Monday, June 24, 2013

Pinpin Restaurant is a Win-Win with its Filipino-Chinese Cuisine

Along East Vancouver's Fraser Street corridor is a stretch of diverse Asian restaurants competing for hungry patrons. Offering the familiar tastes of Filipino cuisine with a Chinese flair, Pinpin restaurant is conveniently located on Fraser and E 45th Street. With easy access to public transit and ample free parking along the back alley, Pinpin holds its own by attracting a regular Filipino clientele, a telling sign that the food is authentically Filipino and delicious! 
Since opening its doors seven years ago, owners Joe and Virginia Lee's secret to their success is recreating memories for their mostly Filipino customers from their modern decor with iconic photos of scenes from the Philippines to the hospitable service and classic Filipino-Chinese dishes.  

Both Joe and Virginia share a deep history of family restauranteurs who ran thriving businesses back in the Philippines. Virginia's family operated the original Pinpin restaurant, named after the great Filipino printer Tomas Pinpin, for close to half a century before it closed down in 1999. While Joe's family ran both Shining Star Chinese Restaurant and Hong Ning Restaurant in Philippines. 

Joe and Virginia then ventured to the US shores to open the second Hong Ning location in Glendale Height, Illinois before moving to Vancouver to open Pinpin.

With Joe supervising the kitchen to ensure quality fresh food is being served and Virginia operating the front of the restaurant to maintain friendly and prompt service, we were quickly seated upon arrival despite the bustling restaurant during the dinner rush.

Pinpin's menu is extensive featuring many Filipino regional dishes that are prepared to order instead of "turo-turo" or buffet-style. If you're new to the Filipino cuisine and unfamiliar with the Tagalog language, be comforted to know that each menu item has English descriptions and coloured photos of the more popular dishes.

We ordered the pancit miki bihon, pan-fried noodles, and the most impressive dish on the menu, inihaw fiesta, assorted grilled platter.

Pancit is a Tagalog term for noodles, introduced by the Chinese centuries ago. Filipinos have adapted and improvised the Chinese noodle recipes by integrating them to use locally-available ingredients.
The pancit miki bihon came almost immediately after we ordered, piping hot with aromatic steam rising to meet our salivating mouths. A twist on the typical Chinese chow mein, this pancit was a mixture of thick egg noodles and thin vermicelli rice noodles with a good mix of boiled cabbage, carrots, shrimp, chicken and fresh green onions. A squeeze of lemon brightened up the flavours and helped to enhance the sweet and savoury notes from the pancit sauce.
The inihaw fiesta definitely lives up to its name, a grilled platter party! It was more than enough for two people to share and it was beautifully presented with grilled calamari, beef short ribs, mussels, barbecue pork and chicken skewers and banana-leaf wrapped tilapia.  The calamari and mussels were fresh and had a nice smoky essence with perfect tenderness. 
The tilapia's flesh was flaky and delicate but bold in flavours, with the help from the banana leaf steaming in the barbecue flavours. 

My favourites were the beef short ribs and barbecue skewers. They were gently charred but still kept their sweet juiciness in each bite, flooding my mouth with summer time memories! The complementary spicy and vinegary side sauces brought more taste diversity for each grilled item, while the fresh tomatoes, red onions and bagoong, fermented salty shrimp paste, balanced out the smoky flavours. 
With deep family roots in the restaurant business, Joe and Virginia were destined to continue their ancestral tradition of satisfying palates with the familiar tastes from the Philippines. They have a winning formula with Pinpin offering generous portions, attentive service and delicious authentic Filipino cuisine!

Candice's Recommendations:
Pancit Miki Bihon (Egg & Rice Noodles with Vegetables) $9.95, Inihaw Fiesta (Assorted Grilled Platter) $41.95, and Leche Flan (Caramel Custard) $3.95.

Pinpin on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Haroo Korean Homestyle Cuisine: Richmond's Hidden Gem

Sofia, me & Richard at Haroo
Tucked in a corner, on the second floor of a restaurant complex in Richmond, is Haroo Korean Homestyle Cuisine. Not the easiest place to find, considering there are several other restaurants surrounding the complex and sharing the parking lots. However, I can assure you it's worth the hunt to secure parking and dine at Haroo.

As you enter, Haroo's warm and inviting atmosphere quickly transports you away from the bustling Richmond streets to grandma's cozy diningroom. The country-style decor is simple and homey with bright daylight streaming through the wooden blinds.

Owned and operated by Korean couple, Sofia and Richard, they are known for not using MSG in their dishes. Sofia the head chef, taught others how to cook Korean and Japanese cuisine two years ago, now satisfies palates with her gift in cooking. While husband, Richard, runs the front of the restaurant with attentive and friendly service. 
Corn tea, fried anchovies & congee
When we sat at our table, Richard immediately brought over a jug of cold water and pot of piping hot decaffeinated corn tea. The aromatic steam from the tea was sweet while the subtle corn flavour was nutty and addictive!

