Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Good Cheap Eats at Robson's Viet Sub

Viet Sub on Robson Street
Tucked along a row of Japanese restaurants on Robson Street including Japadog, Beard Papa's and Gyudon Ya, Viet Sub holds its own as a small but popular, family-operated restaurant dishing out authentic Vietnamese comfort food. 
With owner Long Bui
The father and son team, Cuong and Long Bui, opened Viet Sub three years ago and have been satisfying taste buds with their moderately priced banh mi (Vietnamese subs), pho (noodle soups) and salad rolls. 
Viet Sub #1 with Urbanspoon
They were even recognized by Urbanspoon, an international restaurant directory and review website, as the 2012 Top Vancouver Restaurant for Cheap Eats $.
Shrimp Salad Roll
Opting to dine-in, I was offered some complimentary hot tea to go with my starter, the shrimp salad roll. The delicate strands of Vermicelli noodles, crispy green lettuce and cold shrimp, all encased in a thin rice paper, were light and refreshing and best dipped in the sweet peanut sauce.    

Vietnam was once a French colony so it's interesting to see the cultural influences reflected in their cuisine. Banh mi is an example of an Asian-French fusion dish using baguettes for the Vietnamese submarine sandwiches. 
Special Sub 
A must-order is the meat-lovers special sub. Each bite was a harmony of moist Vietnamese ham, cold cuts and meat balls with the crispy, julienne pickled carrots and daikon (white radish), fresh cucumbers and cilantro. 
Yummy Special Banh Mi!
The star was the warm and crusty French baguette! The pillowy white bread absorbed all the juices from the delicious meat and veggie filings while the golden crust added crunchy texture. For a subtle kick, drizzle some of their creamy spicy mayo (Sriracha chili sauce and mayonnaise) on top of your sub.
Special Beef Noodle Soup
To help warm up during the cool spring day, I ended my meal with the special beef noodle soup featuring rare and cooked beef and meat balls. The soup came with all the typical pho side fixings, fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves and a lemon wedge. The basil and lemon brightened the aromatic broth with hints of sour zing and the bean sprouts against the tender beef was intoxicatingly addictive! 
Regardless of how busy and crowded the cozy restaurant is, owners Cuong and Long Bui are usually at the till taking orders with fast and friendly service. So whether you're looking to grab a lunch to-go, takeout a quick snack or dine-in for dinner, Viet Sub is the perfect place for good cheap eats. 

Candice's Recommendations:
Shrimp Salad Roll $2.75, Special Sub $4.50, BBQ Sub $4.50, Special Noodle Soup $6.90 and Chicken Noodle Soup $6.90.

Viet Sub Vietnamese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Aunt Pat's Baked Empanadas

Aunt Pat & I at the Bellagio in Vegas, baby!!
Most people who go to Las Vegas are there to try out their luck at the casinos.  However, when I was there earlier this year, my goal was to satisfy my taste buds by venturing out to the best culinary joints this city has to offer. One of them was visiting my Aunt Pat who retired in a suburb just 30 minutes outside of the Vegas strip. 

When she was a full-time nurse with a family of five to feed, she taught herself how to cook and mastered many Filipino favourites like adobo, bibingka and empanadas. Luckily for me, I've tasted many of her scrumptious dishes and especially like her empanadas which are baked and not deep-fried like some traditional Filipino recipes. Baking is the healthier alternative but her empanadas still come out of the oven golden brown, crispy and delicious!
Baked Empanadas
Did you know: The name empanada comes from the Spanish verb "empanar", meaning to wrap or coat in dough.

Empanadas were introduced by the Spaniards during their colonization in the Philippines between 1521-1898. These hand pies are made by folding sweet pastry dough around a savoury meat filing then either deep fried or baked. Variations of this snack can also be found in regions like Spain, Portugal, Latin American countries and the Caribbean islands.

Did you know: Empanadas are great as appetizers and snacks on the go! The Filipino empanada usually contains ground beef, pork or chicken, potatoes, chopped onions and raisins wrapped in a sweet dough.

When I approached my Aunt Pat about possibly sharing her empanada recipe to post on my food blog, I wasn't sure if she would. As some of you know, Filipinos are usually sworn to secrecy when it comes to their family recipes so they can remain tasty heirlooms to be passed down to the next generation. To my delight, my Aunt was more than happy to divulge her empanada recipe so it can live on for others to make at home and continue to satisfy the bellies of many.

For me, the most important part of the empanada is the crust. While I have made empanadas before, the pastry shell always seemed to be the most intimidating to make because they were tedious, time consuming and better left to the professionals. 
Aunt Pat's empanada dough!
With my Aunt's recipe, making the dough is fast and quite gratifying to do at home. Simple ingredients and minimal need to handle the dough made the job infinitely easier and much quicker to produce. When they came out of the oven, the empanadas had the signature flakey, golden brown crust but with less time and effort - my kind of cooking! So don't be intimidated to make empanadas at home and thanks to Aunt Pat, we hope you'll share and pass this recipe down in your family.

Empanadas ready for egg wash
Tasty Tip: Customize your empanada! Try using pork, chicken breast (cooked & cubed) instead of ground beef or add frozen peas, sliced boiled egg and mozzarella cheese.

