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Why do chinese restaurants insist on having "secret" Chinese menus their English-Speaking customers can't decipher?


Jul 25, 2012
pepper_mil in General Topics

Best ramen in Vancouver?

Belated report back - thanks all for the replies. I almost decided to not go to Santouka since Hong Kong also has one and I get to Hong Kong a lot more often than Vancouver, but I did find myself down there on Robson one day and went in. I did get the toroniku and was very impressed, though the fatty pork on the side tasted just a tad overdone to me. I was impressed with how fatty it was though. I would probably try the spicy ramen next time; a girl beside me was eating it and I thought it looked really good.

Top Chef Canada, Season 2, Episode 13, FINALE (spoilers)

Another thanks to chefhound.

The surprise cook off for another crack at the final was a cool twist, but I thought having the other chefs judge was kind of could the food have any bearing on who they pick to go up against that late in the game? It would have been more interesting if the judging chefs didn't know who made which dishes. And look, David wins another prize. After the whole final though, that corn pudding dessert of his was the thing I wanted to eat the most.

I also thought the softball of sorbet was a bit strange, but Carl's win was well me it came across as the judges questioning the plates that landed and then, bite by bite, being convinced by the food that he should be top chef. I am surprised it was not between him and Jonathan at the end though. Trevor taking it would have been kind of anticlimactic...he never won a single elimination challenge, did he?

In the past guest judges have seemed to take the competition too seriously and it turns into such a stiff and solemn table, no joy at all, but Vikram Vij really was himself and I liked that he wore non-Western formal clothes. Would love to see him on future episodes.

As for comments on this season, Lisa Ray did a decent job as host, though she came across as too scripted from time to time. I liked Thea a bit better. Shereen is the 'head judge' in my mind. She gets the whole restaurant experience. I also think that with her expressiveness she and Mark make a decent judging team, though sometimes I get impatient with how the show feels like a long commercial for the MacEwan empire. The stores, the books, the restaurants...enough already.

Jun 06, 2012
pepper_mil in Food Media & News

Top Chef Canada, Season 2, Episode 12 (spoilers)

Loved, loved the quickfire. Wanted to eat every single thing and the judging was nail biting. I liked the idea of the elimination challenge but it didn't really seem to inspire the chefs like previous episodes'. David left with grace, he will be missed but he's done pretty well for himself. Jennifer McLagan was an interesting choice of guest judge for the haute cuisine challenge. I think Trevor's dish would have really appealed to her.

Surprising to see Jonathan misstep on both quickfire and elimination this episode.

I am a fan of Carl. It was a lot of fun watching him go head to head with Xavier on the chef skills competition and I thought it was very sporting of him to help Trevor get his fire going in the wild brunch challenge. He can make me soup and a sandwich any time.

Trevor has done some great food and says some very smart and thoughtful things during the interviews, when he is not talking about himself..

It is anyone's game!

May 30, 2012
pepper_mil in Food Media & News

Staring at a pile of shredded cabbage, what salad should I make?

Wow, I will definitely be revisiting this thread to try more of the ideas.

I made two slaws - one with apples and one with dried cranberries and pepitas and sesame seeds. I then sauteed a bunch of it and served some spicy bean and potato hash over top, with a couple of spoonfuls of greek yogurt on the side. This was my favourite. I ended up tossing the last of it (again sauteed) with a little bacon, mushrooms, and whole wheat pasta. Pretty good too.

The cabbage was a surprisingly useful and economical thing to have in the fridge, so will definitely be keeping it on hand more.

May 27, 2012
pepper_mil in Home Cooking

Top Chef Canada, Season 2, Episode 11 (spoilers)

Xavier will be missed. Every time I hear him describing a dish I wish I could dig into it. And watching him read the instructions on the Kraft Dinner box was pretty funny. "Any chance this could curdle?"...."Uhhh, very slim." LOL

I don't have a clear favourite either.

Jonathan is a fun guy to watch and is very good at meeting the challenges, like last week how he knew the broth was the star of the dish and worked it into the presentation.

