Is Canadian dim sum any different?

When visiting my wife’s family, we always end up eating Chinese food. So it’s no surprise that even in Edmonton we find ourselves at a dim sum restaurant on a Sunday morning. Edmonton has a rather large community of Chinese immigrants, so Beijing Beijing is as packed as any good dim sum restaurant should be. Even with reservations, we still wait for 20 minutes before securing a table.

My mother-in-law’s favorite is this egg custard in a super buttery flakey pastry crust.

After that is savory sticky rice with ground pork and Chinese sausage wrapped up and steamed in a leaf.

This one was a little different. Usually these noodles have beef inside and are drenched with Worcestershire sauce. But this time, they have mushrooms instead, making them a little lighter in flavor. We ordered one each of shrimp, pork, beef, and mushroom.

Of course we had to get my wife’s favorite, chicken feet.

And the ever-present shumai pork and shrimp dumplings.

Daikon cake, filled with Chinese sausage

This one was new to us, squid in a curry sauce.

A steamed sweet bread

Pork short ribs

And of course no dim sum trip would be complete without my personal favorite char su bao – the BBQ port buns.

All-in-all a pretty good option for dim sum. I would return if I was in the area and in the mood.

Never ending wedding banquet

At this point I feel like I’m becoming an expert on Cantonese banquets as I keep ending up at them every time I travel to visit my wife’s family. This time I find myself at Emporer’s Palace in Edmonton’s Chinatown for a wedding (#auloveyoutu). Off a nondescript street we find ourselves in a new stereotypical  banquet hall, decorated a bit nicer than is typical. The walls have built-in glass cases featuring luxury Chinese ingredients like while shark fins, abalone, and birds’ nests.

So we start the meal off with the Cantonese equivalent of charcuterie, pork belly pressed and fried to a crispy skin, roast beef slices, a bologna-like mystery meat, all served over a bed of jellyfish.

The second course is shrimp and cuttlefish, served elegantly in a fried nest of ultra-fine noodles and steamed vegetables.

The overwhelming food extravaganza continues with deep fried crab claws.

Course number four jumps to soup: a chicken broth with crab and then some shark fin to make it gelatinous.

After a brief break for wedding speeches,  we gorge ourselves on course five, a mountain of sautéed lobster.

Course number six stays with seafood, abalone and sea cucumber over baby bok choy.

Course number seven (as if we weren’t stuffed enough) brings us to a perfectly steamed whole fish in the usual ginger light soy sauce and a pile of scallions.

Auspicious in Chinese numerology, course eight is a chicken dusted in Chinese five-spice and then fried to get a crispy skin.

It always bothers me that in Cantonese cuisine, poultry is chopped into bite sized pieces while still on the bone. It ensures every bite has one or more bones that have to be picked out of your mouth.

And finallly, it doesn’t count as a course, but you know you’re finally done stuffing your face when the typical filler of rice and noodles shows up to ensure there are no unfilled gaps in your stomach.

But of course that’s not really the last of it, there’s always a desert course of a sweet bean soup (this time red bean) and fresh fruit. Along side, sasame cookies and a gelatin infused with osmanthus flowers.

Noodles, eh?

A cold rainy night in Edmonton, Canada finds us looking around for something warm. Luckily, a highly recommended noodle shop in an up-and-coming neighborhood is blocks from our AirB&B.

Prairie Noodle is steaming with heavenly sesame smells as we walk through the door. Cutouts of prairie dogs, deer, snakes, and other animals in plywood give glimpses of the noodle bar and tons of craft routes plywood, a fun play on rustic craft modern.

Then menu is focused on ramen, but using locally sourced ingredients. There’s bao made with local wild proteins – rabbit, venison, whatever the hunter found. The hunter came back empty handed tonight so we started with edamame – smoked and steamed, then dressed with salt and Izumi bringing a nice freshness.

They have multiple ramens: a smoked pork miso broth, a chicken broth, a veggie broth with smoked Gouda, and a spicy garlic version of the smoked pork. Naturally I went straight for smokey, porky, garlicky goodness.

