January 27, 2014

Chinese New Year, 2 of 3

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 So long to the year of the Snake! With 2014 being the year of the Horse, my mum cooked up a huge fest yesterday and the next evening, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Crown Jewel (formerly Sam Woo Seafood Restaurant) my grandmother's preferred restaurant. The staff are always attentive and friendly and the restaurant being newly renovated, is decorated with gorgeous over sized framed wall art and pretty chandeliers. This place has a nice atmosphere- I wish I had remembered to take photos to show you! But honestly, I just wanted to get some good shots of the food and dig in.  

As we sat down and got comfortable, we were served hot tea. There were two choices, but I just let the waitress pour from the pot she was holding. I love tea, so it didn't matter.
As the rest of the guests arrived and settled down, our first course of Roast Suckling Pig was presented, plated and served. Crispy, caramelized, crackling skin, combined with delicious spices and meat with a good amount of fat. I had mine with a sprinkling of sugar and a smidgen of hoisin sauce.
Fresh out of the fryer, were piping hot Seafood Meat Balls made with crab meat and shrimp that have been molded around a crab claw, breaded and send into a vat of oil. The entire thing was about the size of a small lemon! I enjoyed it with spicy mustard and a good splash of vinegar, which cut the greasiness a little. It was filling, but as you can safely assume, I polished the entire thing off in about 2 minutes. 

Then came the Shark's Fin Soup. It's a bit of a controversial dish, but you know what? It was a dinner my grandmother was treating the family to and it would be rude to not eat it. Aside from all that, this restaurant made the soup incredibly well. They weren't stingy with the shark's fin, the viscosity was just right as were the flavours. We were served a side of marinated bean sprouts to put into our soups for a little extra contrast in texture, which was nice! 
After the soup came the ugliest, most un-photogenic dish of the evening. Just look at it! But most of the time ugly food tastes awesome, so I dug in. Plus, I think this is leaning more on the traditional side in terms of what items are served at Chinese New Year dinners.

Braised Dehydrated Oysters and Scallops with Black Moss and Greens. Wow, that was a mouthful! I grew up eating black moss, so there was nothing weird to me about eating something that resembled hair pulled out of a shower drain. In fact, this dish was full of umami flavours due to all the dried seafood that was cooked into it. I ate every last bit and it was delicious.
Here's something a little more appetizing to the eyes; a couple of Stir Fried Jumbo Shrimp with Asparagus. It was light, fresh and cooked with a generous amount of minced garlic and ginger. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and I appreciated that they were shelled and de-veined. I ate mine with a dollop of chili sauce.
Following four plates of seafood, we were served Braised Free Run Chicken and Vegetables which was a nice change. The chicken had a nice rich flavour, it was lean and had a good texture. The meat was moist and tender as it was cooked and served in a light savory sauce that didn't overwhelm the natural flavours.
Of course, there had to be carbs! This time in the form of a modest Fried Rice. It was simple, had egg whites, scallions, fish roe, little shards of dried scallops and ginger. Normally I enjoy ginger, but because it was minced and cooked into the rice, many of us found it to be overpowering. I didn't enjoy biting into a small chunk of ginger while eating this.
Usually a bowl of noodles is served with fried rice or we have the choice of choosing noodles instead of fried rice. This time around were were presented with something I've never had the pleasure of consuming before!

First the soup was served and placed in front of us. At this point I thought that perhaps were were going to receive wantons and noodles separately, but to much surprise, the waitress placed a single fried dumpling into my soup! Stunned that she had just put a perfectly crisp and deep fried item into a bowl of hot soup, I asked my parents if this was normal. Of course it was. Perhaps I was being a little over dramatic, but dunking a crispy item into hot liquid would mean sogginess! I quickly snapped a photo and bit into the dumpling. It was like a little party in my mouth- totally delicious. It was still a little crisp, the wrapper inside was chewy, slightly sweet and it was filled with a tasty mixture of shrimp and scallions.
Unique and delicious. The end.
Oh, wait! After a nice fifteen minute intermission, dessert arrived on a huge platter. There were large pieces of Lychee Jelly with Goji Berries and this to die for flower shaped pastry which I shall name Deep Fried Lotus Bean Paste Flaky Pastry of Goodness. I shamelessly inhaled two of them and would've eaten ten more if there were any more around! It was flaky and light, visually appealing, but it was the stuff in the middle that made this dessert what it was. The lotus bean paste, which I usually call Chinese Caramel was fried with the outside orange and yellow layers, which resulted in it being a little crunchy and even more caramelized! Does that even make sense? 

Basically, it had layers and tasted of caramel. What is there not to love about that combination?!
Dessert came in two. This was the second part, a sweet soup. In Chinese it's called Tong Sui, which can be made in a gazillion different flavours and varieties. This one in particular was papaya based that had been cooked with lots of red dates, logan fruit (similar to lychee), white fungus (which is gelatinous/seaweed like) and apricot kernels, also know as Chinese Almonds. The soup itself is naturally sweetened by the combination of fruits, which by the way, I really enjoyed.
It was a pleasant, light way to finish off the meal and a nice to warm up the body before heading out into another Canadian snow storm.

Two dinner's down, one more to go! 

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Hi, I'm Janetta from Toronto. I cook, bake and often veganize recipes. I photograph nearly everything and those photos will most likely end up being posted here. I've got a little black cat named Tank, who's really cute and a little bit nosy. You'll see a lot of photos of her too!

Contact me at: jubesandtank@gmail.com

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