Spotted - [No Name], Ottawa

This man is the most active man I know. If he is not running a race, he is biking, kayaking, or golfing. He even convinced me to run a half marathon with him last year. Note that it was my first, and LAST half marathon. People are crazy to wear out their bodies like that.

This month's Spotted location will remain unnamed. I had such a bad experience here that I have chosen not to endorse the restaurant in any way. All I will say is that this month's Spotted interview is in my home town, Ottawa.

Spotted, Ottawa

Where are you from: Havana, Cuba

Your signature dish: Picadillo

Weirdest thing ever eaten: Chicken feet, iguana, and tripe

Favorite ice cream flavour: Coconut

Your last meal would be: A spitfire roasted piglet with an apple in its mouth.

Did you enjoy this post? Check out these other Spotted interviews:

Duane Keats Spotted at Luxe Bistro, Ottawa, Canada
Spotted at La Bottega, Ottawa, Canada
Spotted at Little Mercato Italy, San Diego, USA

Healthy Banana Bread

Banana Bread

This is a super healthy banana bread recipe that my mom-in-law shared with me. As mentioned, she is the Queen of making healthy desserts that taste amazing. This is no exception. Every time I make this, my banana bread doesn't even last a day. It smells awesome when it first comes out of the oven, and tastes great when served warm. I love peeling off and eating the crunchy top of the loaf when it is still hot.

This recipe yields 1 loaf.

Healthy Banana Bread
- 1 cup of mashed ripe bananas
- 1 cup of sifted all purpose flour
- 1 cup of 9 grain flour (or whole wheat flour)
- 1/3 cup of milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C

2. Sift the all purpose flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Add in the whole grain flour and sugar.

3. Add in the oil, bananas, and eggs. Mix well.

4. Combine the milk and lemon juice, and stir until a uniform batter is formed. Stir in the walnuts.

5. Grease a loaf pan (9x5x3 inches). Pour the batter into the loaf pan.

6. Bake for 60 - 70 minutes. Note that the top of your loaf will brown before it is fully cooked. Remove banana bread from pan, let it cool on a cooling rack, and serve.

A Taste For Life 2009

If you haven't already done so, book a dinner on April 29th to help out your local HIV/AIDS charity through A Taste For Life.

The concept is very simple. Go out to dinner on April 29th at a participating restaurant, and 25% of your bill will be donated to the local charity recipient. To find out if your city is participating, please visit this link.

In Ottawa, here are the restaurants that are participating:

Westboro Area
Absinthe - 1208 Wellington Street, 613-761-1138
Allium Restaurant - 87 Holland Avenue, 613-792-1313
Canvas Resto-Bar - 65 Holland Avenue, 613-729-1991
Juniper - 1293 Wellington Street West, 613-728-0220
Newport Restaurant - 334 Richmond Road, 613-722-9322
Petit Bill’s Bistro - 1293 Wellington Street, 613-729-2500
Siam Bistro - 1268 Wellington Street West, 613-728-3111
The Foolish Chicken - 79 Holland Avenue, 613-321-4715
The Urban Element - 424 Parkdale Avenue, 613-722-0885
The Wellington Gastropub - 1325 Wellington Street, 613-729-1315
Thyme and Again - 1255 Wellington Street West, 613-722-0093

b/Side Wine Bar and Small Plates - 323 Somerset Street West, 613-567-8100
Benitz Bistro - 327 Somerset Street West, 613-567-8100
Black Thorn Cafe - 12 Clarence Street, 613-241-0712
Cafe Paradiso - 199 Bank Street, 613-565-0657
Chianti Ristorante Italiano - 160 Metcalfe Street, 613-321-4623
East India Company -210 Somerset Street West, 613-567-4634
Elgin Street Freehouse - 296 Elgin Street, 613-233-5525
Il Piccolino Ristorante - 449 Preston Street, 613-236-8158
Il Primo Ristorante - 371 Preston Street, 613-234-6858
Jak's Kitchen - 479 Bronson Avenue, 613-230-2088
Kasbah Village - 261 Laurier Avenue West, 613-232-3737
Kinki Restaurant - 41 York Street, 613-789-7559
La Roma Restaurant - 430 Preston Street, 613-234-8244
Mambo Restaurante Nuevo Latino - 77 Clarence Street, 613-562-2500
Murray Street Kitchen - 110 Murray Street, 613-562-7244
OZ Kafe - 361 Elgin Street, 613-234-0907
Pelican Grill - 1500 Bank Street, 613-526-0995
Savana Café - 431 Gilmour Street, 613-233-9159
Social - 537 Sussex Drive, 613-789-7355
Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro - 108 Murray Street, 613-562-3683
The Buzz Restaurant - 374 Bank Street, 613-565-9595
The Clock Tower Brew Pub - 575 Bank Street, 613-233-7849
The Urban Pear - 151 Second Avenue, 613-569-9305
The Whalesbone Restaurant - 430 Bank Street, 613-231-8569
Trattoria Caffee Italia - 254 Preston Street, 613-236-1081