I wish Carl had been on the bottom earlier. I think being on the bottom helps the chefs learn a lot about what the judges expect. I hope he gets some confidence and goes back to doing his thing.

David's gutsy - I was really afraid that the fish would end up overdone in that wood burning oven. He's been collecting the most coin so far, but he's sticking his neck out for it.

Trevor, between spending this episode grumbling about drawing dessert, putting out a mediocre tiramisu that looked it was made by a grade 9 home ec student, and then grousing about David's winning more money in next episode's preview, did not come across well this week. We'll see what happens next.

May 23, 2012
pepper_mil in Food Media & News

Staring at a pile of shredded cabbage, what salad should I make?

Hi all, I have about four cups of shredded cabbage and want to turn it into a salad or three to eat over the next few days. What would you do with it?

May 21, 2012
pepper_mil in Home Cooking

Top Chef Canada, Season 2, Episode 10 (spoilers)

Seeing Ayden make faces while the chefs drew their ingredients was cute. I thought the elimination was an interesting challenge. It seems like the chefs have a lot of leeway but their biggest obstacle is's easy to have emotional attachments to food or certain flavours without the same kinds of things necessarily appealing to other people. I don't see how they could have let Trista continue over the other two after an uninspiring dish plus the technical mistake, but I also thought it was WAY too obvious she was going to be let go right from the beginning when she said she didn't think she would make it that far.

May 16, 2012
pepper_mil in Food Media & News

Top Chef Canada, Season 2, Episode 9 (spoilers)

I really like it when we get down to the last eight or so contestants since the show can spend more time looking at each chef's food in detail. I was impressed with what the contestants turned out considering the environmental challenges (camping, storm) and was certain David was going home, but am not sorry he will be around a bit longer. He does seem like a bit of a loose cannon, but in a good way.

May 09, 2012
pepper_mil in Food Media & News

Top Chef Canada, Season 2, Episode 8 (spoilers)

I didn't know whether to laugh or groan at Mark McEwan disqualifying a few unacceptably peeled grapes. Trista's comment during the quickfire that her money was on Carl but her heart was with X echoed my feelings perfectly. I think Jonathan's win was more about choosing and presenting a dish that suited the challenge. Jimmy's soup might have been delicious but it looked like swamp water on the screen and I think billing it as gazpacho and then presenting something that was all mushroom and truffle worked against him.

May 04, 2012
pepper_mil in Food Media & News

best pastry shop in Edmonton?

A collection of goodies from Duchess Bake Shop would make me pretty happy.

Apr 20, 2012
pepper_mil in Prairie Provinces

Best ramen in Vancouver?

Reading this thread with interest while researching a short upcoming Vancouver trip. I probably will only have one chance to eat ramen while in town, and am a big fan of rich, full bodied soup. But I am also picky about noodles; too-soft noodles really ruin a bowl of soup for me. So based on everyone's reports, I should go to Kintaro?

In search of great Vietnamese, Chinese, and Latin in Edmonton

For #1, Bun bo hue is Trang Tien's specialty. I haven't lived in Edmonton for a while but was in town a couple of months ago and thought they were as good as ever.

Oct 31, 2011
pepper_mil in Prairie Provinces

Options for YVR layover?

I decided to just go to Gastown since so many of the recs were from there, and according to Google maps it actually takes longer to get to Richmond from the airport on the skytrain than it does to go downtown. I decided against The Apron just because it looked too similar to a place where I'd eaten lunch that day, but will def. keep it in mind for further trips through town.

I walked by the Guu in Gastown and there were seats at the bar so I stopped for a fantastic plate of sashimi and an ok cocktail. I also really wanted to try l'abbatoir but their kitchen closes at ten so I was too late. That left me with my original plan of visiting Salt Tasting room, where I thought the food,wine, and atmosphere were all great. Though I have to say that Blood Alley is exactly the kind of place you don't want to find yourself alone at midnight in a strange city. I thought the skytrain stations were well lit and had a reassuring number of regular, mostly sober folks even at one am and I was happy the return fare was only 2.50

Anyway, it was a much better evening than hanging out at the airport would have been so thanks for all replies.

