{Recipe} Delicious duck soup with shiitake mushrooms, tofu, bok choy and lily flowers

The duck stock (recipe here) provides a delicious soup base, however, the shiitake mushrooms and lily flowers amplifies the taste with its earthiness and colour. The dried lily flowers, which are unopened flowers of the lily plant, are easy to find at Chinese grocery stores and only needs a few steps to hydrate and bring out the flavours.

Aside from doing some preparation work with the ingredients, the soup is quick to make and will be an impressive start to your meal.

If you do not have duck stock, chicken stock will do. Adding in chicken pieces or noodles, is a great addition to the versatile and ultra tasty soup!

Ingredients:

2 litres of duck stock (recipe here)
A handful of dried lily flowers
A handful of dried shiitake mushrooms (about 8 mushrooms)
3 large Shanghai bok choy- cut the stems and remove each layer
1/4 cup of green onions- small dice
About 350 g of tofu (2 square pieces)- cubed
Season with 1/2 tsp of fish sauce or a pinch of salt
Small piece of ginger- peel and cut 2 pieces 1 inch thick

Preparation Work:

1. Hydrate and blanch the dried lily flowers: A few hours before serving the soup, hydrate the lily flowers in a bowl and cover enough water to submerge. After a few hours, cut off both woody ends. In a small pot, add 2 cups of water and the ginger, and bring to a boil. Add the lily flowers and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove the lily flowers and set aside. An optional step is to tie a few lily flowers together (refer to the picture) which looks great for the presentation.

2. Prepare the shiitake mushrooms: Soak the mushrooms a few hours before serving the soup in a bowl of water. If you have time, soak the mushrooms overnight. Once hydrated, remove from the bowl, cut off the stems and thinly slice the mushrooms. Set aside.

3. Prepare the bok choy and green onions as stated.

Cooking Steps:

1. In a pot, add the mushrooms to the soup and set to boil. Turn down the heat to low-medium and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Before serving, add the bok choy, tofu and lily flowers and cook for another 3 minutes. Taste and add the seasoning.

3. Ladle into bowls and add in green onions. Serve immediately.

 

Duck Soup

Duck Soup

{Recipe} How to make a clear duck stock

The stock is super flavourful and is as versatile as chicken stock. Since duck is very fatty, removing the skin is a big step in minimizing the oil and getting a clear broth. Whenever you have a duck carcass, save it for stock.

The stock is also a tasty base for won ton soups or a shittake mushroom soup.

This makes a large pot and freezes well.

Ingredients:
2 duck carcasses
4 duck wings
4 duck necks
3 carrots-peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 celery- cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic -peeled and left whole
1 onion- peeled and cut into quarters
1 leek (white parts)-Cut 1 inch pieces
Water for the large pot- about 5 quarts (4.7 litres)

Spice ball:
Add 4 bay leaves
1 tsp of black peppercorns

Prep work:

1. I bought the ducks whole and cut the wings, legs, head and breast. I threw out the head, and kept the legs and breast for other uses. Set the wings aside.
2. With the remaining carcass, remove all the skin. Feel free to keep the skin to render down, which is perfect for duck confit or potatoes.
3. Wash and cut the vegetables as stated.

Cooking steps:

1. Fill the stock pot with water. Add in all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Feel free to adjust the water amount. I like to add enough just water to submerge the ingredients.

2. Once the water has a rolling boiled, reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 4 hours. Skim the top for impurities and oil.

3. Taste the soup and reduce further for more flavour.

Mango noodle salad with a bagoong lime dressing

After my trip to the Philippines in late 2014, my friends and I had a potluck reunion to look at photos and videos from our trip. Each of the attendees were asked to bring a Filipino dish.

I haven’t mastered any Filipino dishes since my return but I wanted to make a salad that represented me, yet utilized a few Filipino ingredients including mangos from the Philippines and bagoong, a fermented fish/shrimp paste. These two ingredients reminded me of my tropical vacation.

