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Monday, July 23, 2007

Back to My Roots

I am a hungry gal, I live in Toronto, and my thing is food. I love to cook and I love to eat. I think about it pretty much all the time. I am also fortunate to live in this great city with such a multi-cultural population that you can get almost any authentic ethnic food that piques your fancy. But still, I like to get on a plane, go some place special and spend a ton of time seeing and eating.

So my OTHER thing is travel. I love to see the world and to meet new people. Food is a universal need and language. So much can be communicated over food without a word ever spoken. There are few things that can top a stroll through a chaotic fragrant night market taking an opportunity to sampl e new foods from local vendors. For me, a fabulous holiday has three components: some weight gain, a little cash deficit, and a suitcase full of exotic goodies to test out in my kitchen at home. Oh and I love to read menus. Surely, I can't be the only one.

I decided to start a blog to indulge in these two passions, and to keep a record of the triumphs of being alive, healthy and happy through culinary and travel experiences. And every foodie who loves to cook has a culinary inspiration: my mother. She is the first person who cooked for me and nurished me. Though not an avid traveller (because the world is "dangerous"), the woman can cook. I know everyone says their mom is the best cook. But really, my Mom is the best. Her specialty is the amazing cuisine of her homeland, Singapore, which I hope to share with you over time. She is regal, and lovely and I know you're going to love her food.

Speaking of which...
Last night, I stopped into the grocery store and found a LARGE container packed with slippery plump Fanny Bay oysters. As Victoria Beckham would say, "Major!" I put one container in my basket, along with some fragrant fresh ginger root, and a bunch of spring onions and I was ready to roll.

I can't stress the importance of mise en place. Organize and prep all your ingredients before you start cooking and you will find the experience far more enjoyable. Trust me.

Oysters with Ginger & Green Onions
1 large container of large oysters (put aside 6 large ones for the omelet)
2 sprigs of green onion - sliced
1 thumb size ginger root - peeled and sliced into fine matchsticks
3/4c of water
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of pepper
1 tbsp of oyster sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp of minced garlic

1. Pour the oysters into a large bowl. Pour enough hot water to cover oysters.
2. In the meantime, prep the ginger, garlic and green onions. Create a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with water, oyster sauce, salt & pepper. Stir until there are no lumps.
3. Pat oysters dry.
4. Heat a large pan or wok with 1 tbsp of oil (I use olive oil- but, it has a low smoking point and people say it is too expensive to use - but nevermind them.) When it starts to glisten, add the ginger, and garlic. Stir around until slightly golden- don't let it burn.
5. Add oysters and let them sizzle and brown slightly. At this point, the oysters are mostly cooked and we want to give them some colour but not over do it because they can get tough.
6. Give your slurry a quick stir again before adding to the pan and it will thicken as it heats into a nice silky gravy. If it gets too thick, add more water and stir quickly to incorporate.
7. Move off heat, sprinkle the green onions on top and throw the lid on it for a quick 2 minutes. (I started to plate our dinners and by the time I was ready for the oysters. Voila! They were done.)

We have been eating alot of brown rice lately. It's better for you - it does take some getting used to though and I think it is especially hard for Asians who grew up on white. Our latest thing is called "Kenn's Healthy Rice Mix" - it's a brown rice mix. It does take some getting used to, but this stuff, I am telling you, is major! And it's good for you. :)

The other inspiration I had for the Fanny Bay oysters was a famous Singaporean hawker dish called Oyster omelet. Singaporeans have a strong culture of open air eating. The country boasts many beautiful open-air food courts where you can order from many different kinds of foods from a variety of vendors aka hawkers and really have an exquisite informal feast. It is a Singaporean way of life to share meals with friends and family at a hawker center. It's a must do if you ever visit. More on that in the future...

But I must warn you- this is not an omelet in the French sense: a pillowy, delicate eggy cloud. By contrast, the Singaporean oyster omelet is a massive rubble of curds and oysters punctuated by bold spicy chili sauce. It's substantial and you should share. Or not. Here's my version, inspired by the gorgeous produce I found in the market yesterday.

Oyster Omelet
6 large oyster cut into thirds
2 large eggs
1 heaping tbsp flour
2 tbsp water
1 sprig of green onion - finely chopped
1 handful of pea sprouts - roughly chopped
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of salt
pepper to taste (white pepper if you have it)
1 tbsp of sambal olek

1. Measure flour out and pour into a bowl. Slowly add the water until you have a smooth batter. Add the eggs, salt & pepper and whisk until scrambled.
2. Heat pan - and add oil when the pan is hot.
3. Add pea sprouts and stir until wilted. Add green onions.
4. Pour egg mixture over top and stir gently as you would scramble eggs.
5. Cook over low to medium heat for about five minutes.
6. Serve immediately with a nice dallop of sambal olek.

Delight, delight, delight!

Hope to see you again.


V said...

Awww.... I always try to have this thing whenever I stop by Singapore.

BTW, where would you suggest for fresh seafood (Oysters, lobster, etc) in Toronto? I tried buying live lobsters in St. Lawrence Market but they seemed to be in their tanks for too long: they lost their muscle already.

PS: Can I link you to my blog? Singapore, Toronto, and Finance are all familiar to me :D.

Hungry Gal said...

@ V

I think there are two places you can get good lobsters in Toronto - T&T (Cherry St location is where I shop) and there is a place in Chinatown East (Broadview) called Bill's Lobsters... apparently cheap and delicious.... (I haven't bought at Bill's yet...)
check out chowhound:

V said...

Thanks for the tips. I'll check out T&T the next time I'm there.

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