1778 Hwy 97 South
Prince George, BC  V2L 5L3

250-564-2255

M-W: 11a – 9p/Th-Sa: 11a – 10p/Su & Holidays: 4p – 9p

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September 3, 2011

In the seven years since we’ve moved up here, this past Labour Day was the first long-weekend *ever* that we’re not driving down to the Coast.  Kinda blows the mind how much driving we do!  However, that being said we still needed to go back-to-school clothes shopping for Mr O, so we decided to make a drive up to Prince George and make a daytrip out of it.

Although not as long of a drive as it is driving into Vancouver, it’s still a bit of distance and by the time we were within the city limits of Prince George, I was more than ready for some lunch.  Situated along the highway on the right-hand side as you’re driving into the city, next to the Four Points by Sheraton hotel, is the Thanh Vu Restaurant.  Now that’s not a name you’d see every day in Williams Lake!  It serves Vietnamese cuisine (coincidentally something I’ve been craving for awhile now.)

We get there after the lunch rush but there were still quite a few tables occupied.  We were seated in a booth, which was separated by glass partitions so you can clearly see over your companion’s shoulder who is sitting in the next booth.  A bit awkward but then you learn to keep eye contact with those you’re sitting with.

The menu is a little overwhelming at first because there’s just so much STUFF on it.  Plus you have adjust to reading the English menu after the preceding Vietnamese words.  There are lots of different types of rolls and soups to choose from, and the main dishes are broken down into meat categories, which include: beef, chicken, pork, seafood and tofu.  Because of its geographical proximity, Vietnamese cuisine has a lot of influence from Chinese, Indian, Thai and French cuisines (it being a former French colony and all).  So it’s not surprising to find wonton soups next to the curries next to the baguettes!  Today, Mr O ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee and the Chicken Lemon Grass, and I ordered the Spring Rolls with rice noodles.

...the beginnings of something special...

Soft Vietnamese music floated in the background as we waited for our food, and strings of Vietnamese conversation could be heard from the kitchen staff every time that door was swung open.  On one of these occasions the waitress brought over Mr O’s coffee.  Iced coffee is a highly favoured beverage amongst the Vietnamese.  The espresso-strength coffee grinds are pressed into this metal contraption which sits over a glass and hot water is poured in to start to brewing process.  At the bottom of the glass is a layer of sweetened condensed milk, probably about half an inch thick, and it’s neat to watch the black coffee slowly drip onto the creamy surface.  And I’m not kidding about the slow part… it’s not unheard of for the coffee to be finally finished dripping just as you’re finishing up your meal.

Soon after, our food arrives.  Mr O’s chicken was nothing like the grilled lemon grass version we were accustomed to eating down south.  The version here is more akin to a light curry, infused with coconut milk, lemon grass and chili peppers.  The chicken breast is sliced and there is a generous amount of it in the dish, along with sliced onions and scallions.  The coconut actually went really well with the lemon grass, and the curry and chilli peppers did not overwhelm the dish at all.  It’s accompanied by a large bowl of rice which soaks up the sauce beautifully.

...lemon grass curry...

A Vietnamese spring roll is different from a Chinese one in that there are hardly any vegetables in it.  It’s made up mostly of ground pork, which is normally mixed with cellophane noodles, wood-ear mushrooms, grated carrots, egg and various spices.  And the truly authentic stuff is wrapped with rice paper instead of a wheat-based wrapper.  It’s more of a pain to prepare this way, but by using the rice paper the rice content puffs up nicely in the hot oil when it’s deep-fried which gives it a lighter and crispier exterior.

...springroll heaven...

...pork and nuoc mam together at last...

These spring rolls are one of the best I’ve ever had (not including Momma’s of course!) and I love to drown them in the ‘nuoc mam’, which is a sweet and salty concoction made of water, vinegar, sugar and fish sauce.  Yes, I said it… fish sauce… fermented fish extract.  Scrunching your faces is only gonna hurt my feelings so stop that, and I absolutely urge you to try it if the opportunity ever arises.  I used to drown all my food in that stuff as a kid and I knew I wasn’t the only one doing that growing up!

So as I was saying, the spring rolls is served with a heaping pile of vermicelli rice noodles, which have been sprinkled over with pickled carrots and sliced scallions.  Usually you’d find bean sprouts, slivered cucumber and chopped roasted nuts with the noodles too, but not today in Prince George.  And did I pour some of my nuoc mam over my noodles?  Oh you bet I did… I even had to ask the waitress for an extra bowl of the stuff!

We ate and ate until our bellies were stuffed and we still had leftovers.  So we had our food packed away into a doggie bag and by around this point Mr O’s coffee was finally ready for us.  The neatest part about the drink is when you swirl the condensed milk into the coffee and you watch the liquid go from pure black to a nice chocolaty colour.  As kids my siblings and I used to always fight over who go to stir Poppa’s coffee.  So naturally, Mr O let me do the honours today.