The salad was a hit at the party! All the ingredients mended nicely together, the flavours were bright and the dressing was not overpowering. The recipe calls for a lot of dressing to keep the vegetables pickled. Feel free to not use all the dressing based on the consistency you like.

* You can substitute the bean thread noodles in the recipe for vermicelli noodles.

Recipe:

Half a pack of bean thread noodles (150 g)
1 carrot- peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 of a red onion- thinly sliced
1 cucumber-cut on the bias
1 unripe mango/green mango – 1 inch slices
Handful of toasted peanuts or almonds (I used pre-toasted almonds)
Handful of coriander-Ripped into pieces including the stems

Dressing:
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of white vinegar
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
1/3 cup of fish sauce
1/4 cup of water
Juice of 2 limes plus the zest
1 tablespoon of bagoong

Preparation work:

1. Cut the vegetables and mango according to instructions above

2. Make the dressing. Add sugar, followed by a few drops of hot water to dissolve the sugar. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well and adjust the dressing to your liking.

3. Cook the noodles by pouring bowling water on top of the noodles in a heat-resistant bowl or pot. Cover for 15-20 minutes. Drain the noodles when they turned transparent and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Beanthread noodle

Beanthread noodle

4. If the nuts are not toasted, toast the nuts on the stove top with some oil. I bought pre-toasted almonds so I skipped this step.

Assembling steps:

1. In the bowl, add the dressing, noodles and vegetables.

2. Top with mangos, coriander and toasted nuts.

3. Mix the salad before serving.

Mango noodle salad

Mango noodle salad

I am confident that you will love this!

{Experience} Private sushi lesson from Chef Shin Aoyama‏

Sushi Lesson Date: January 2015
Location: Windup Bird Cafe , 382 College Street Toronto, ON

I was originally asked in late 2014 to be a participating chef at the Toronto Sushi Festival. The organizers of the festival said that they would provide the ingredients, marketing and equipment, and all I had to do was come up with the rolls. I figured that if I could master 2 rolls really well, I would be able to pull this off! I was pumped at the time and partnered with my cousin who lives in Montreal, as he works in the restaurant industry including a Japanese restaurant. We were excited that our rolls would be judged by top Toronto chefs and that we would be participating with real chefs working in the industry.

I tentatively agreed and worked on a plan. If I was going to participate, I had to make sure that I could do it!

By the time end of January 2015 rolled around, I backed out of participating. I felt overwhelmed and the logistics of participating did not make sense to me. I do not regret my decision, especially hearing feedback from attendees on how badly organized it was. The last thing I need is stress in my life!

One thing I learned about making sushi, is that mastering it is hard! There is a reason why sushi chefs take decades or even their entire lives to master their craft. During my journey to prepare for the festival, I bought expensive knives from Nella Cucina, got a private lesson from a top sushi chef and practiced at home, and still couldn’t get to a level where I would be comfortable serving my rolls to the public. 

In January 2015, I reached out to Chef Sang Kim who graciously connected me with Chef Shin Aoyama to have a private sushi lesson at Chef Kim’s restaurant kitchen Wind Up Bird Cafe. Chef Shin had worked at top sushi restaurants in Vancouver and is currently working at  Ki Japanese Restaurant and works with Chef Kim periodically at his Sushi Making for the Soul series.

Filets

Filets

The lesson was incredible as I got Chef Shin’s undivided attention. During dinner service at the restaurant, Chef Shin and I were given a designated area in the kitchen for the lesson. The soft spoken Chef was well organized and discussed what I would be learning in the 2 plus hours. He made sure that I got lots of hands on experience, which was the best way to learn.

Chef Shin in action

Chef Shin in action

That evening, we went over:

1. How to make rice properly
2. How to clean, debone and filet a fish
3. How to cut fish including snapper, sea bream, B.C albacore tuna and salmon for nigiri and sashimi
4. How to make uramaki and hosomaki rolls (rice on the inside of the seaweed and outside the seaweed)

I already knew about #1, 2 & 4, but I needed practice. I learned new and efficient ways to cut my cucumber and avocado to get even slices for my rolls.

