Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Menudo - Filipino Stew

Like many Filipino dishes, Menudo is comfort food and perfect for Christmas dinner! It's a tomato based stew and typically with cubed pork, sausages, liver, raisins, potatoes and veggies.

My Mom's Menudo recipe is one of my favourite stews, minus the liver and raisins.  Here's a quick one-minute video of the Menudo recipe, enjoy;)

- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large diced yellow onion
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (3 medium tomatoes)
- 1 lb cubed pork shoulder or back
- 2 chorizo sausages, sliced
- 1/2 cup cubed potatoes
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- salt & pepper to taste

1) Heat pan at medium heat then add vegetable oil. Saute onion for 2 minutes until softened. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.
2) Add the pork and chorizo then season with soy sauce, salt, pepper & brown sugar. Cook pork for 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes and let simmer for 30-40 minutes until pork and potatoes are cooked.
3) Add red bell pepper and peas and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with soy sauce & pepper to taste then drizzle extra virgin olive oil for a finishing touch. Enjoy the Menudo with rice or pandesal!
Tasty Tip: Menudo can be easily cooked in a slow cooker. It can be made in large batches because it keeps well as left overs and can stay up to 2 weeks in the freezer.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Noche Buena - A Good Night for a Filipino Feast!

Noche Buena  Feast with the Macalino's!
The Christmas season is my favourite time of the year because for my family it's about spending time together and indulging in a Filipino feast called Noche Buena. Spanish for "good night", Noche Buena is a traditional late-night meal celebrated after midnight mass by many Filipino families on Christmas Eve. I still get giddy with excitement during the car ride home from church, anticipating the dishes that my Mom had lovingly prepared earlier that day. 

As we approach my parent's house, it's around 1:30 am and we're looking forward to our second Christmas Eve dinner. My Mom brings out her best china and silverware, a special touch for the holidays, to serve our favourite Filipino and non-Filipino dishes. 

Her Noche Bueno menu changes from year to year but we can always count on the staples: pandasel (sweet Filipino buns) with sliced roasted ham and pasko de bola (ripened cheese ball), buko (young coconut) fruit salad, cold macaroni chicken salad and my favourite, bibingka (coconut cake). 

With my Dad's favourite Frank Sinatra Christmas album jingling in the background, we dig into the festive treats while joking about old family memories, reminiscing about the past year's events and being grateful for spending another Christmas together. By 3:30 am, we're exchanging gifts and slowly winding down for the night. 

There are lots of leftovers from Noche Buena and we're able to easily whip up another large spread when our extended family gathers for Christmas dinner.  To my delight, my Mom always makes sure we have ample bibingka cakes to last until the following day - she knows it's not a Filipino Christmas without them! 

Bibingka Cake!
Bibingka is a soft and chewy cake made with flour, sugar and coconut milk. It's baked in pan lined with banana leaves to help impart flavour and create a natural non-stick surface. Once cooked, the cake is topped with butter, sugar, grated coconut, shredded edam cheese and salted duck egg. 

Bibingka can be enjoyed as a snack, dessert or breakfast and can be found as street food in the Philippines as well as in high-end restaurants and five-star hotels. It's loved by many Filipinos because of the unique flavour combination. The sweet coconut cake with the savoury cheese and salted egg surprisingly go well together. For me, bibingks tastes like Christmas!

Food is and will always be the center of any Filipino celebration, especially during a Noche Buena feast. In addition to basting your turkeys, try adding this bibingka recipe to your Christmas menu. Happy Holidays!

Candice's Cusina Bibingka Cakes

Bibingka with the works!
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (or rice flour)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 coconut milk
2-3 banana leaves

1 cup shredded cheese (Edam, Mozzarella, or Cheddar)
1 boiled salted egg, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup grated fresh coconut 

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line one 8" diameter springform pan or five 6 oz. ramekins with banana leaves. Brush leaves with butter.
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed for 5-7 minutes until the mixture has thickened and tuned a pale yellow.
4. Slowly add flour mix and coconut milk to egg mixture until just blended. Then mix in 1/2 cup cheese. Then pour batter into springform pan or ramekins and top with 1/2 diced salted egg.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove cake and the top it with the other 1/2 diced salted egg and 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Brush top of cake with butter then sprinkle with sugar and grated coconut. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Yummy Modern Indian Fare at Rangoli

As I entered Rangoli, my spirits were immediately lifted when greeted with sweet aromas of Indian spices, rich colours from the hip but simply decorated interior and Bhangra music cheerfully playing in the background. 