Once everything is mixed up nice, a glass full of ice is brought to you and the whole thing is poured right in.  You’d think the milk and melted ice would mellow out the drink, but it’s still crazy strong and one sip is enough to coat the whole mouth; which is perfect if you happen to be eating something spicy, or just happen to crave caffeine like Mr O does.

...coffee pre-iced...

...iced magic...

We didn’t see any signs of a dessert menu, but that was fine because we were much too full for it anyways.  Now we have a whole afternoon of shopping ahead of us to look forward to, which is always better when it’s done on a full stomach.

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Aug 1, 2009

Alrighty, so this next post isn’t exactly a restaurant review… nor is it defined as beyond the borders of hope.  In fact, it’s at my parent’s house right in the heart of East Vancouver.  But I insist on sharing with the world how my family does barbeque at home!

a precursor to a feast!

a precursor to a feast!

First of all… it’s ALLLLLL about the meat!  You have your obligatory green salad and Momma’s specialty potato salad… but the rest of the meal is meat.  Vegetarians are not welcomed.  And it’s REAL meat.  If you’re looking for a hotdog or a hamburger patty… keep on walking!  You won’t find that crap at this party!

I happily snapped away with my camera throughout the meal to the amusement of everyone present.  As soon as food was plucked off the grill and placed onto the serving platter I had to literally beg everyone to give me a moment alone with the meat… (wait… that didn’t quite come out right… heh heh heh).

drumsticks and porksteaks and skewers... oh my!

drumsticks and porksteaks and skewers... oh my!

There was so much food we had to keep two grills going simultaneously.  Lemongrass porkball skewers (my Dad’s own specialty), lemon garlic chicken wings, charsiu style pork steaks, sweet and salty pork belly skewers, savoury and saucy baby back ribs AND short ribs… MMmMmMmm!!

So I’m gonna do something sacrilegious and share the recipe to my Dad’s skewers.  Now, as with most asian cooking there isn’t really any specific amounts of ingredients used so you’ll have to reach for the inner chef within you and go with the flow.  But for simplicity sake, I’ve also included a rough estimate of the ingredient amounts that you can use as a baseline and just add accordingly to suit your own taste.

lemongrass porkball skewers

lemongrass porkball skewers

LEMONGRASS PORKBALL SKEWERS:
  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1/4 c lemongrass, minced
  • 5-10 garlic cloves, chopped finely (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp seasoning salt
  • 1-2 tsp pepper

Throw the whole mess into a very large and sturdy bowl and, using your hands, thoroughly blend everything together.  Once everything is well incorporated, you’ll have to scoop the entire amount of meat out of the bowl and throw it forcefully back down into the bowl.  Work fast otherwise the meat will go flying all over the place, and it’ll create a very loud bang on impact so make sure your pets, young children, and any highly strung adults aren’t in the vicinity when you do this.

Repeat this process a few more times… the more you do it the more smooth and paste-like the meat will become.  This allows for the meat to hold its shape better once they are rolled out.

Alright, now that you’ve worked your aggression out on next dinner, we’re gonna slow things down a bit and allow the seasonings the marinate its way into the meat.  Cover and set aside in the fridge for a few hours.  In the meanwhile, throw some wooden bamboo skewers into a pitcher full of water to let the wood soak.  About an hour before dinner, take the meat out and start to shape them into bite-sized balls.  Make sure they’re uniform in shape so that they all cook evenly.

Ahh… this reminds me of  the old days of sitting around the kitchen table with my sister, mom and whatever aunt that just happened to be around, encircling a GINORMOUS bowl of this stuff.  We were a meatball making factory!  I used to dread it… the call for my name when it was time to roll those damn balls!  But as I matured into the young woman that I am (hey it’s my blog, I can say what I want) I grew to appreciate family gossip for the fun past-time that it is.

But I digress…

Depending on the size of skewer, carefully thread on 5-7 meatballs evenly, making sure not to squish them together too much, otherwise they’ll take longer to cook.  Barbeque them over a well greased grill until it’s thoroughly cooked through and becomes a nice golden colour on the outside.  Serve and enjoy!  This recipe should make enough for 4 people as a main course, or 6-8 people as an appetizer.

X x X x X

All good things do come to an end though… we noticed that the platters began to take longer to empty as everyone started to slow down and it seemed that as soon as one person would push themselves away from the table, the rest followed like a line of dominoes.  Oh there was still so much food to eat… I felt almost guilty for becoming full.  Seeing all the leftovers made me sad because I wasn’t able to take any home with me… (the 6 hour drive makes it pretty inconvenient for any take-away.)

There’s no dish easier to make the next day than leftover barbecued meat served over a bowlful of vermicelli, shredded lettuce, fried onions and drizzled over lightly with some salty nuoc mam.  Yummy!!

ribs ribs ribs!

ribs ribs ribs!

NUOC MAM:
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp vinegar
  • 5 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or 1 tbsp carrot, finely grated
  • 1 small chili pepper, finely sliced (optional)

Combine the water and sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Then stir in the remaining ingredients and use as pleased.  I like to keep mine in a glass jar and it stays in the fridge for up to 3 months.  Incidentally, this is the same sauce you’d use for any Vietnamese fare.

Enjoy!