It Happened to Me Life

Tonight’s dinner: Mapo tofu!

Photo: Cast iron pan full of ma po tofu (Cut-up tofu, ground pork, and spicy chili sauce, garnished with sliced green onion).
I love this stuff. Tap the photo to see it at full size.

One of my favorite Chinese dishes is mapo tofu, a Sichuan dish whose name translates as “pockmarked grandma’s tofu”. It’s a nice, high-protein dish as it’s made from ground pork and cut-up firm tofu, and it’s also a high-octane dish thanks to its use of Sichuan peppercorns. It also calls for lots of garlic, ginger, and green onion.

I was out of that really red Chinese chili oil that always ends up on whatever white that I’m wearing. I replaced it with a mix of Chinese chili sauce (not sriracha — this is different stuff), Sichuan pepper flakes, and sesame oil, and it still came out pretty tasty.

Here’s the real deal recipe, if you’re interested.

Internet Finds

So it’s come to this: Hot dog rice krispies treats with ketchup, mustard, and relish

Photo: Rice krispies treats, but with cut-up hot dog embedded in them, and slathers with ketchup, mustard, and relish.
Tap the photo to see it at full size.

Sick and tired of your sourdough starter? Looking for your next culinary challenge? Here it is.

These are a creation of The Vulgar Chef. I’ll admit it; I’m intrigued.


Arepas — they’re what’s for dinner!

Tap the photo to see it at full size.

One of the (many, many) nice things about our neighborhood is that we’re walking distance from a couple of supermercados. While everyone else was failing at physical distancing outside the local taco and burrito places and waiting an extra-long time for their Cinco de Mayo dinner pick-up orders, we were relaxed at home enjoying arepas.

We cooked them in butter and topped them with shredded manchego, slices of cilantro-lime sausage, vegetables, guacamole, and cotija cheese (you can never have enough cheese). For dessert, we had coconut flan.


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 11: You Know You’re in Texas When You’re Knee-Deep in Sauce

Barbecue and hot sauce, that is! The place where we stayed was a block away from the Whole Foods flagship store and we dropped in for breakfast on our first day. I couldn’t resist getting a photo of their hot sauce / barbecue sauce aisle.

Want this photo as a desktop? Here you go — right-click here and pick “Save As…”!


Milwaukee Travel Diary, Part 1: Deep-Fried Cheese Curds

View from an airplane window, looking at a United Airlines jet at O'Hare

It’s tempting to go with the same-old, same-old when travelling on business. You typically end up in a hotel somewhere near downtown, and these places are typically near the same chains no matter where you are: Starbucks, Subway and so on. While it’s nice to have the familiar within easy reach – and hey, the coffee and sandwich options were far worse before Starbucks and Subway – if you’re going to have the exact same things while away, why go at all?

My terribly early Friday morning flight to Milwaukee by way of O’Hare put me in my hotel shortly after ten. I had a lot of work to do before meeting with customers that afternoon, and the area I was in was all hotels, office buildings and malls, so lunch meant a run to some nearby food court to see if there was anything that was either:

  1. Local and tasty (if a little less healthy)
  2. Chain-based and healthy (if a little same-old, same-old)

That’s when I ran into this:

Culver's logo: "Culvers / Frozen Custard / Butterburgers"

I’d only heard of frozen custard thanks to Alton Brown’s show, Feasting on Asphalt. As for “Butterburger”, something with a name like that had to be good. Here’s what I ended up ordering:

Diet Coke, deep-fried cheese curds, ButterBurger

In the photo above, the thing to the left is the ever-recognizable Diet Coke. (Do you know why people drink Diet Coke? Because they’re fat and thirsty.)

On the right, a swiss-and-mushroom ButterBurger. It’s pretty good, a cut above your McDonald’s/Burger King/Wendy’s burger and the bread’s pretty nice. They say that they “lightly butter” the bun, but perhaps “lightly” means something different in Wisconsin. No matter: I love butter.

As for my side, those things in the middle are deep-friend cheese curds. That’s right: cheese curds, just like the ones we put on top of poutine, breaded and deep-fried. They were delicious, and we need to get some place to start serving them here.

Here’s an even crazier idea that came to me while enjoying my lunch: what if we made poutine with these babies instead of uncooked cheese curds? C’mon, Smoke’s, I know you can do this!

For dessert, I had the frozen custard flavour of the day: turtle, which was vanilla frozen custard with chocolate and caramel sauces and pecans. Frozen custard is a little richer-tasting because it’s made with eggs, and its texture is thicker since it has less air whipped into it than ice cream does. It’s good stuff, and I want more.


The Truth About Mixed Nuts

Photo of mixed nuts: 'Mixed nuts are cashews with obstacles.'

So very, very true.



I make it a point to always get some street food whenever I’m travelling, and Vancouver’s signature street food is the Japadog, a hot dog done Japanese-style. Here’s my coworker David smiling in anticipation of a delicious east-meets-west organ-meats-in-casings lunch on Friday:

Part of Japadog’s charm is their delightful Engrish signage. It’s so very charmingly quirky that I wouldn’t be surprised if their misspellings and malapropisms were intentional. After all, they did get me to take this photo and post it online:

Click the photo to see it at full size.

I had the “Spicy Cheese Terimayo Dog”, their biggest seller in 2010, pictured below:

I’d never describe it as spicy, nor would I call the sauce spread over it “cheese”. The shredded nori gives the dog a “Japanese” flavour, but in the end, it wasn’t the “Western food through the Japanese funhouse mirror” kind of good that a number of other places have mastered (MOS Burger are particularly good at this).

I think I would’ve preferred the Oroshi dog: bratwurst with green onions and soy sauce. Maybe I’ll grab one before taking the train to the airport tomorrow.