Filing Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large potato, chopped into 1/4" cubes
1 carrot, chopped into 1/4" cubes
1 lb lean ground beef
½ cup sultana raisins
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup green onion, chopped into 1/8" pieces
Salt & pepper to taste

Filing Preparation
1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Saute yellow onion and garlic, then add potatoes and carrots, cook till soft. 
2. Add beef and soya sauce. Keep stirring to break up clumps, cook for 5-7 minutes. Stir in the sultana raisins and sugar, cook for 2 more minutes. Add salt & pepper and taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Then stir in green onions in the end.
3. Drain all excess liquid from beef filling. Let mixture cool completely in the fridge before using as filling in pastry.

Empanada Beef Filing
Dough Ingredients
4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
4 tbsp sugar 
1 tsp salt
1 cup canola or vegetable oil 
1 cup room temperature water 
1 large egg with 1 tsp of room temp. water (egg wash)

Dough Preparation
1. Mix all dough ingredients until dough comes together into a soft and oily consistency. 
Steps to making empanada dough
2. Divide dough into two even pieces. Use a rolling pin to flatten into disks, wrap both pieces in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
3. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
4. Remove cold dough from fridge and divide into 1/4 cup size pieces, place on a floured surface. With a rolling pin, flatten each piece into a circle about the size of a small saucer.
5. Place 1/8 cup of cooled filling on one side of the pastry. Fold the other side of the pastry over the filling and make sure you firmly press the edges to seal the encased filling with your fingers or with an empanada press. Then place empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the tops with egg wash.
Steps to fill the empanada 
6. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until you finish your dough and filing. Place the unbaked empanadas in ziplock bags and place in freezer. Freezing the empanadas before baking will keep the dough staying crispy.
7. Bake the empanadas until golden brown, 25-30 minutes, and they're best enjoyed with the company of family & friends!
Emapandas hot out of the oven
Tasty Tip: You can freeze unbaked empanadas (without the eggwash) in a tightly sealed ziplock freezer bag for up to 2 months. Simply take out the frozen empanadas, coat with some egg wash and bake on a parchment-lined sheet for 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until golden brown. A great way to have yummy appetizers or snack on the ready.
Yummy empanadas!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Yummy Dim Sum at Richmond's Fisherman's Terrace

Gan bei! (cheers!)
For most Vancouverites we all have our go-to dim sum places and for years my family has frequented Richmond's Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant.

Conveniently located on the third floor of Aberdeen Centre, you can easily access the restaurant by taking the Canada Line skytrain or brave Richmond's traffic and find free parking in the mall.

Opened seventeen years ago, Fisherman's Terrace's classic decor remains modern and spacious because of its high ceilings, glittering chandeliers and large windows that bring in natural light. 

A popular Sunday dim sum spot for Richmond's Chinese community, it's wise to make reservations to ensure your wait time is kept to a minimum, especially during the peak lunch hours between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. 

Another good tip is to go with a large group, four or more, so you can all try a variety of dim sum plates without getting too full, too soon.
Dim Sum feast at Fisherman's Terrace
Dim sum originated with Cantonese farmers who would take a midday break after an exhausting morning tilling the fields to enjoy afternoon tea. Soon entrepreneurial tea-house owners began serving farmers small snacks with their tea. These small snacks would eventually evolve into the culinary art of dim sum!

Ordering dim sum varies from place to place. Some cruise around the restaurant with dim sum trolleys carrying various small plates where you can order directly from the trolley. While others, like Fisherman's Terrance, you must order from your server by filling out a slip of paper by marking down the dishes you like. I prefer the latter method because the food seems fresher and the delivery time is still quick.
La familia getting excited for a tasty meal!
I went with my family, we were a party of five, so we can have our favourites and venture out to try other dishes.  Fisherman's Terrace is known for serving traditional dim sum dishes and we made sure to order the staples. 
Har Gow
Their har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) is bursting with minced shrimp and best dipped in soy sauce for added saltiness. 
Steamed BBQ Pork Buns
While the sweet and fluffy dough from the steamed BBQ pork buns held savoury melt-in-your mouth pork that have you wanting more! 
Sticky Fried Rice
The whole table devoured the pan fried sticky rice with Chinese sausage, egg, green onion, dried shrimp and bbq pork that all harmoniously blended together into a tasty mix. 
Chow Mein
The chow mein noodles against the crunchy strands of leek and bean sprouts remains one of my favourites.
Fried Har Gow
We also tried two new plates which have now made it onto our must-order dim sum list. The fried version of the har gow were little golden purses stuffed with minced shrimp too cute to eat but when dipped into the sweet mayo sauce and consumed, the crispy shell let out a loud crunch ensuring neighbouring tables ordered this delectable dish as well! 
Chinese Doughnut wrapped in thin rice noodles
The Chinese doughnut wrapped in thin rice noodles with green onions and dry shredded pork was heavenly but make sure you drizzle each slice with the provided sweet Hoisin and peanut sauces.

Dim sum is a fast and delicious way to familiarize yourself with Chinese cuisine because the plates are small and fairly inexpensive. If you don't like a dish, don't fret, another tasty plate will soon be arriving to your table. 

Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant has been continually busy for the past seventeen years because they don't skimp on flavours and bring the yum in dim sum, leaving you full and satisfied.

Candice's Recommendations

Har Gow $4.95; BBQ Pork Buns $$4.55; Sticky Rice with Meat $6.95; Chow Mein $6.50; Deep Fried Har Gow $4.95 and Chinese Doughnut wrapped in rice noodles $4.95.

Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant 釣魚台海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon