What the Offal?


Kawaii Halloween pumpkins

Today is Halloween. Although I didn’t get a chance to carve out a pumpkin this year, let alone visit a pumpkin patch, I think a festive way to get into the mood is through food. I’m not talking about all the candies, chips, and chocolate bars, but by eating things that scare the majority. Brains? Chicken feet? How about some hearts?


A delicious plate of offal

In other words, offal. It’s a category that sums up the types of odds and ends in meats that either make you jump for joy or cringe towards a bucket for relief. In America, apparently this may be known as “organ meats” or variety meats”. The term originally included only the entrails of an animal, but in addition to the innards are now other extremities – brains, intestines, feet, ankles, heart, kidneys, cheeks, lungs, liver, marrow, stomach, tail, tongue, testicles…they can be all lumped together now. Are you feeling queasy yet?


A Chiuchow style platter of offal

Although there are numerous ways to actually prepare offal, this particular time I had it prepared Chiuchow style. It’s marinated in a soy sauce-based marinade and included a variety of animals and parts – pig intestine, beef flank, eggs, duck feet, sausage, pig ears, tongue, etc. There are many different textures on this platter; from soft to hard, slimy to rough, and smooth to crunchy. All I can say is, if you open your mind and just close your eyes, you may enjoy it. Technically, all these things can be incorporated into your common day eats like sausages, hot dogs, and pâtés…not to ruin it for you or anything. Happy Halloween!!! 🙂


Word of the Day: Confit

I went to a friend’s birthday lunch recently where there was an option on the menu for confit potato wedges. Confit is often known as duck cooked in its own fat (better known as confit de canard), but the interesting question that was raised was is it always duck?

The answer is no. Although it is the most common type of confit, it can also be prepared with other types of meat like pork or goose. It is a French style of cooking that was originally meant to help preserve food (with the help of salt), but it also adds extra flavour and helps tenderize meat. That would explain why that morsel of duck, which is normally a tough meat, becomes soft and melts in your mouth. Even less known is probably confit made with fruits and vegetables, though I personally don’t know if I would consider that a confit.


Tres Leches with Shortbread

If you have a sweet tooth, you will probably love the taste of tres leches. It’s Spanish for “three milk” because it’s made with condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk. It has a thick consistency and is gooey and sweet. Recently, I discovered a little treat at a cafe upon my travels down South – shortbread with tres leche.


This pastry consisted of two flat, round pieces of shortbread which “sandwiched” the tres leche in between. I cannot tell you how good this little treat was with a hot cup of tea. It was just a bit difficult to eat because the powdered sugar would fly everywhere and the shortbread tended to crumble. However, that didn’t stop me from eating these. The taste still lingers in my mouth and I really wish I had one now. I guess I’ll have to try making this on my own one day. I already have the shortbread part down, it’s just making them into circles instead of squares and adding some tres leche in between. Yum yum! 🙂


A World of Ceviche

Ceviche is a fresh and delicious Latin American appetizer that always leaves you tantalizing for more. It is made by cooking small, chopped up pieces of raw fish or seafood with lemons or limes. I lightly say cooked because heat isn’t involved, but rather the acidity of a citrus fruit. This acid chemically burns the seafood and changes the texture and properties of the protein, a process called denaturation (ooh, science!).

Ceviche often includes onions and spices in the marinade and should only be cooked this way when the seafood is fresh. Although it does alter the properties of the protein, it does not kill the bacteria. Something to keep in mind if you ever attempt to make this!

Travelling to several Central and South American countries, I’ve had the pleasure of trying different types of ceviche. While they all use lemon/lime as their standard method of “cooking”, I did notice some subtle nuances.

In Panama, the ceviche can be served in little tart-like cups. The flavours are very bold and I found the tartness to be very potent. Their specialty ceviche is made with sea bass and I can vouch that it is absolutely delicious! Although I would gladly eat it plain, I find the little pastry cups give it a nice crunchy texture in combination with the soft seafood, red onions and spices. Plus, it can hold some of the marinade juice as you eat the little appetizer cup. You can say it’s somewhat like eating an open version of pani puri – both are messy, but both are worth it!

From my experience, a Mexican ceviche doesn’t taste as acidly potent as the Panamanian version. However, like in many Mexican dishes, they tend to use different types of chiles in the mix, including serrano, jalapeño or habaneros to kick it up a notch. Sometimes it is served with tortilla chips, another Mexican staple.

In Ecuador, I found the ceviche was more fragrant and they like using tomatoes as part of their ceviche base. It is often served with roasted corn nuts and popcorn on the side. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite type of ceviche, but it was still tasty!

Interestingly enough, a friend of mine thought ceviche was the same thing as pickling. However, pickling is using the acidity of vinegar to preserve as opposed to a ceviche using citrus fruit to cook and be eaten shortly after. Lemons and limes may have been the norm for ceviche for years, but many chefs are now experimenting with different types of fruits, including grapefruit and yuzu to name a few. I foresee exciting times ahead for the world of ceviche!



Word of the Day: Chimichurri

Chimichurri is a classic Argentinean sauce that is a thick, green sauce made of olive oil, vinegar, chopped parsley, oregano, onion, garlic and spices. It makes a great marinade and can be added to different dishes, like this deliciously tender grilled steak I had in Mexico.

It’s that thin strip of green sauce on top of the steak. It tastes nothing like it, but it reminds me of pesto. Yum!

