Tuesday, January 14

The Food Quest

My regular grocery shopping consist of almost daily visits to the convenient Downtown’s supermarkets. Over the weekends I like to go and check out some of the local food stores around the town in search for good authentic ethnic food and charcuterie. While most bloggers in January review their year, I'm starting this year with some of my favorite food "blocks"/spots around the town, “locals”, as today is so popular to say.
Do not take this as an advertisement for anyone. It’s my own take on multicultural advances of the life in this city.
Call it the food quest!

In my search for a good food, last year I discovered some new places (for me) that now I love to visit almost on regular basis.

Vancouver has few widely advertised food spots, but believe me, there is so much more. For instance, beside Granville Island market and Farmer markets, organized around the city over the summer, that are pretty much overrated and overpriced, great food can be found all over the city trough out its little cultural communities. You just need to have enthusiasm for exploration.

Farmer’s markets are very popular here, beside the fact that they have fewer items and are more expensive than some high-end organic stores! Comparing that to the daily European fresh food markets with regularly lower prices than in stores, Vancouver’s farmer markets are luxury organized on weekly basis...So I am guessing, “cult” and popularity of these places must be a matter of hip “granola” label or people just doesn’t walk that much around a town... Do you get fresher and better food? I don’t think so.., recent news also “surprised” us with irregularity, fraud and pesticides in almost half of certified organically produced food in North America. So I’d rather buy my organic produce somewhere else!

Regular daily Farm markets around a world

So my weekend food quest would be to visit some of these places around the town:

Commercial Drive and Cuban memorabilia
For prosciutto, olives and even squid ink pasta …all Mediterranean taste, Commercial Drive, 2200 block of East Hastings St and Bosa Market have selection of food hard to find anywhere else in the city, with great prices. Few produce stores along those streets carry even frozen sardines from Portugal! Recently, this street got a butcher store with a really good local organic meat. I love to buy here fresh beef tong, since it is impossible to get it anywhere else.

If you’re looking for Eastern European stuff and great homemade sausages, smoked bacon and meats and other simple but good taste of Balkans, Edmonds Street in Burnaby has few stores where you can even order roasted whole lamb or pig (you can opt for couple of kilograms, if that fits you better).

 Along with these ones, Commercial Drive has one Serbian butcher store with a great homemade “kulen” dry sausage.
Smoked meats

Smoked bacon

You will recognize it by hanged pieces of smoked meat and bacon along its windows.
For a great mixed feta cheese and halva, and variety of baklavas, area around West Broadway and MacDonald Street have few Greek stores where I also discovered that one produce store in the same area sell dried sour cherries – something I have never seen anywhere else!
Korean sushi rolls from H-market

For the Japanese/Korean food and more I love to go to H-market and Konbiniya store on Robson St, and for almost anything alse, what some would say-from needle to locomotive, Tinseltown’s big store “Yokoyaya”is the place to spend hours.

Real Chinese food, is of course in Chinatown. Don’t miss to try authentic and hopefully MSG free - Peking’s duck and noodles in one of those miniature express Chinese restaurants along Keefer Street .

For the Middle Eastern influences and great maamoul cookies (which became now my favourite cookies) directly from Saudi Arabia, West End has couple of little stores that carry all the tastes and aromas from there, including herbs like Zaatar, flat breads, rose and orange flower water, even some good luck charms, like that blue one-eye pendant for some evil spirits.

For the original Indian food, go to South Fraser Street. Some parts of the street smell very aromatic of Indian herbs and spices. You can buy authentic samosas and Indian sweets or if you are looking for some natural oils and remedies for a hair, they have it plenty here. If you explore more this area, you’ll find also some great cotton handmade shirts and ethnic Indian embroidered shoes. Great deals!

One more thing about food in Vancouver: City’s downtown in a last few years became congested with variety of food trucks. The food is fast, ethnic and pretty good, considering the way and place where it has been prepared.

 From Japanese sushi bars, Eastern food truck with shawarma and falafels to the fancy Parisian patisseries, this can all now be found in Vancouver’s city center. And that is something to look for, if you find yourself in this city, tired and hungry!

Davie Street Community Garden
Oh yes,one big plus for Vancouver: city community gardens where everyone can take a part for free and produce their own food. This is the one on Davie Street, place to meet your neighbors and have coffee wile taking cake of your crops!

For the inspiration, my crafts and handwork, I usually go into “treasure hunts” around local thrift stores or Dressew store in Downtown.

Funky Main Street is also fun place to have a good coffee, visit vintage stores or unique craft stores where one of my favorite recently became little Native button store on the corner of Min and 2nd St.

Vancouver’s Chinatown has also few hidden jewels, like many other cultural corners of the town. While I was looking for some interesting gifts I have recently found this little store on the corner of East Pender and Main Street, with all interesting souvenirs and memorabilia from Mao’s Communist China. Mentioning that, South America’s culture and Cuban revolution is also strong and alive on eastern part of town and many revolutionary souvenirs can be found along Commercial Drive.

Some authentic recipes:

The dough:
3 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp rosewater 
1 tbsp orange flower water
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1-1/2 cups cake flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar and chopped pistachios (for dusting)
Rub in the flour with soft butter and add the rose and orange flower water. Add the sugar and mix till the dough holds together in a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour. Prepare filling. Original cookies are made with date filling but I love pistachios so it goes great with those too, or you can mix both fillings together.

Date Filling
:¾ cup pitted dates, chopped
4 tbsp boiling water
1-1/2 teaspoons orange flower water

Place all the date filling ingredients in a bowl and mix vigorously or in a food processor and process to a paste. Put the paste in a small bowl and set aside till you’re ready to stuff and bake the ma’amoul.

Nut Filling
:1-1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts or pistachio
2 tablespoons rose- or orange flower water
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Simply mix everything up well. Put the filling in a small bowl and set aside.
Stuff and Bake the Ma’amoul:
Preheat the oven to 350° F -180° C. Prepare a cookie sheet by the method you prefer: line it with parchment, or grease it lightly, or lay a silicon sheet over the surface. Use a tablespoon to take dough out – a level tablespoon each time. Flatten each piece onto the palm of your hand, and push it till it’s about a ping pong ball size circle. Place 1 ½ teaspoons of the nut filling on top of the dough. Bring the edges of the dough up with your fingertips and press them together to seal the filling. Repeat with remaining dough and filling or, simply hold some dough in the palm of your hand, poke a hole in the middle, and fill. Roll the ball of dough between your palms – lightly – to seal the filling.

*Mold originally used for these cookies can be found all over Middle East or some Oriental stores and they can be made in some amazing shapes.Bake for 15 minutes

Beef tongue in wine sauce

Beef tongue in wine sauce

1 beef tongue
1 ripe tomatoes, large dice
1 large onions, large dice
2 carrots, large pieces
handful black peppercorns
1/2 bunch parsley
1 bay leaves
½ cup red wine
veal or beef stock

Soak the tongue in water overnight.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the tongue and boil for about 15 minutes.Take tongue out of the water and let cool until cool enough to handle. Discard water.
In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots. Add tomatoes and cook for a few seconds. Add tongue into the pot, and cover with red wine and/or stock. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for about 3 hours, or until the tongues are tender.

Alternatively, one can also braise the tongues in the oven. Turn the oven to 350F. Place covered pot or roasting pan into the oven and braise for about 3 hours, or until the tongues are tender.

Take tongues out of braising liquid. Slice.

Strain the braising liquid. In a saucepan over medium heat, reduce the braising liquid until desired thickness. Adjust seasoning. Serve sauce with the sliced tongue.

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