East End & Chelsea
Epicuria - 419 McKay Street, 613-745-7356
Le Saint O Restaurant - 327 St. Laurent Boulevard, 613-749-9703
Les Fougeres Restaurant - 785 Route 105, 819-827-8942
The Clock Tower Brew Pub - 422 MacKay Street, 613-744-4788
Todric’s Catering - 10 McArthur Avenue, 613-321-0252

West End
Lapointe's Seafood Grill - 194 Robertson Road, 613-596-9655
Lapointe's Seafood Grill - 60 Colchester Square, 613-599-1424
Napoli's Cafe and Grill - 1300 Main Street, 613-836-7722
The Glen - 452 Hazeldean Road, 613-836-5622
Zola's Restaurant - 194 Robertson Road, 613-721-0227

If you can't make it out on the 29th, you can still contribute and help people living with HIV/AIDS since your support is needed all year round.

All Ottawa proceeds go to Bruce House and the Snowy Owl AIDS Foundation. You can make a donation here (search words "Bruce House").

I've made my reservations for Wednesday...looking forward to a good meal to help out a good cause.

What to do with Indian Bitter Melon?

Indian Bitter Melon

My mom heard that bitter melon helps lower one's blood sugar level, and because she tries to control her blood sugar levels naturally, she has been juicing bitter melon every morning...yuck! Actually, she goes one step further than that, she throws the entire melon in the blender, and drinks the puree...double yuck!

This is a vegetable that tastes just like the name implies, bitter! It is a crunchy vegetable, and admittedly, there happens to be some great Chinese stir fry dishes that incorporate bitter melon.

On our recent trip to Tdot, we picked up an unusual looking variant of the bitter melon, the Indian bitter melon.

This is the Chinese phenotype bitter melon that I am used to (photo from wikipedia):

And this is the Indian bitter melon that we bought. It resembles a spiky reptile in vegetable form.

Indian Bitter Melons

While my mom has been madly blending these babies, I am trying to figure out what to do with them so that I can taste one. If you have any ideas, please let me know!

Chiu Chow Boy, Toronto

Chiu Chow Boy, Toronto

One of Wals' favorite Chinese restaurants in Toronto is Chiu Chow Boy. He always talks about how good the food is there, so Beebs and I took my grandmother there last week when I was in Tdot.

We ordered a few Chiu Chow style lunch dishes to share.

The first was the loh bak goh, or the pan fried radish cake. It was stir fried with chillies, bean sprouts and scallions, which was different from the normal dim sum style I'm used to. It was a great variation, and the chillies added an amazing taste. I will start cooking my loh bak goh this way from now on.

Pan Fried Radish Cake
Pan Fried Radish Cake

My mom recommended the next dish, which is why I ordered it. However, the dish wasn't exactly how I imagined it. When you literally translate the name of the dish from Chinese to English, the name is 'fish skin dumplings'. Instead of dumplings with a fish skin filling, we got pork dumplings with fried fish skin thrown on top of the soup.

Pork Dumplings in Fish Skin Soup
Fish Skin Soup with Pork Dumplings

Also served in the soup was seaweed, and cabbage.

Pork Dumpling in Fish Skin Soup
Pork Dumpling

Next were thin rice noodles stir fried with veggies and soy sauce. It was simple but good.

Stir Fried Rice Noodles
Thin Rice Noodles with Veggies

The last dish also came as a surprise to us. We ordered the congee with preserved duck egg, and white fish. I've always had congee that resembled a thick porridge, but this congee was just like a bowl of soup with rice thrown into it. This is, I learned, how Chiu Chow style congee normally is.

Congee with Preserved Duck Egg and White Fish
Chiu Chow Style Congee with Preserved Duck Egg and White Fish

When I told Wals about my visit to Chiu Chow Boy, he informed me that I should have ordered the Chiu Chow marinated duck, satay beef, and congee with oysters.

Chiu Chow Boy
3261 Kennedy Road
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 416-335-0336

Chiu Chow Boy on Urbanspoon

Sunday Brunch at The Buzz Restaurant, Ottawa

Huevos Rancheros

I recently had a great Sunday brunch at The Buzz Restaurant with Beebs. The food was surprisingly amazing, and I can honestly say that this place has one of the best brunches in town.

