Steamed Pork Spareibs In Black Bean Sauce

Snowy Palms Resort

As a young'un growing up in East Vancouver I was immersed in many different cultures. Our neighbours were Chinese, Indian (East and Indigenous), Italian, British  (you could tell them by their dental work, and they smelled like breakfast sausage, very odd really) Japanese, Portuguese, African and of course French, there's always a frigging French in the crowd isn't there? The ironic fact was the French were in my family. French Canadian. From Alberta! I couldn't escape them.

But it was the Chinese and Japanese friends and neighbours that were to make the largest culinary imprint on me given the great foods those nationalities produce and the fact I was involved in martial arts for a number of years which was populated by Japanese and Chinese interestingly enough expanded my experience as well. Go figure.

As a result of having many friends from those areas and in particular one family friend who was also a coach of mine who was Chinese, Bob was his name and sadly he passed away a couple of years ago now but his presence in my younger life was large and now permanently ingrained in my being. He is the reason many in the family are hopelessly addicted to foods from Asia.

Bob was a mans man, tough as nails and dangerously talented in a few disciplines of martial arts (not to be confused with marital arts, an entirely different sweaty pursuit) and he loved food. Chinese food in particular and it was with him as our guide that we ventured to the restaurants of Vancouver's Chinatown in the early and mid seventies on a gastronomic journey that defined what love of Chinese food is for this lo fung.

Bob would take us to restaurants where we were the lone westerners in attendance and knowing the owners or managers of the restaurants he would go into the kitchens and place his order with the chefs. We never knew what we were going to get, we only knew it would be different for us and taste fantastic. No deep fried chicken balls. No breaded shrimp. No egg foo yung. No Combo #5. It was heaven for a developing foodie and his family.

Back then as now, many westerners think good Chinese food is Combo #5, deep fried greasy breaded balls of who-the-hell-knows, sweet and sour sauce that is all sweet and no sour and cooked-to-death veggies served with copious amounts of MSG and not much else. Oh, and make it a smorgasbord and there you have the quintessential Chinese food offering many go gaga for. For me that food makes me gag and I gave up long ago trying to convert the nonconvertible, to get them to walk away from that awful “tourist food” and walk toward the light of skilled wok cookery where nary a deep fryer exists. It was and is the impossible, but I still try.

A the top of my Chinese food favourites is Dim Sum. Back in the early 70's there was only one restaurant in Vancouver that offered it and it was not a place many of us non Chinese would venture to for a Sunday brunch, but Bob took us there and showed us another element of food that was mind blowing. It was Nirvana! All the waitresses pushing carts laden with a myriad of different offerings, none of which I had ever tasted before and they would give them to me just by asking!!! Awesome, in a word. So as the little baskets of goodness were placed on the table we all went in for the attack with our chop sticks and with the first taste it was love at first bite for me (sounds like a Twilight saga huh?).

Shrimp. Pork. Beef. Chicken. Other seafood’s and veggies that were divine. Char siu bau which are steamed buns filled with barbeque pork. Har Gow - shrimp dumplings. Siu mai, - pork filled dumplings and the list goes on. At the top of the list, a crowded place I admit, is the steamed spareribs in black bean sauce. Placing a rib and some sauce on a little bit of rice is a delightful taste experience to say the least.

When I left Vancouver in my late teens I left dim sum behind. In the places I was to call home for 20 plus years there was no such thing as dim sum, so it became a ritual for me that I attend a dim sum when I went back to Vancouver at every opportunity. I took on the challenge that is making dim sum and discovered that making those items is really, really difficult, at least it was for me. But there were a few that I mastered and spareribs in black bean sauce was one. I haven't made them for a long time since living in Edmonton now there are a couple of great dim sum restaurants that serve it 7 days a week and it is easier to buy than make. Paradise! Well almost; It is Edmonton and not Grand Cayman after all.