Rangoli restaurant & market
This warm welcome is symbolic to the meaning of the restaurant's name. Rangoli is an Indian ancient folk art of patterns, made from coloured ground rice, decorated in front of home entrances. This practice is an expression of hospitality that also enhances the beauty of its surroundings.

Rangoli is Vij’s charming sister restaurant, located right next door on 11th and Granville Street.  Positioned as the more causal eatery that doubles as a marketplace selling Vij's frozen and packaged meals, it is open for lunch and dinner. 

Owner Vikram Vij is spotted regularly on sight, at both Vij's and Rangoli, warmly greeting and serving guests. When I visited, he was out-of-town on his annual culinary tour. He brings 15 to 20 foodies to India and is their personal tour guide, introducing them to his favourite restaurants and markets as well as teaching them how to cook local Indian fare.
Bottomless Chai Tea
In the absence of Vikram, Rangoli's manager, Cory, happily recommended his favourites from the menu. To help warm me up from Vancouver's winter rain, he brought over a steaming hot mug of chai tea. It was a light and creamy brew of black tea and milk with the perfect spice balance of cinnamon, cardamon, ginger and star anise. The chai is bottomless, so I delightfully cozied up to a couple of chai mugfuls before dinner arrived. 

Savoury Chaat
Cory brought out my first course, the savoury chaat, a traditional Indian snack. Served cold, I enjoyed the texture and flavour medley of crunchy wheat crisps with the creamy yogurt and the spicy baked potatoes with the sweet chutney.

Lamb in cumin in light cream curry
For my entree, I ordered the lamb in cumin and light cream curry. I liked there was a good amount of tender lamb tucked among the stewed peppers and onions. The naan, basmati rice and spring salad were all great companions for the curry that had a light richness with gentle hints of cumin.

Meeti Roti
Being stuffed with savoury chaat, lamb curry and three servings of chai tea didn't deter me from ordering dessert. Going with Cory's final recommendation, I ordered the meeti roti, made of chapatis (flat unleavened bread) filled with Demerara sugar and cashews then drizzled with vanilla custard. Strings of julienned mint brightened up the dish and I managed to polish off 3 meeti roti wedges!

Amazing chefs at Rangoli
At Rangoli you can have the best of both worlds - quick and friendly service with dishes that hold the same elegance and modern-Indian flavours that can be found at Vij's, minus the line-ups.

1488 W 11th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 736-5711

My recommendations:
Chai Tea $2.50; Savoury Chaat $8.50; Lamb in Cumin & Light Creamy Curry $15; Meeti Roti $5.50

Rangoli on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Food Fusion in Old Chinatown

Bao Bei stands true to its Chinese and French inspired confusion, I mean fusion, from its sophisticated French country decor, modernization on Chinese home-cooking classics and swanky new-age cocktails. The concept of a Chinese Brassiere seems to work because the eatery has been bustling since day one. 

They don't take reservations so don't be surprised to see a line-up at the door, but be assured it's worth the wait. A good tip is to come early, put your name down on the list and grab a drink or two at the Keefer Bar several doors down. That's what we did during our 20 minute wait.

Chino Margarita
When we returned, our table was ready and as we took our seats, we were greeted by our server who quickly suggested his favourite cocktail, the Chino Margarita, which we ordered with little persuasion. It was like summer in a glass! A refreshing concoction of tangerine tequila, ginger, lime, frothy egg white with a chili salt and sugar rim. 

Bao Bei was conceived by Tannis Ling along with chef Joel Watanabe in 2010. They developed a menu with an interesting mix of Taiwanese, Shanghaniese, Vietmanese and French infused dishes. Our server informed us that the tapa-style meals are meant for sharing and recommended that we order his top five dishes, an optimal amount for two people. 