Options for YVR layover?

Sushi or small plates + drinks. Japanese or Indian would be fine but not interested in Chinese at all. Currently leaning towards Salt Tasting Room, but they don't look like they are into seafood and the 'notorious location' on their website gives me pause - is it not a great place to be walking around at night? Enjoyed Guu when I was in town before, but don't want to wait for a table. And most other places I'm interested in would close at ten.

838 Thurlow St, Vancouver, BC V6E1W2, CA

Options for YVR layover?

Hi all, I will be coming through Vancouver shortly and will have about four hours between flights from 8 pm to 2 am. I am tempted to get out of the airport for a bite and a drink somewhere, but because of the schedule don't want to choose a place where I'd have to wait a long time to be seated (Thu night). Something very Canada Line accessible would be best. Suggestions for seafood, Japanese, or local fare would be very welcome. Budget a factor but not the most important.


Hi, I've never been to Xiamen but would be pretty excited about going to eat there. The first thing I would seek out would be a da pai dang, an outdoor casual restaurant specializing in seafood.I would also make a point of trying to sample some of the Hakka food there. You can take advantage of colleagues' offers to take you out on the town, or ask the concierge at your hotel. As for the language barrier when you venture out yourself, if you plan in advance you should be able to get someone to write down a restaurant name and address and a couple of good dishes in Chinese. You could also scout out a higher end hotel buffet that would includes good specimens of local dishes. HTH

Words that Annoy You in Restaurant Reviews

What if it is actually surreal? Like when I had some of the best, most professional servers I'd encountered in a long time bringing me the some of the most disgusting food of my life.

To answer the OP - 'party in your mouth'

May 28, 2011
pepper_mil in Food Media & News

Too many guests coming to Homemade pizza party; need an idea for other dishes

You should actually be fine with two ovens, you just can't serve everyone at once. Guests can eat a fresh piece, then chat for a few minutes, then get another fresh piece a few minutest later. As long as a new pizza can come out every fifteen minutes or so it's fine. I actually prefer serving pizza in courses like this; people get to eat the freshest pizza and the most variety this way.

May 08, 2011
pepper_mil in Home Cooking

What do I do with fresh sugar cane?

um, peel and eat?

I cut them into inch pieces, blend them with just a little water, and then squeeze out the juice and drink it with a little lemon or lime. The juice goes bad fast, you pretty much should drink it that day.

Mar 05, 2011
pepper_mil in General Topics

What to do with Szechuan peppercorns?

When you toast them and grind them, you can toss them on anything fried, like potato chips. I like to make ma la bacon, coated with pepper and then broiled in the oven. Or you can take fresh pork belly, pack it with salt and while peppercorns (just a few) before grilling. sky's the limit.

Feb 27, 2011
pepper_mil in Home Cooking

Chengdu (recs) and Yung Kee, HK (what's the deal?)

Across the street is our only Sichuanese molecular cuisine restaurant, Yunmen. It was more interesting than fantastic when I tried it but could be a unique experience. It's one of the pricier places in town, probably 400-500 rmb per person. If home cooking is more your speed there is Xiao Jian Jiao in that neighbourhood, or you could wander through the big complex beside the Great World Carrefour. There are reportedly some good places in there but I haven't been to check them out yet.

Chengdu (recs) and Yung Kee, HK (what's the deal?)

Eating in Chengdu is quite seasonal. Right now you want to try dishes made from the local bacon and sausage and visit places that specialize in 'tang guo - it's eaten pretty much the same way as hot pot but is not really considered hot pot. Styles of tang guo that are really popular right now include old duck and mushroom, Jianyang lamb soup, and Leshan "foot twisting" beef. For more traditional hot pot, my normal rec is Shu Jiu Xiang, since they are very, very good and can usually dig up an English menu, but if your companion does Chinese you can also go to Ma La Kongjian. If you want to watch an opera show with hot pot there is Da Miao hot pot or the old standard (but very expensive) Huang Cheng Lao Ma.