The Buzz, Ottawa

This is a funky little bistro with a regular local crowd. The brick walls are covered with artwork by artists from the Basement Artists, an artist run group that brings local emerging and established artists together through regular events.

I ordered a cappuccino and the Huevos Rancheros.

The huevos reminded me of my short stint in San Diego and brought back good memories. It was a flour tortilla stuffed with cheddar cheese and potatoes. They are normally topped with two fried eggs, but I asked for my eggs to be poached instead. The tortilla was also topped with sour cream and spicy salsa, and on the side were two juicy breakfast sausages and fresh fruit.

Huevos Rancheros
Huevos Rancheros
Their cappuccino tasted excellent, and I loved the huge chunks of potatoes in my huevos. The salsa is quite spicy, so beware.

Beebs ordered the Eggs Florentine: two poached eggs and sautéed spinach on a toasted English muffin topped with hollandaise sauce. Roesti potatoes and fruit were served on the side. Beebs loved her dish, and thought the potatoes were seasoned very nicely.

Eggs Florentine
Eggs Florentine

The Buzz Restaurant
374 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 613-565-9595
Sunday Brunch Menu

The Buzz Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Good Taste Shanghai Cuisine, Toronto

Good Taste Shanghai Cuisine

My mom, Beebs, and I recently took a quick one day trip to Toronto for a family reunion. We have a pretty big family, so it was great (and rare) to see everyone all under one roof. We ate so much Chinese food on our trip that I don't want to see or eat Chinese food for a while. Our first stop was at Good Taste Shanghai Cuisine.

This is a fairly new Shanghai restaurant that opened less than a year ago. They offer many dim sum dishes, and over 150 dishes overall. They have a large flat screen TV in the middle of the restaurant, and a soccer game was playing when we walked in.

The first dish we offered was a soup filled crab and pork xiao long bao. The crab meat was a nice change, and the soup in the dumpling was incredibly flavorful.

Crab and Pork Xiao Long Bao
Crab and Pork Xiao Long Bao

Crab and Pork Xiao Long Bao
Crab and Pork Xiao Long Bao

Strongly recommended by the owner was the house special bean curd skin. This was good but not the amazing dish that he advertised.

Bean Curd Sking
House Special Bean Curd

Look at the different layers of the bean curd skin.

Bean Curd Skin
Many Layers of the Bean Curd

Next was the pan fried pork buns. The dough was fresh, and these buns also had soup in them.

Pan Fried Pork Bun
Pan Fried Pork Buns

One of my favorites is the Shanghai chow mein. This is best when it is mixed with tons of hot sauce. Their noodles had a strong red vinegar taste.

Shanghai Chow Mein
Shanghai Chow Mein

Last dish of the meal was the pan fried chive dumplings. I find chives are an acquired taste. People either love it or hate it.

Pan Fried Chive Dumplings
Pan Fried Chive Dumplings

Pan Fried Chive Dumpling
Filling of Pan Fried Chive Dumplings

Overall, I recommend this place. The ingredients are fresh, their staff is friendly, and the place is nice and clean.

Good Taste Shanghai Cuisine
505 Hwy 7 E., Bldg C. Unit 98-99
Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 905-370-6868

Awesome Persian Lunch at the In-Laws

Persian Lunch

I had an awesome Persian lunch at my in-laws that I've been dying to share with you. They recently had friends visiting from Vancouver, and prepared a lovely lunch for their guests.

I either will be learning or have learned the dishes that were served, and will post up the recipes as soon as I get a chance. In the meantime, here are some photos of what we had:

A Persian meal is never complete without rice. My mom-in-law decided to make baghali polow. This is a fragrant basmati rice dish with dill weed and fava beans. It was topped with saffron rice for garnish.

Baghali Polow

Served along side the rice was crunchy potato tah-deeg infused with dill. Potato tah-deeg is made by placing raw potatoes slices at the bottom of the rice pot, and then cooking the rice with the potatoes. This produces chip like potato crisps at the bottom of the pot. Persians actually have special rice cookers that makes tah-deeg.

Potato Tah-deeg

The main dish was tender trout fillet stuffed with a prune and raisin filling (trout recipe here). I know it might sound gross to some people, but you really can't knock it until you've tried it. I am not one for fruits in my food (unless it is dessert), and I love this dish. The fish was cooked perfectly. On the side was baked asparagus and mast-o-khiar (Persian Cucumber Yogurt Dip).