Bean Curd Skin
We were famished and immediately tucked into our first "schnack",  a light and tasty appetizer of bean curd skin (thin tofu sheets) and king oyster mushroom marinated a delicate truffle vinaigrette. 

Beef Tartare
Like many Asian restaurants, the other four main dishes came to our table as they were cooked. The presentation of the beef tartare was an impressive symphony of colours and textures. A bit of assembly is required to combine the raw quail egg with the Pemberton beef tenderloin. The delightful result was creamy tartare that had some zing from the ginger and shallots. The salty taro chips made for the perfect spoon to scoop up the savoury tartare and fresh watercress salad.  

Steamed Fish
The steelhead salmon dish came in a large bowl swimming in a green soup made from basil, ginger, Shaoxing (rice wine) and chili paste. The fish was impeccably done to my taste, steamed on the outside and rare on the inside, and combined nicely with the silky green puree. 

Shao Bing
When the Shao Bing arrived, it was anything but a boring sandwich! The Shao Bing is a "must order" dish that evokes more Middle Eastern flavours than Chinese or French. The crispy sesame flatbread was an excellent vessel to hold the cumin lamb sirloin while the pickled red onion, green pepper, cilantro, and salted chilies all help to brighten up the sandwich. 

Crispy Pork Belly
I loved the crispy pork belly, another "must-order" dish! The acidity from the pickled red onion with the creaminess from the star anise tomato sauce hold their own but complement nicely with the savoury richness from the crispy pork belly. If you enjoy a fiery kick to your food, drizzle some of the hot chili oil, the only condiment on the table and the perfect flavour boost.

Bao Bei's fashionable patrons, electric atmosphere and expertly composed touches of Tannis' vintage family photos and modern furnishings keep this eatery busy day after day. It's worth the trek and the wait time for your table to experience Bao Bei's new world of food fusion in Old Chinatown.

Visit Candice's Cusina for more food photos from Bao Bei,

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
163 Keefer Street, Vancouver
No reservations, Monday-Saturday 5:30 pm - Midnight

Candice's Recommendations:
Bean Curd Skin $4; Beef Tartare $14; Steamed Fish $18; Shao Bing $12; Crispy Pork Belly $16.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie 寶貝小館 on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 29, 2012

Flavour Meets Art at Kadoya Japanese Restaurant

Kadoya Team!
There are hundreds of Japanese restaurants in Vancouver, from the corner sushi bars to elegant and upscale dining rooms, but what really distinguishes one from the other? Is it the decor, the prices, the location, the selection of sushi?
Watch how they make sushi rolls at Kadoya

Impressive fancy roll feast!
At Kadoya Japanese Restaurant on Davie Street, owner Lin Xiao takes the world of sushi to a whole new level by infusing colours, textures and flavours never before touched by chopsticks. 

Lin has been running Kadoya since 2005 and injects creativity into the menu by making each sushi roll a piece of art. By introducing a new roll every two to three months, he incorporates seasonal and local ingredients to keep customers coming back. He recently added a number of vegetarian sushi choices and brown rice options to cater to his health conscious clientele. 

Sakura roll
The rolls are impressive, presented on large white plates and gracefully drizzled with one or more of Lin's top secret sauces. Lin's signature Sakura roll is not your average spicy tuna roll. The fiery seasonings tingle the tongue while the generous cuts of soft and tender tuna cool the bite. But like all rolls at Kadoya, there is a surprise. Lin adds crunch with tempura bits and sesame seeds mixed into the tuna. He then tops his creation with chopped scallops, tobiko (salmon roe) and unagi sauce for sweetness.
Spider roll
If you're feeling adventurous and love crab, then the spider roll is a must! Its size and presentation alone are enough to intimidate even the most noble ninja. Jam packed with creamy crab meat, sweet yam and topped with generous pieces of golden soft shell crab tempura, the spider roll is guaranteed to whet your appetite when it arrives to the table. 
Canada roll
The Canada roll is perfect if you have a voracity of a sumo wrestler. It's an inventive fusion of traditional rice and seaweed with strips of canadian bacon and fresh avocado. A blanket of tuna tempura coat the roll while a sprinkling of crispy bacon bits, sweet mayonaise and ketchup sauces complete this work of art.
Tuna sashimi with Lin's special sauce
Kadoya's fast service, large portions and bold fusion styling continue to be one of my favourite restaurants and a must-visit for any culinary enthusiast who enjoys adventurous cuisine. Visit Kadoya Japanese Restaurant, where flavour meets art.