Bob opened up a world of food for us that I still enjoy, no, idolize, to this very day. He was a great coach and a good man and every young guy should be allowed one Bob in his life , if only for a short while. The master taught the student a thing about pride and being strong even when your guts were trailing out an orifice behind you. Suck it up and get back in there! He also had a daughter I talked about once before, you know the one who I hope is living in a RV Park, in a bumper-pull trailer, in Surrey, living with the truck driver Bubba and her 12 kids from 13 different fathers. Ya that one. I'm so over her you know...

I had a hankering for some chow mein and some spareribs today for some reason and I didn't want to drive for dim sum, so I went to the market and bought the fixings to make a feast, and that I did. I will detail the spareribs to you in this posting and save the chow mein for a later date.

Steamed Spareribs With Black Bean Sauce

2 lbs pork spareribs, cut into 1” - 2” pieces (I like back ribs because they are more meat, less fat)

2 Tbsp black bean sauce

1 Tbsp rice wine, sherry or sake

2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, cut into slivers

2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cooking oil
1 tsp sesame oil, pure
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp five spice powder (optional)

You will need a steamer that can fit the bowl or plate you will use to steam the ribs. Better yet head on down to the Asian market and buy a couple of bamboo steamers. They are damn handy for many things.

Yes I know the steaming basket is upside down!  On the pot the steamer fits great this way and I invert the top basket and used the lid from the pot to seal it. A MacGyver steaming ensemble...

Have the butcher cut the spareribs crosswise into 1" - 2" sections, many Asian markets or good supermarkets will have them pre-cut on the shelf, if not ask to cut them lengthwise. The you can cut them into individual pieces when you get ready to cook.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl or cup and mix well. Pour mixture over the ribs and toss to coat evenly. Place in fridge and let marinate for 4 hours, or even over night.

Transfer spareribs and remaining sauce into a shallow, heatproof pan that will fit inside your steamer, a pie plate works great.

Place steamer over a large pot of boiling water, cover with the lid and steam for 20 – 60 minutes (depends on the amount of steam your stove can generate and how many ribs and how spread out they are).

Check the ribs at 20 minutes and every 10 minutes after. I like to steam them longer to get them tender, but they need to be cooked through to the bone regardless. When no longer pink they are ready to eat, but may be too chewey, so steam them longer if you have the time.

Check water level every time you check the ribs to ensure the pot does not run dry, top up with a hot water from a kettle if required.

Serve with jasmine rice or whatever turns yer crank...

And I am sooooo over her. Really...

Honeymoon Fried Rice or Ying Yang Fried Rice

Honeymoon Rice or Ying Yang Fried Rice recipe at bottom of page...

As a few of you may know, I grew up in Vancouver after being born in Edmonton and then spirited out to the west coast in the dead of night, quite against my will initially. I went so far as to post missing child posters on lamp standards and telephone poles around my Vancouver neighbourhood in the hopes that some well meaning person would contact the authorities about the lost waif that would  end up with me being sent back to Edmonton. The posters had my picture and my grandmothers Edmonton phone number on them, and sadly no one cared enough about the poor lost soul to call the police, even when I had a poster taped to my chest and stood on the corner of our busy street waving my arms.

Finally, after a time, I came to love Vancouver and stayed there for a few more years to finish grade school and high school. I became familiar and fell in love with the Chinese culture due to friends and neighbours that lived in the area. It was in those years I came to love, I mean really love Chinese food. I also fell in love with a Chinese girl who would later rip out my heart and stomp on it like a reviled diseased cockroach then drop me like a used Kleenex,(I hope she's fat, lonely, and lives in a trailer in Whalley! A single wide!! And her live-in is named Bubba!!!).

I could then, and even still, eat Chinese food morning, noon and night. Rice dishes. Noodle dishes. Hot pots. Vegetables dishes too numerous to mention. Seafood. Dim Sum! OMG!!! I love Dim Sum. Little steamed balls of mystery some people call them. I call them Heaven! Also among my favourite foods were chow mein and tomato beef fried rice from the Ho Inn restaurant on Pender Street. In fact the Ho Inn was my family’s favourite restaurant for many years.