Fish slices

Fish slices

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When cutting maki rolls, I learned that it is crucial that the knife is always clean at each slice, and to use one motion when cutting. This will ensure the rolls look clean for the final presentation. The hardest part of the lesson was making the nigiri. Chef Shin was able to do it with finesse and smooth motions, while I was clumpsy and mechanical. I still need to perfect the motion and the presentation of my nigiri sushi.

Presentation skills

Presentation skills

Chef Kim, Chef Shin and I

Chef Kim, Chef Shin and I

In hindsight, I could have saved a lot of money if knew I wouldn’t be participating in the first place, but what I got out it was a lifetime experience to learn from the best. My friend told me that I “dodged a bullet” for not participating and attending the Toronto Sushi Festival, which I agree.

Another thing I learned was that going to out for sushi is worth it, leave it to the masters!

Thank you for Chef Kim and Chef Shin for the opportunity!

{Review} Let’s Be Frank, Toronto’s Hot Dog Bar

Website: http://lets-be-frank.ca/
Twitter/Instagram Handle: @letsbefrankto
Address: 460 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON
When I visited: March 2015, Media dinner

Does Toronto need another hot dog shop? Yes it does!  Let’s Be Frank not only serves gourmet hot dogs with fancy toppings, it serves tons of sides, sweets and has a fully stacked bar. A cold beer and a juicy dog go hand-in-hand!

Let`s Be Frank

Let`s Be Frank

Owners Christa Muio, Julie Ford and Simon Colyer opened Let’s Be Frank fall of 2014 with a great location close to U of T, Chinatown and Kensington market catering to various crowds. Customers who have late night hot dog cravings can be satisfied as the restaurant is opened until 3:00 am.

Let`s Be Frank owners giving us an intro

Let`s Be Frank owners giving us an intro

Having met the owners at the tasting, they came across as humble and genuine. Their journey started out in 2009 when their vision was to open a hot dog bar in Kensington market. They started with food festivals, a food truck, and a pop up shop on King St, before the Spadina location opened. During their food testing phase, choosing the wiener was the hardest decision they had to make. After several private taste tests, they went with Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, as it tasted best “naked” and because of their reputable brand.

At the dinner, bloggers and I had a chance to try out various cocktails and beers from the bar, a perfect accompaniment to the meal. I wasn’t drinking that evening, but enjoyed my virgin Rock and Roll Caesar that used Walter Caeser with a special blend of spices including the chipotle chili powder and Dine Alone Food’s hot sauce.

Rock and Rock caesar

Rock and Rock caesar

We sampled slider sized (3.5 inch) hot dogs including the Pulled Pork Po’ Boy with a tangy house made coleslaw. I enjoyed the meat-on-meat combination!

Pulled Pork Po`Boy

Pulled Pork Po`Boy

The Katsu Dog had a a thin and crispy layer of deep fried panko with katsu sauce, wasabi mayo and green onion. Next time, I will ask for more wasabi mayo as there was a thin layer on the bread.

Katsu Dog

Katsu Dog

Next, we tried the Corn Dog. Unlike the yellow batter that you typically see at the local fair, I enjoyed the more dense corn batter surrounding the dog. There is a veggie option available as well.

Corn Dog

Corn Dog

The Hot Dog Wings was a cool take on the traditional wing flavours with hot sauce.

Hot Dog Wings

Hot Dog Wings

On the side, we sampled the mac and cheese with a sharp chedder cheese topped with bacon bits and Southern blues BBQ sauce. I would have liked the sauce creamier and a side of BBQ sauce to add to the bowl. I could see this as a hit with the kids!

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

The Hot Dog Gravy Poutine was topped with cheese curds and their signature hot dog gravy. Surprisingly, the sauce was not too salty. I enjoyed this.

Poutine

Poutine

We couldn’t leave without a dessert. The Ivana Banana hot dog will bring out the kid in you, with a deep-fried banana served with peanut butter, Nutella and jelly.