You don't mention where you will be (and traffic is a huge, huge consideration here) but there are decent fly restaurants in every neighbourhood that is not too gentrified, and barbecue in the evenings. Most common rec for street food is Jinli, have a look since you can see lots of variety there, unfortunately I have never had really good snacks there.

Sugar, Sugar, Oh My!

I usually eyeball the amount of sugar compared to the rest of the recipe and compare it with the other ingredients. For example, two cups of sugar would be for an enormous batch of cookies or a big triple layer cake. I would cut the sugar if it was that much for a smaller recipe, especially muffin and loaf recipes. Also usually cut the sugar if I am using other sweet stuff like chocolate chips or raisins (or vanilla, which emphasizes sweetness).

Dec 26, 2010
pepper_mil in Home Cooking

Durian in Bangkok

....and if it's too much for you the first time, try it again. If you have it in a dessert or ice cream, that is a good way to get a first taste. You will be craving the full-on experience in no time!

HK trip in Jan 2011

Just to weigh in on Joy Hing, I went there twice earlier this year within the space of a week and was disappointed both times. I got a char siu over rice one time and a siu yuk over rice the second time. The char siu was dry and the skin on the siu yuk, which should be crisp, was hard enough to almost break my teeth. both visits were maybe two or later in the afternoon. I don't mean to say their very good rep is not deserved based on my two visits, but I think I would go earlier or figure out a way to get fresh barbecue. I was sad to have wasted two HK meals there.

Chengdu China - do you have any restaurant recommendations???... PLEASE

Have no argument with the making of money, but really wish there were more serious foodies among the throngs who need to be wined and dined in the name of business and progress. High-end restaurants don't have to serve good food to be successful, unfortunately. Or perhaps they only serve good food to their important customers.

Chengdu China - do you have any restaurant recommendations???... PLEASE

I thought the article was pretty well done actually. I hope you don't need to be a Sichuan food expert to enjoy eating here.

Zi Fei's location combined with the price tag puts it into a category of restaurant that I usually avoid, the kind of place where the point is to impress your guests with the amount of money you are spending. The presentation is often exaggerated at the expense of flavour and quality of ingredients. The guanxi that the author talks about also works against newcomers; I think it is highly unlikely that just anyone could walk in and have a very good meal. That said, I haven't eaten there and was happy to read someone else's impressions.

Dong Hu has a very good reputation locally. Wasn't really on my radar before, mainly due to its location, but no arguments with this rec.

The conclusion of the story, of course, is go eat at the fly restaurant - Yang Yang. My only complaint is the mildness of their dishes makes me suspect they automatically make things less spicy for obvious foreigners. I thought that the estimated cost of 150 yuan without drinks or tip (tip, seriously?) was way out of line. I have trouble spending more than 30 yuan per person there. If I had seen this query early enough to respond this would have been on my list.

How to find great miso?

Hi all, a few weeks ago I was eating lunch cooked by some friends and at the end we ate miso soup, which was miles and miles better than any I'd ever eaten, really rich and complex. The bag of miso was caramel coloured, and though we had a language barrier I made out that it was 'chemical-free' miso, or something like that. Anyway, it got me wondering about how to find really top quality miso. I doubt I can find that particular kind (I live in China) which was bought in Japan but does anyone have a brand they really love or some tips to judge quality - colour, consistency?

Oct 28, 2010
pepper_mil in General Topics

What can I do with fresh chestnuts?

Hi all, my local market is now selling peeled chestnuts, both with and without the inner brown skins. Have never cooked with them before, besides making tortes with canned chestnut paste. What would be some delicious ways to use them? I am mostly interetested in savoury ideas but if you have a real knock-your-socks-off desert please share too.

Oct 01, 2010
pepper_mil in Home Cooking