Candice's recommendations:
Sakura roll - $8.99; Spider roll - $9.99 & Canada roll - $8.99

Kadoya Japanese (Davie Village) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Soy Chicken Ginga & my new Ninja!!

My love and appreciation for the organizers of the International Food Bloggers Conference continue to grow when my brand new Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System arrived in the mail last week!! Yes, all IFBC attendees were gifted our very own Ninja, how amazing is that?! I know, I can't contain my excitement;)

The beauty of the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System allows home cooks to use one appliance to meet most of your cooking needs: (1) fast one-pot meals, (2) steam infused roasting & baking and (3) serious slow cooking.

To inaugurate my Ninja, I decided to try the "serious slow cooking" method with one of my favourite dishes, Soy-Ginger Chicken with brown rice (made on the stove top). This recipe is so simple! Basically dump all ingredients into one pot, leave for 5 hours, then feast on tender, juicy chicken, brimming with tonnes of flavour from the soy-ginger stew.

When I tested the Soy-Ginger Chicken recipe on my Ninja, I was pleasantly surprised that it only took almost half the time! Good thing I was home;)  The chicken was moist, the carrots still had a soft bite and the soy-ginger sauce tasted like it was stewing all day.

Plus the Ninja cooking pot was light, making it easy to pour out the soy-ginger sauce, while the non-stick surface made clean up a breeze!!  They weren't kidding when they said the Ninja would mean making meals faster and with true convenience.

Thank you Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking Systems for introducing me to a more convenient and multi-functional kitchen tool. I can't wait to try the other Ninja cooking modes and will incorporate more Filipino recipes into the cooking pot, stay tuned!

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup fresh parsly, chopped, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inches long), peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 5 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal (1 cup packed)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 4 skinless chicken drumsticks and 4 thighs
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced in rounds
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds & brown rice for serving

1. In a slow cooker, mix together soy sauce, sugar, garlic, parsley, ginger, 1/2 cup scallions, vinegar, sesame oil, and pepper.

2. Add chicken and carrots; toss to coat. Cover, and cook on low until chicken is tender, about 5 hours. Using a large spoon, skim off and discard any fat from surface of cooking liquid.

3. In a glass measuring cup, whisk cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water. Ladle 1 cup cooking liquid into measuring cup; whisk to combine. Pour into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 1 minute. With slow cooker turned off, stir in cornstarch mixture. 

4. Serve chicken with brown rice, and garnish with parsley sprigs & sesame seeds and remaining 1/2 cup scallions.

Recipe adapted from Everyday Food

International Food Blogger Conference 2013 SeattleAre you a food blogger? Then you must attend the 2013 International Food Blogging Conference to learn about exciting new kitchen products (like the Ninja), hone your craft in food writing & cooking, meet great friends and of course, eat lots of amazing food!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Candice & Bob Like Thai Food

What's in a name? That which we call Bob Likes Thai Food. It's a fun and unique take on a restaurant brand yet, you can't help but wonder the obvious, who's Bob? 

As we entered the playfully decorated restaurant adorned with children's artwork and larger than life-sized paintings of a fork and spoon, I looked around hoping to find Bob. 

Upon asking our waitress, I learned there sadly isn't a Bob. She said the owner, Tai Keattivanichvily, couldn't find the authentic Thai flavours from home when he moved to Vancouver 15 years ago. Leaving his career in animation, he opened his shop in 2011, recruited Thai cooks and they worked hard to replicate his favourite dishes. Also, he simply likes the name, Bob.