Ivana banana

Ivana banana

We had an opportunity to try anything off the menu, but I was stuffed after the tasting. One thing I appreciated about their menu is that they offer various price points depending on the size of the hot dog, which means I can get a slider sized corn dog for $2.49 and then still have enough room to try something else on the menu. Here are examples of full size portions and toppings you can expect during your visit:

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Overall:

When you got cravings for a cold drink and hot dogs, Let’s Be Frank will satisfy!
Let's Be Frank on Urbanspoon

* The meal was complimentary but the opinions in the post are entirely my own.

{Review} Dr. Laffa Restaurant in North York

Website: http://www.drlaffa.com/
Twitter Handle: @DrLaffa
Address: 3027 Bathurst St., Toronto, ON
When I visited: March 2015, Media event

The Magnetic Dr. location is closed after the owners had split. Yoram Gabay, one of the original partners opened Dr. Laffa on the go, a small restaurant at Bathurst St. and Lawrence Ave., in the heart of other Jewish establishments. Having been to the  Magnetic Dr. location, the menu is similar offering tasty sharing plates, sandwich options, as well as large platters of grilled meats, shawarma and rice.

The restaurant has half a dozen tables and a service counter with a colourful array of salads and sides, which makes the joint an ideal spot for a quick meal or take out. At the media tasting, my fellow bloggers and I had an opportunity to taste a large assortment of dishes. When I thought we were finished, the owner generously gave us more dishes to try.

Dr. Laffa

Dr. Laffa

Dr. Laffa

Dr. Laffa

This may look like a fast-food restaurant, but the food is far from tasting like it. The food was authentic with spices shipped from Israel every two weeks, the meat was tender, and flavours popped with every bite. This place is legit!

Line ups of Jewish families come here to enjoy the taste of Israel, as well as dishes from Morocco and the Middle East. The restaurant was also featured on Food Network Canada’s hit show “You Got to Eat Here!”

Here were the highlights of my visit: 

With a name called Dr. Laffa, this is a must order during your visit. What is a laffa? It is a bread similar to a pita but thinner and crispier, made in a hot oven and done in approximately 56 seconds. Use it scoop up some of the tasty hummus including the Dr. Laffa hummus plate made of ground meat and pine nuts ($12.99), or the hummus with falafel plate. The falafel was ultra crispy on the outside.

Laffa bread

Laffa bread

Dr. Laffa Hummus

Dr. Laffa Hummus

Hummus with falafel

Hummus with falafel

One of the best sellers is the laffa shawarma ($10.99) which was extremely filling and had a great balance of vegetables and sauce.

Dr. Laffa shawarma

Dr. Laffa shawarma

Having had shakshuka at a few restaurants, this is my favourite one to-date. The sauce was hot and savoury and an amazing deal for $8.99.

Shakshuka

Shakshuka

The whole grilled eggplant with tahini was tasty on its own or eaten with the laffa bread ($6.99).

Roasted eggplant with tahini

Roasted eggplant with tahin

We tried most of the menu from house-made soups, appetizers, fresh-cut fries, tasty salads, drinks and dessert. Needless to say, I was stuffed and satisfied!

DrLaffa media event March 9 15

Owner

Yoram Gabay and the Dr. Laffa team

Overall: 

You can’t go wrong with anything you order at Dr. Laffa; there is tons of variety and each dish is carefully seasoned. The prices are reasonable and you will leave stuffed! If you need help, Yorum and the team are welcoming and happy to answer any questions about the menu.

Please remember to check the website for up-to-date the restaurant hours. They are opened Sunday to Thursday 11:00 am to 10:00pm, Friday from 11:00am to 3:30pm, closed on Saturday’s, public holidays and Jewish holidays.

Thank you to Vicky @momwhoruns and Dr. Laffa for the invitation.

* The meal was complimentary but the opinions in the post are entirely my own.

Dr. Laffa Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

* The meal was complimentary but the opinions in the post are entirely my own.