24 October 2014

Sha-lin Noodle House | Restaurant Adventures

For the most part, Vancouver manages to satisfy every foodie niche from Japanese ramen to true Indian samosas to Mexican burritos. Recently, my family has discovered Sha-lin (aka Shaolin) Noodle House. This stand alone casual Chinese restaurant is seriously amazing, because they actually make their own noodles and dumplings! Located on Broadway Sha-lin Noodle House is quickly becoming one of my favourites and all I want to do is bring all my friends here.

First of all, their menu is ridiculous. I can't even count the amount of dishes that they have available it's that extensive. With about 5 different varieties of noodles produced in house, they offer soups, stirfrys, to other general noodles dishes. We had the tofu and vegetable dragging noodle soup and curried chicken dragging noodles. You guys... it was so gooooood! The broth was light but flavourful and the sliced tofu was absolutely perfect. The curried noodles were pretty darn satisfying as well, made with true Chinese curry.

The noodles are what make this place so unique. You can actually watch the chefs stretch out the noodles in the front but I didn't want to snap a pic, that would be a tad too strange. One slight little issue is that not all the noodles are cooked evenly, but it's rare and hardly noticeable. The other star of this restaurant are their homemade pan fried dumplings which are honestly more like buns. With the buns you get  the choice of veggie or meat filling, or half and half. As much as I love the concept and the fact that they're homemade, their a little too oily and heavy for my taste. But if you're going to visit please do try them, they're too cool to pass up!

Also, for a restaurant on the west side of Vancouver it's so well priced. A bowl of soup will run you about $9, pretty much all of their dishes are in that price range. Cherry on top if you ask me! This place is great if you want to bring a couple friends to catch up or just hang out; the dumpling/buns are made for sharing!

21 October 2014

What's in my fridge?

I don't actually store my garlic in the fridge because they can last for weeks at room temperature if you keep the bulbs whole. In any case, I always have garlic and ginger on hand.

These particular garlic bulbs I got in my CSA (community supported agriculture) order, so they're fresh, local - and frankly, huge! A single clove of this garlic is bigger than three regular cloves of garlic you can get at major supermarkets. The ginger I got from a little grocery store next door that sells local, organic produce. From curry and kimchi to gingerbread and garlic butter - I'm well stocked up for that and everything in between! 

13 October 2014

How to Ace Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

Going gluten-free is a pretty big trend at the moment, but whether the choice is for health concerns or other reasons, this short guide will help you amp up your gluten-free baking game. Lots of baking companies offer up pre made cup-for-cup flour replacements, but transforming them into baked goods of your own liking is the hard part. Of course it all depends on the type of baked good but usually the consistency to aim for is somewhere in-between crumbly and wet, with just the right amount of fluff.  In the photos, I tested a few ideas in some blueberry waffles with a Cloud Nine gluten-free cup-for-cup flour replacement. Served with some sliced banana, peanut butter, and vanilla yogurt they were the perfect lazy day breakfast.

Make sure you have lots of liquids:  I've found that the amount and types of liquids you add to your baking mix really affects it's consistency. As a rule of thumb, when working with coconut flour (and most gluten-free flours) you want to add a lot more liquids into the mixture too keep it from becoming too crumbly. Personally, I use a mixture of eggs, oil, water, yogurt, milk to create the right amount of hold without being too moist. Eggs should be included to keep the batter creamy; oil and water act as binding agents; yogurt is another great moisture booster that, if using the right flavour, can add a nice vanilla taste; and milk like when baking with regular flour fluffs it all up. You just add whichever liquid you need depending on the recipe!

Mixing is key: When it comes to physically churning and working the baking mixes, there are a couple things to keep in mind. One is that the less you mix, the less it's going to stick together.  Conversely, the more you mix the more the ingredients are going to get worked together and the thicker it will be. I find that if you really put some arm power into mixing, it turns into a very gooey, almost gum-like consistency. Don't be scared though, it doesn't translate to the final product! Instead it will give everything a bit more hold, and become less like a crumbly disaster that no one wants. 

Switch up your flours: Even when using gluten-free baking mixes, I like to add in other sorts of flours to alter the texture, taste, and consistency. Many different flours are already found in these mixes, but each flour has its own flavour and feel. Coconut flour, for example, is very dry and crumbly whereas chestnut flour is a little more solid while having a distinct flavour. So when I decided to make some gluten-free waffles (pictured below!) using a mix, I threw in my leftover chestnut flour which added a beautiful sweet nutty flavour and thickened the mixture. Switching up flours, or adding different ones in to flour replacements can yield some yummy surprises and aid in the overall taste and consistency. Also, it's always great to make something pre made your own!

Power to the powder!: For the waffles, I added lots of baking powder. I didn't really know how they would turn out but since it's a leavening agent, I knew no matter what it would fluff them up. Turns out with the 2 or so teaspoons baking powder I added was the perfect amount! Some baking mixes might have leavening agents already inside but it doesn't hurt to add a bit more. The final product will be a lot lighter and fluffier, as opposed to the dense baking powder-less alternatives.
Now go, be free, have fun, and make a pre-made mixture unique and your own! Let us know how it turns out in the comments, or share any more tips that you discovered!