Fish stuffed with Prunes and Raisins

Next came a very healthy dessert. My mother-in-law has really perfected the art of making good desserts that are insanely healthy.

She made a carrot and almond cake. This tasted great, and was practically fat-free.

Carrot and Almond Cake

As always, she served tons of fruit with her cake.

Fruit Salad

Fruit Bowl

I was incredibly stuffed by the end of the meal. I had multiple servings of everything and caught myself going back for thirds, and fourths (ack!). My stomach hated and loved me at the same time.

Ginger Scallion Beef Tripe

Stir Fried Beef Tripe

Ginger scallion beef tripe is one of my favorite dim sum dishes. It usually comes in a small dish, and I find it is never enough. I love making tripe at home because I can make and eat as much as I want. I buy beef tripe from a Chinese butcher, and it is important to find tripe that is cleaned well by the butcher. I usually judge it by its color: the whiter the better. In Ottawa, I get my beef tripe from 168 Market.

Beef tripe is the stomach lining of a cow, and is a general term in the sense that it can be from any one of the three stomach compartments. In dim sum, the omasum is used, which is the third compartment of the stomach.

The Chinese believe that good food does not need to be masked with strong sauces. Hence, the sauce for this dish is very mild in flavor, and is enhanced ever so slightly using ginger, garlic, and scallions.

This is one of those dishes where the texture is just as important as the taste. Good tripe should be tender, yet crunchy at the same time. The biggest challenge for most people is getting past the thin, bumpy textured sheets that dangle from the base of the tripe.

Beef Tripe

This recipe makes 4 servings.
Ginger Scallion Beef Tripe
- 1/2 kg beef tripe
- 1 piece of ginger (approx 2 inches x 1 inch in size)
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/2 - 1 tsp salt (depends on taste)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 scallions

Method1. Bring a pot of water to a boil (use enough water to fully immerse the beef tripe). Quickly rinse the beef tripe under cold water, and boil the entire piece of beef tripe in the pot of boiling water for 20 minutes.

2. Drain the water, and run the beef tripe under cold water for a few seconds. Cut the beef tripe in 1/2 inch slices, and set aside in a bowl.

3. Allow the tripe to completely cool and dry. I usually like to cook this over 2 days. I boil the tripe in the evening, and then once it is cooled, I cover it with plastic wrap and throw it in the fridge until I'm ready to cook it the next day. It is best to stir fry the tripe when it is dry.

4. When ready to stir fry the beef tripe, cut the scallions and ginger into matchstick size pieces. Heat oil and garlic in a pan on maximum heat. Be sure not to burn the garlic. Throw in the beef tripe, ginger, salt, sugar and stir fry for about 3-5 minutes. The beef tripe will release water which will form the sauce.

5. Add in the scallions, and stir fry for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a dish and serve.

Ginger Beef Tripe

Remember that the texture of the beef tripe should be tender but crunchy at the same time. If you find the sauce too mild, you can always boil the beef tripe in beef or chicken stock.

Leftover Tripe

Beef Tripe on Foodista

Lunch at Allium, Ottawa

Salmon Tartare, Allium

My friend Wals and I ventured over to Westboro for lunch to check out Allium. I've been meaning to come here for a while, but never got the chance until now.

This little bistro has a very upbeat vibe to it. The restaurant is in an old house where the floors echo as you walk across them. While we were there, loud music was playing, not overly loud, but not quiet either. I thought the place had a nice charm to it.

My appy was the salmon tartare with truffle oil, fleur de sel, lime juice, cilantro, and crisps. The salmon was nice and light, and the crisps had a nice truffle aroma to them.

Salmon Tartare, Allium
Salmon Tartare
My lunch was the rare white tuna. This was served with sauteed mushrooms, wilted spinach, marinated grapes, and an herb-lemon dressing. The tuna was cooked perfectly, but the mushrooms and spinach were a bit greasy for lunch. However, the marinated grapes combined with the veggies was a nice touch because it helped balance out the greasiness. Although it didn't seem like a lot of food, I was definitely stuffed after my meal.

Rare White Tuna, Allium
Rare White Tuna

Wals ordered the Allium burger. The Allium burger was made of organic red angus beef, and the platter was served with a side of fruit and fries. The fries were awesome, and tasted like a refined version of chip wagon fries.

Allium Burger
Allium Burger
87 Holland Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 613-792-1313

Allium on Urbanspoon

Simple Spicy Mac 'n Cheese

Spicy Mac n Cheese

My sister-in-law, Halls, keeps me humble by occasionally reminding me that great food can be simple. She does so by buying me books such as the one below with a card saying "Where [Nooschi] learns that food is not always glamorous":

Halls, this dish is for you ;-)

Here in Ottawa, winter just does not want to go away. Today, for example, the bright sun was beaming through the windows, but as soon as I set foot outside to go take a walk, it felt like a cool winter day. This made me retract and get back into my pyjamas.