Roasted Duck Red Curry
We started with the roasted duck red curry, as recommended by the waitress, and it was the best of the dishes we tried. The meaty duck just melted in your mouth and the sweet hints of fresh pineapple, lychee and cherry tomatoes helped to cut the richness of the coconut-based curry. 

Pad Thai
The well-executed Pad Thai had a nice sweetness from tamarind and thankfully not from ketchup, typically used in Western renditions of this dish. The gentle tang from the lime brought out the savoury flavours of the perfectly cooked noodles stir-fried with prawns, tofu, bean sprouts and crushed peanuts. 

Thai Ice-Tea
We accompanied our meal with some refreshingly sweet and creamy Thai ice-tea that went down way too fast!
Fried Banana Fingers with Ice-Cream
Despite being full from dinner, I imagined Bob wouldn't end a meal without dessert. So we opted for the deep fried bananas, a la mode. We managed to devour the tempura battered banana fingers, rich vanilla ice-cream and sweet blackberries. I even had to resist licking the plate when it was all done!

What matters is what something is, not what it's called. The Thai food is delicious and there is no mistaking that the dishes are authentic and reasonably priced. Bob Likes Thai Food, to be called by any other name wouldn't smell as sweet. 

Bob Likes Thai Food
3755 Main St                     &         1521 West Broadway Street
Vancouver, BC                              Vancouver, BC 

Lunch: 11:30 am - 2:30 pm
Dinner: 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Candice's recommendations:
Roasted Duck Red Curry $13.50; Pad Thai $12; Thai Ice Tea $2.50; Deep Fried Finger Banana Ice-Cream $4.50

Bob Likes Thai Food on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 8, 2012

Buko (Young Coconut) Custard Pie

Coconut is known to be the "tree of life" because it's highly valued as a source of food and medicine. Coconuts provide a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk and oil that has fed and nourished the Filipino population for generations.

Fresh Young Coconut
Did you know: Early Spanish explorers called it coco, which means "monkey face" because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy coconut resembles the head and face of a monkey. 

According to the Food & Agriculture of the UN, Philippines is the largest producer of coconuts and naturally the versatile fruit is used as medicine, decorations, clothing, construction materials, instruments, jewelry and food!

Did you know: Coconuts are classified as a fibrous one-seeded drup. A drupe is a fruit with a hard stone.
Young Coconut Meat
The young coconut meat, buko, is tender, creamy and juicy. The delicious, buko pie is one of the most famous desserts from Laguna, 35 miles south of Manila, PHI. Wrapped in a flaky crust and filled with custard made with buko and condensed milk, it's a treat worth making for all special occasions.


3 cups pastry flour
2 tbsp sugar
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
 6- 8 tbsp (1/2 cup) ice water
1 egg whites

1) Place flour & sugar in a bowl and stir. Cut in butter, using finger tips or a food processor with a steel blade and pulse until mixture is crumbly and butter is the size of peas.
2) Sprinkle ice water until dough comes together. Dump dough onto a floured board and divide into 2 equal balls, flattened. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out one dough into 11" circle then place onto a 9" pie plate. Smooth the dough into the bottom and sides of pie plate.
4) Trim off excess around edges of pie plate. Prick bottom & sides with fork. Blind bake for 15 minutes. Let cool and brush with egg whites, set aside.

Frozen Young Coconut
Buko custard:
4 cups young coconut meat, 1" strips (frozen or fresh)
2 cups young coconut water, divided
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
egg wash (egg yolk & water)

Coconut Custard
1) In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut meat, 1 cup coconut water, evaporated milk, sugar and condensed milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often for about 8-10 minutes until mixture starts to simmer.
2) Stir in cornstarch with 1 cup coconut water to dissolve.

3) When mixture starts to boil, add cornstarch & coconut water, stirring quickly until mixture thickens. Will take about 5 minutes, then set aside.

Baked Buko Pie
1) Pour buko custard into the crust, smooth top.
2) Roll out the 2nd piece of dough into 11" circle. East on top of custard and pinch edges to seal crust.
3) Brush top of crust with egg wash.
4) Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
5) I like to let pie cool completely then at serve room temperature with ube ice-cream!!