The smell is overwhelmingly rich and smokey. There’s a deep smoked rasher of bacon (pork belly to these Canucks) and pulled smoked pork over thin ramen noodles. A generous amount of scallions, local corn, bean sprouts and a pickled tea egg top the spicy fatty broth. Mix in the smear of miso from the side of the bowl, and this is an intense richness of umami. The salty spicey broth, with the smokey pork, pungent scallions and garlic, and the sweetness from the sweet corn makes a killer combination in the mouth.

The chicken broth is rich and creamy, and comes topped with not just chicken, but a poached egg – a nice twist on the usual tea egg.

Now the twist, desert. For only $5 CAD you get a bit of chocolate cake a la mode. The ice creams are exotic house-made flavors like rose petal, or booze options like whiskey!

The raspberry sorbet is a bit icey (pieces flying off the plate) but the flavor is intense with fresh ripe berries, and a sweetness that seems more boysenberry than raspberry. But the whiskey…. that steals the show. Not too much, so it’s not icey or overwhelming, but a hint of smokey peaty buttery flavor adds a nice almost savory richness to compliment the dryish cake. Apparently they pour in their good stuff: Suntory Harmony.

This place knows their noodles and could easily hold their own in a competitive ramen market like LA.

Truck stop in India

A quick bio break at 4am on the road to Agra nets us a coffee and a chai masala tea. The coffee, with cream and sugar, is the sweetest and richest coffee I have ever drank. The chai masala is made without water, just milk and tea. Apparently the secret to local chai is ground ginger and grind black pepper mixed in with the tea that is steeped in milk. It’s served in a small clay cup, which is a one-time use disposable according to our guide. Though I’m not clear why chai masala would be served indisposable  clay, but coffee in styrofoam.

Kebabs on the beaten (but not by tourists) path

Sarvi Restaurant been in Mumbai for 90 years and supposedly has the best kebabs in the city, a claim worth a visit. A crazy taxi ride across town takes us to an insanely busy single lane street off Nagpada Junction. Our only reference point is the local police headquarters which is simply a gateway into a dusty overgrown yard with barracks and ancient British buildings.

Sarvi restaurant looks burned out, and has no signage, so we’re not sure we have the right place until we get confirmation from the manager working the cashier desk. He tells us to take any seat, so we grab the corner for people watching. Four cats wander the dining room, and traffic tears by with horns blasting. Signs on the wall warn us in two languages to pay the cashier, not our waiter. It is utterly disconcerting and alien.

The waiter speaks almost no English, but brings us a menu with items and prices clearly listed. He latched on when I say I heard they have good kebabs, and points out the Seekh Kebab and Chicken Seekh Kebab, and warns they take twenty minutes to prepare. Feeling. no rush, we order one of each, plus the butter roti (flatbread). The wait gives us time to people and traffic watch.

When the food comes out, we’re surprised. Given the prices I expected undersized portions that we’d have to order more. But instead we get a perfect portion of each of the kebabs, and two huge flatbreads that fill the table.

The kebabs are like Persian koobideh, meat that’s been minced and mixed with spices before being grilled on a stick. The Seekh Kebab turns out to be lamb, perfectly tender with a slightly crunchy exterior. The spices complement the meat, and its not dry at all like I was expecting. Rumor has it they mix papaya into the meat, but I’m sure it’s a secret family recipe.

The chicken kebab turns out to be even better. It doesn’t have as crispy of an exterior, but assuming it’s the same herb and spice mixture, the flavors are much more enhanced and contrast the chicken nicely. There’s just a little bit of heat, and the herbal flavors with moist chicken are simply amazing.

On the side was a minty spicey sauce, some fresh mint, red onion an and tiny little lemons. A dash of each on the flatbread with the kebabs makes for an amazing dish I’m anxious to replicate at home.

Now, the best part, the bill. 226 rupees. Even when you throw a generous 30 rupee tip on that, we’re still only out of pocket less than $4 US. This was well worth leaving the tourist path to find.