Masala Seasoned Corn on the Cob

Corn is one of those yummy in your tummy treats. It’s healthy, but not exactly overindulging when you’re looking for a snack. To me, one of the best ways to eat corn is when it’s roasted over a grill. When done right, the kernels caramelize and create a tasty, smoky flavour.

I went to a farmer’s market recently and there was a stand with a guy barbecuing corn. Although corn with butter and salt is the standard fare, this particular vendor specialized in making it with Indian flavours by coating it with butter, salt and masala spices. It was salty and spicy, but sweet because the corn was so fresh. Since masala can be any number of spice combos, the most I can guess is it contained chili powder, black pepper and perhaps some cumin, clove and paprika. It was sooooooo good! Apparently this is a common street snack in India too. Although summer is over, I’ll have to remember this for the next time I barbecue corn over the grill!

Pumpkin Pie – Purée vs. Filling

This weekend is our Canadian thanksgiving weekend. That means lots of gatherings and plenty of food. I originally intended on making a pumpkin pie from scratch, but my plans were fumbled when KD and I blindly bought the wrong type of pumpkin.

Instead of purchasing pumpkin purée, we bought the pie filling in a can. What’s the difference you ask? Pumpkin purée is supposed to be just pumpkin with no spices or additives (though sometimes they add other gourd vegetables to the mixture). It’s a good way of making a pumpkin pie as closest to scratch, next to digging out the pumpkin meat directly from the fresh gourd yourself.

On the other hand, pumpkin pie filling is a premade filling containing pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. The only thing you really need to make the pie is a pie shell, which you can either make fresh or buy premade. Since I was supposed to make the pies Saturday night but couldn’t because of this little blunder (I searched all over the Internet for other recipes that may have worked with a premade mix, but nothing peaked my interest and the choices were very limited!), I had to go out the next day to a Farmers Market to buy a few. So lessons learned, purchase pumpkin purée and not pumpkin pie filling unless you just want to use a mixture that is ready-to-go. Happy Thanksgiving!

Fauxlognese and Meatish

There are some very interesting culinary words out there, like à la mode (served with ice cream) and mincemeat (it’s just fruit, it doesn’t have real meat). Recently I went to a restaurant that was serving something called fauxlognese. It was categorized under their meatish section, so my curiosity peaked. I thought these were terms they made up, but I did a little digging. So, what is this fauxlognese and meatish you speak of?

Well, it’s essentially a “fake” version of a Bolognese which is a meat sauce. With regards to the category, they try to duplicate the texture of ground meat with tofu, hence meatish. Although it was nothing like eating real meat, it had an interesting texture to it. This dish was specifically composed of gnocchi, spinach, thunder oak gouda and wood mushrooms covered in a tomato-based tofu sauce. Given that it was a vegetarian dish, it wasn’t bad (though a tad salty). If I was a full vegetarian though, I would be all over this. So if you ever come across fauxlognese or meatish on a menu, you know what they are now. 🙂

Pork Belly Bao

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Vietnamese food is always packed full of flavour. They can take something simple and plain, such as a steam bun, and jam it with so much taste you can only wonder why you didn’t start delving into Vietnamese food earlier. And thus I present The pork belly bao. The bun itself is, like most buns,  is made with several basic ingredients and isn’t very potent in flavour. It’s soft and fluffy and has a very smooth surface. For this particular dish, it doesn’t completely cover the filling like a traditional bao. Rather, it acts like a soft tortilla taco shell and looks like a mitt holding on to the fillings.

For the fillings of this particular bao, the star of the dish is pork belly which has been marinated in five spice. Five spice is a Chinese spice mixture and can contain things like star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon and sichuan pepper. If anyone has ever had star anise, you know a little bit goes a long way! The meat itself is like the equivalent of bacon, so you know it’s tasty and many Asians tend to love this succulent cut! It’s savoury with various textures due to the fatty tops and meaty bottoms. There is also pickled carrots, pickled radishes, cilantro and cucumber which combine together with the pork to create this vibrant bao combo. The only thing missing was the kimchi fries, but I don’t think I could have eaten all of that on my own. If you find some Vietnamese style bao around, give it a whirl. 😀

***Addition: and Sriracha sauce was added to the mix. How could I forget the Sriracha? Lol

Chicken Masala Paratha Roll

A few years ago, I discovered a little independent joint that sold a delicious chicken tikka roll. It was full of spices, the meat was juicy and it was wrapped with fresh naan. I haven’t been able to find anything even close to its caliber since the place closed down, but then I was happy to discover several years later that the new place that took over made something called a chicken masala paratha roll.

A paratha is a type of unleavened Indian flatbread. Unlike naan, it’s more greasy and flakier. It has multiple layers like phyllo dough and as much as I love naan, I think I love paratha a little bit more. ❤ Also in this wrap is chicken masala. Masala (though I may be oversimplifying the term) means a mixture of spices which has been used to marinate the chicken. Combining all the ingredients together, you get this deliciously flavourful roll.

As you can see, it is filled with lots of chicken masala but it also had some red onions hidden in it. The result of these ingredients created a fantastic wrap – juicy, tender chicken smothered in creamy, slightly spicy sauce with a great contrast of sweet red onions. Yum! To my surprise, I discovered that this particular restaurant is a chain that is all over Dubai. If that’s the case and it made it’s way all the way over to Canada, it’s got to be good! And I would definitely choose this over some other fast food joints out there, that’s for sure!