The Ho Inn was a very large restaurant that was set up with private areas containing large round tables and could sit from 6 to 60 people. The food that was served up was what we called “tourist food”, meaning food that the non Chinese diners would enjoy. Mostly the food was westernized versions of authentic dishes from the Cantonese areas of China. Regardless of the authenticity of what was served there, we all loved the food and went there often.

The up side to the Ho Inn apart from the great food was the prices were very, very reasonable and the servings were huge. An order of the beef and tomato fried rice came on a platter that took 2 men and a boy to tote. The chow mein and other dishes were served in similar fashion, which meant left overs and Chinese food for breakfast for Bart. The waiters at that great restaurant were unbelievably efficient and the cooks no slouches either. Sadly it closed after a fire and I don't know if it ever reopened. I expect that even if it reopened it would not be the same as the original, they never are.

The Ho Inn was a great place to meet for a Sunday brunch and especially so if one happened to be nursing the mother of all hangovers, or at least that's what I'm told. I would never have experienced that because I'm pure and innocent, but I do have it on good authority that by eating food from the Ho Inn whilst hungover the skull cramps would subside and the inner demons that possessed the afflicted were cast out onto Pender Street to be run over by a city bus. Quite cathartic really. If one wished for a little hair of the dog one had to bring his or hers own elixir since they weren't a licensed premise, but the waiter would be happy to bring you a cup and something to water it down with. Quite civilized really.

While I have enjoyed some great Chinese food in many places it is that Ho Inn comfort food I yearn for. It does not exist except for a memory, much like the ill fated relationship with that heart stomping girlfriend of long ago, a memory. But I am sooooooo over that now. Except for the food, I'm not over that. So search I still do.

Many experiments were undertaken by yours truly to try to recreate that great food from times past and while I did end up making dishes the family came to love, I never was able to best the tastes of my memory but son-of-a-bitch I ended up cooking some great stuff. One of the dishes we came to love was Ying Yang Fried Rice, or Honeymoon Fried Rice, or simply Honeymoon Rice. The dish was one we craved and could not find easily since few restaurants made it and certainly none in Prince George where we called home for 18 years. So I had to learn to make that as well.

Ying Yang Fried Rice is fried rice topped with a red and white sauce. The white is a mild milky sauce with shrimp and the red is a tangy tomato sauce served with beef, chicken or even pork, my favourite is chicken in this dish, hence – Ying and Yang. Where it gets the Honeymoon Fried Rice title I don't know, but perhaps it is because this dish is sometimes part of a wedding banquet, makes sense I guess. Regardless of its name it is very good.

The first time I ever tasted it I liked it a lot and liked it even more with every mouthful I shovelled in. The best part for me is the red sauce which when done well is very similar to the tomato sauce on the Ho Inn tomato beef fried rice. Very similar I am please to say. My wife likes the white sauce with the shrimp. I mean, she really likes it.

As I studied the taste in restaurants I finally came to a satisfactory version of the red sauce at home and with the help of the internet I came to settle on a recipe for the red sauce that is fantastic. But it was the white sauce that vexed me for years. I could never get it exactly right and asking a server in a restaurant that served it for the ingredients of the white sauce was always met with a “deer in the headlight” look and a smile as she walked away.

Then one fateful day I happened on a dear soul that told me THE secret, or at least the secret to the sauce in their restaurant and by gum, it was the missing link I was searching for. Eager to try it out I gathered up the ingredients to make a batch the next day - and so it was...

4 cups day old rice
2 eggs, well beaten. Bad eggs! Very, very bad eggs! Daddy needs to punish you!!!

2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil

Red Sauce

1/2 lb fresh boneless skinless chicken thighs, sliced thin

In a measuring cup mix together the following ingredients:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ketchup

1 Tbsp light soy sauce

2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp sesame seed oil

1 tsp chicken bouillon (optional)

1/2 tsp ginger powder
2 tsp cornstarch

White Sauce:

2 Tbsp butter

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 lb large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

3/4 cup frozen green peas

In a measuring cup mix together the following ingredients

1 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 tsp cornstarch

pinch of nutmeg ( a very little pinch!)
white pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat in a wok or non stick frying pan. Heat oil until it smokes, add rice, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of soy sauce over it and stir fry until hot, about 2 minutes.