My Spicy Mac 'n Cheese dish is perfect for this kind of weather. You still want that filling hearty food to keep you warm, but nothing too heavy, because Spring is just around the corner. I love stationing myself on a warm comfy couch, and eating this straight out of the pot (when no one is watching) while enjoying the view out my window.

Because I only make this on such solitary occasions, this loose recipe makes 1 over sized serving.

Simple Spicy Mac 'n Cheese
- lots of pasta
- grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (as much or little as you would like)
- a little bit of milk
- cracked black pepper to taste
- cayenne pepper to taste
- Frank's Red Hot original hot sauce

Frank's Hot Sauce

1. Boil the pasta in salt water until it is al dente, and drain it in a colander.

2. Place the pasta back in the pot while it is still warm, and turn to a very low heat setting. Add milk and cheese and stir until the cheese melts.

3. Add black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. Turn the heat off, pour in the Frank's hot sauce, and enjoy straight out of the pot!

Mac n Cheese Leftovers

Cous Cous Alla Panzanella

Cous Cous Alla Panzanella 3

One of my favorite Canadian Food Network Shows is David Rocco's Dolce Vita. It is a great show that shows snippets of David's life and adventures in Italy. I'm pumped everytime I hear the upbeat theme music of his show, and of course, I love his food. In each show, David shows you how to make very simple Italian dishes that are effortless.

One of my favorite recipes is his Cous Cous Alla Panzanella. It is a no-cook cous cous recipe that is easy and packed with great flavors. Instead of boiling his cous cous in water, David Rocco prepares the cous cous by soaking it in olive oil and tomato juice.

I make this for lunch all the time, and with the amount it makes, I usually have enough to last me the entire week.
This recipe makes 4-6 servings

Cous Cous Alla Panzanella
(Adapted from David Rocco)
- 2 cups cous cous
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 orange pepper, chopped
- 20 grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 (796ml, 28 fl. oz) can whole tomatoes with juices, chopped
- juice of one lemon
- 40g basil leaves, torn
- salt and pepper to season

1. Place olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and canned tomatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add cous cous and mix thoroughly.

2. Add red onions, red, orange, and yellow peppers, and cherry tomatoes to the bowl. Mix well.

3. Add in lemon juice, and torn basil leaves. Mix well. Add pepper to taste (and more salt if needed).

4. You can serve immediately or wait a few hours for the flavors to intermingle.

Sukhothai, Ottawa

Tod Gra-Tiam Prik Thai Ta-Lay Mixed

Sukhothai in Bells Corners is great place for a quick and flavorful lunch. Their dishes come out fast if you order from their lunch menu, and while the menu may be short, it has a good variety of dishes to satisfy most people.

Without fail, I always order the Tod Gra-Tiam Prik Thai Ta-Lay, or to keep things simple, selection E. This is sauteed shrimp, scallop and squid with a garlic and pepper sauce on rice. Their portions don't look like much when you first get it, but as soon as the rice expands in your stomach, you'll feel it.

Tod Gra-Tiam Prik Thai Ta-Lay
Tod Gra-Tiam Prik Thai Ta-Lay

My only complaint is that the last time I was there, the scallops didn't taste very fresh, and I couldn't eat them. I've been here many times, and that was definitely a first. Unfortunately, I decided not to say anything until the end of the meal. The waitress told me that I should have said something earlier and that she will make sure the cooks are aware so that they are fresh for their next plates. I was ok with that since I should have said something at the start. Their squid and shrimp, however, was cooked nicely.

My friend Wals is very loyal to selection D: Gang Garee Gai, or the light curry chicken with coconut milk and potatoes on rice. This is a great curry dish. It's packed with flavor and has a hint of spiciness to it. If an emergency ever occurred, and they ran out of E for some reason or another, this would be my back up dish.

Gang Garee Gai
Gang Garee Gai

My friend J ordered A: Pad Bai Gra Prow. This was sauteed beef with fresh chili and basil leaves on rice. If you're not into beef, you can always substitute it for chicken or pork.

Pad Bai Gra Prow
Pad Bai Gra Prow

All lunch plates come with a little bowl of chicken broth with napa cabbage and carrots.

Chicken broth with veggies
Chicken Broth with Veggies

134 Robertson Road
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 613-829-1010

Sukhothai on Urbanspoon