Shortly after we ordered, we were served complimentary traditional Korean appetizers of warm bowls of congee topped with fried anchovies and black sesame seeds. I found the crispy and salty anchovies were a nice contrast to the soft, rice porridge. 
Banchan (Korean side dishes)
Korean cuisine typically comes with a variety of side dishes (banchan) and feel they could be a meal in itself!  We were treated to five delicious mini plates including a green salad with raspberry vinaigrette, sweet potatoes, crunchy bean sprouts, marinated seaweed and kimchi. My favourites were the vinegary seaweed and spicy kimchi because they helped to enhance the main dishes' flavours without being too overpowering.
Bulgogi (marinated beef bbq slices)
The first main dish to arrive was the bulgogi, marinated beef slices served on a sizzling hot plate. The beef was tender and had the perfect balance of sweet and salty seasonings. I especially liked the bulgogi with white steamed rice and the abundance of grilled vegetables added great texture to the dish.
Tteokbokki (rice pasta in chili sauce)
One of my favourite dishes was the tteokbokki, thick rice pasta swimming in spicy chili sauce. The soft bite of each pasta noodle held so much chili sauce that I could have easily wolfed down the whole plate if it wasn't for retraining myself to save room for the other dishes.
Bibimbap (mixed rice)
The bibimbap, was a beautiful arrangement of rice, meat, vegetables and a raw egg, served in a hot stone bowl. The fun part was mixing all the ingredients together with chili paste then enjoying the medley of flavours. The piece de resistance was the irresistible crunchy, brown rice layer that developed from resting against the hot stone bowl.  
Pajeon (Korean fried pancake)
Another highlight was the pajeon, Korean-style fried pancake. The accompanying sweet vinegar sauce helped to brighten up the crispy pancake which was jam-packed with flavourful vegetables and tender bulgogi strips.

In a city known for its vast selection of Asian cuisine, it's easy to find a delicious meal. However, to feel like you're being welcomed into someone's cozy house to enjoy an authentic Korean, home-cooked meal, is rare. So I encourage you to visit Richmond's hidden gem, Haroo Korean Homestyle Cuisine.

My Recommendations:
Bulgogi (marinated beef) $17.95, Bibimbap (mixed rice) $9.95, Tteokbokki (rice noodles) $13.95 and Pajeon (Korean-style pancake) $17.95.

Haroo Korean Homestyle Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pinoy Breakfast - Tapsilog

Candice's Cusina's Tapsilog
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, so much so, that I begin thinking about what I'm going to eat the next morning before my head hits the pillow for bedtime! However, there was one breakfast meal I grew up loving and it's tapsilog

Tapsilog is one of my all-time favorite Filipino breakfast. It is short for tapa (fried, cured beef strips), sinangag (fried garlic rice), and itlog (fried egg). Eating this hearty, delicious meal first thing in the morning is sure to help jump start your day!

Like many Filipino dishes, there are many different variations of how to make tapsilog, especially the type of beef and how to egg is cooked (i.e. scrambled, fried or sunny side up).

Here's my version of tapsilog;)

1lb beef skirt steak, sliced into stir fry pieces
1/4 cup soya sauce
1/4 rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper for seasoning

3 cups of left over cooked rice + 1 tbsp vegetable oil + 2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 eggs, fried
2 tomatoes, sliced
Tasty Tip: If your beef isn't sliced put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up. Once the meat is slightly frozen, it'll make it much easier to slice up thin strips.
1. The night before, prepare your tapa marinade by mixing the soya sauce, vingar, sugar, minced garlic, salt & pepper in a resealable plastic bag. Add the beef strips and combine evenly so all the meat is coated evenly and let marinade overnight, 8-12 hours
2.  Once your beef strips have been marinated the next morning, warm up a non-stick pan to med-hight heat.  Add all the beef with the marinade and place a lid on the pan. Let the beef simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the marinade is almost dried but don’t forget to mix the beef occasionally to prevent burning.
3. Once the marinade is almost all evaporated, remove lid and continue cooking for another 10-12 minutes or until beef has tenderised and darkened in colour.
4. Remove from the tapa from the pan and place aside. On the same pan, heat-up 1 tbsp of oil. Fry 2 cloves of minced garlic to the warmed oil for 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant. Add the rice and mix thoroughly until it is blended well with the garlic and tapa juices.
5. Once the sinangag is cooked, serve it at once with tapa, fried itlog and sliced tomatoes. Masarup!!