Slowly stir egg into rice and fry continuously until egg is fully cooked. Transfer rice to large pie plate or deep sided serving platter and spread evenly on the platter.

Using the same pan, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat add chicken and fry until just done, about 3 minutes.

Add the Red Sauce mixture and cook for 2 minutes until sauce thickens.

Spoon sauce over half the rice.(Helpful hint: Place a ribbon of cardboard along the center of the rice before adding the sauce to keep a straight line or curve it like a Ying-Yang symbol), I did not do it tonight for this posting. Lazy bastard huh...

Clean pan and return to high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and butter, add garlic and shrimp, stirring constantly to avoid having the garlic brown.

Add the White Sauce ingredients and the green peas and cook until sauce becomes fairly thick, again, stir constantly to keep it from burning.

Once peas are hot spoon white sauce over rice. (Hint: If you placed the paper divider to keep red and white sauces apart, once the white sauce was added, now would be a good time to remove the paper!!!)

You might also note that for tonight's posting I prepared the red sauce first and then the white sauce.  See! I am nothing if not versatile.

Serve hot.

Snowy Palms Resort 

French Crepe with Frangelico Infused Asian Pear Filling


3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp double acting baking powder
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla or 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind (I use 2 tsp vanilla because I LOVE the taste of it)

Sift the dry ingredients into a glass mixing bowl.

Mix the milk, water, eggs and vanilla together in a bowl.

Make a well in the sifted ingredients. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Combine them with a few swift strokes of a whisk. Ignore the lumps; they will take care of themselves. 

You should rest the batter in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour but 3 to 6 hours is best.

Heat a crepe pan over medium heat. Grease it with a few drops of oil. (I use a piece of paper towel dipped in a little canola oil to oil the pan). 

Add a small quantity of batter to the heated pan. If using the Starfrit pan it will take about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of batter to spread over the entire surface of the pan, it really depends on the thickness of the batter so your first crepe will be an experiment. 

Note: The consistency of the batter is determined by the size of the eggs and the moisture content and weight of the 3/4 cup of flour. The more settled (heavier) the flour you use, the thicker the batter will be so be prepared to add a little water or milk to the batter to get it thin enough to flow over the pan bottom easily.

Tip the skillet and spread the batter over the bottom by tilting and twriling the pan by the handle. 

Work the batter to the outside edge of the pan and keep moving until the bottom is covered completely and there is no exposed bottom. Don't you just hate it when the bottom is exposed?

Cook the crepe over moderate heat. As it cooks, bubbles will form and then burst leaving dimples on the surface of the crepe. Keep it over the heat and it will be ready to turn over once the surface is dry looking and the crepe begins to shrink a little and pull away from the side of the pan.

When it is lightly brown underneath, flip it over and lightly, very lightly, brown the other side.

Add your filling, roll, and sprinkle with sugar and top with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, chocolate shavings, berries (gooseberries are to die for on these Dahling if you can find them).

Serve to eager guests and be ready for your 15 minutes of fame...

Say what?  You want the recipe for the filling too?  Oh for crying out loud! Here it is. So simple it's, well, simple.

Cinnamon and Frangelico Spiced Asian Pear Crepe Filling 

5 Asian pears, peeled and diced to 1/2" dice
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon, more if you like
1/4 cup Frangelico hazelnut liqueur

Melt butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add diced pears.

Saute pears for 3-4 minutes then add brown sugar and cinnamon.

Once sugar has melted add Frangelico then bring to a boil, turn down to low simmer and cook over very low heat for 20 minutes until liquids reduce by over half and the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and let mixture cool slightly before using in crepe.

This filling is my invention. It did not appear on the internet. It sprung forth from the mangled furrows of my mind and it is very tasty. You're welcome...

Snowy Palms Resort