and sauté for 3 minutes.
2. Add the asparagus, broccoli and carrots along with the soy and hoisin. Sauté another 3-4 minutes.
3. Toss the spinach in next and allow to wilt a little before adding the tofu and peas. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add in the rice wine vinegar and Sriracha to taste.
5. Serve over the cooked soba noodles. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions if you like!

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