When visiting Ottawa one night we met some friends at an Ethiopian restaurant – Horn of Africa – close to the Byward Market. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into but it is not typical Western dining. I kind of expected the restaurant to North-America-fy the food by giving us, you know, cutlery? Luckily the Horn of Africa doesn’t stoop to this level and no cutlery was required in this dinner.I can’t really say I have mastered the technique as of yet since the table in front of me was a lentil-warzone by the time we were finished but I’m confident next time we go back I’ll improve. The trick apparently is taking bigger pieces of the crepes. As you can see you have a choice of a few saucy messes to choose from.
The idea is that you rip off a piece of tef crepe (similar to buckwheat) and use it as a wrap for you saucy messes. There were a few extremely spicy options and quite a few lentil options (woot!).
The saucy stuff is incredibly flavourful (if you can taste it through the spice!) and rich. The other great thing about this restaurant is it’s incredibly cheap. We had 3 large platters between 5 people – more than enough food – and our bill came to $11 each. If you don’t know Canadian dining prices this is about a third of the price of a regular dinner out. If you’re in around the market give it a try. The decor leaves something to be desired but you can’t beat the price and the novelty of eating with your hands!
Tana Coffee in Ottawadd
Frenchie and I went to Tana Coffee for breakfast one morning while I was in Ottawa. They were just finishing up yoga since it was a Sunday morning. Apparently they clear some tables every Sunday morning and have a yoga session at the back of the restaurant. Apparently they are going to start roasting their own beans in the near future.
I had a latte and half of Frenchie’s muffin along with a breakfast sandwich.
A shot of some kale I was chopping
I’ve never tried to make Thai food from scratch – I always opt for the pre-made curry paste. I was recently challenged by a friend to recreate Penang Red Curry and I obliged since I cannot turn down a cooking challenge. As it turns out making curry paste from scratch is not that difficult. You should be able to find all the ingredients at your local Asian grocer – in my case I went to the Asian Market. There are a few strange items on the list but nothing the shop keeper can’t help you find. Essentially you purchase a bunch of strange ingredients and pop it in a food processor. The peppers provide some spice (I only used two or three) and tomato paste actually provides the red hue.
I didn’t know shallots were a South East Asian ingredient – I think of shallots as Italian – but they even had them at the Asian Market so there you have it – below is the shallots, galangal (similar to ginger) and lemon grass chopped up and ready for the food processor. The lemon grass is quite woody so it takes quite a while in the food processor. Try to chop it as finely as possible before putting it in the processor and don’t add too much coconut milk since that will make the processor less effective – you do need just enough coconut milk to make the blades turn easily though! I learned this the hard way and almost blew the motor once. The alternative would be to buy frozen pre-chopped lemon grass which I will most likely do next time.
Here’s the finished product with a bit of chopped basil added at the end served over brown rice (I would make it with white rice next time). Usually you would use shrimp paste in this recipe but since my roommate is allergic to shrimp I opted out of the shrimp paste.
Thai Red Curry Chicken
- 2 shallots
- 3 red chilis (or more for a spicier curry – 3 chilis is pretty mild)
- 1 stalk lemongrass chopped, OR 3 Tbsp. frozen pre-chopped lemongrass
- 1-2 red chilies, OR 1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, OR 2-3 tsp. Thai chili sauce
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 chunk of galangal (I used the whole piece that I bought – maybe 3 square inches)
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice (yes I actually squeezed fresh lime juice)
- 2 Cans of Coconut Milk (my favourite is Thai Kitchen)
- 6 chicken breasts – sliced
- A handful of fresh basil
- 2 Cups of rice (cooked)
1. Place all ingredients except for the chicken, coconut milk and basil in a food processor and pulse. Add a few tablespoons of coconut milk so the blades spin smoothly. Run the food processor until the paste looks smooth.
2. Heat a sauce pan on medium heat and add some coconut oil once the pan is up to temperature (waiting for the pan to fully heat up will prevent the chicken from sticking). Add the chicken and the curry paste. Saute until the chicken is sealed (5-10 minutes).
3. Add the remaining coconut milk and simmer on low heat (another 5-10 minutes). At the last minute add a handful of fresh basil (or substitute cilantro) and stir in.
4. Serve over rice and enjoy.
Day 9 – Today was a lot of novelty: Mexican breakfast, Elk burgers (first time at The Works Peterborough – which was extra interesting because it’s located in the old Trasheteria night club), and a salad I’ve never tried at Hot Bellys.
Fried Egg on a corn tortilla with avocado – Kfran and I got the corn tortillas in New York state- the other brand was sold out so we got Chi Chi. They taste a lot better when fried.
The Works – A locally sourced Elk burger with a gluten free bun – The gluten-free bun was awesome as gluten-free buns go. I could hardly tell the difference (but yes I could tell). I had a burger with brie and pear – a great combo. The elk was not very gamey and very flavourful.
Hot Belly Mamas (Peterborough) – Havana Salad with blackened chicken. (yum!) The pesto dressing is scrumptiously garlicky!
Day 8 – Tim Horton’s is a celiac warzone. Not having eaten breakfast on my route from Kingston to Peterborough I needed to stop for a snack. The only thing I could come up with to eat was the yogurt and berries cup. Luckily it’s pretty tasty. They also have a chili option which I would have to investigate further on – anyone know if it is gluten-free. They also have oatmeal but that is generally warned against for gluten-intolerant people since there is so much cross-contamination. If you have intense gluten allergies I would probably advise against Tim Horton’s at all.
Tim Horton’s Yogurt Cup
Another Tim Horton’s Yogurt Cup (no, I did not plan today out too well)
Bombay Chicken at 38 Degrees in Peterborough. The meal came with roasted squash and other veggies and was served on a bed of… not rice but mashed potatoes. It was great.
Creme Brule – wait is this gluten-ful? I may have accidentally cheated AGAIN. Blerg. Update: I checked a few recipes and creme brule is gluten-free! To be on the safe side of course you should always ask!
Day 7 – Eating out can be tricky – luckily Thai is a good bet since most of the dishes come with rice or rice noodles. Thai is even okay for our paleo-diet friends too (without the rice of course). If you have extreme intolerance to gluten you still have to ask a lot of questions that the servers might not know the answers to… as we found out.
Curried Lentil Poutine
Cashew Chicken from Thai House Cuisine (a new addition to the Southeast Asian restaurant scene in Kingston). Review coming soon, promise.
Bankok Sunrise (that mango juice was legit!).
Lentil Chips – from the Bulk Barn – Thanks K-fran!
Day 6 – K-fran went on a gluten-free shopping spree and bought a variety of gluten-free chips from the Bulk Barn. We’re going to taste test them in the coming days.
Homemade Latte – Thanks to my new stovetop espresso pot.
Curried Lentil Poutine
Lemony Chicken (Leftovers – I didn’t have any spinach at work though – still great on it’s own).
Lentil Chips – from the Bulk Barn – Thanks Kfran!
Smart Pop Microwave Popcorn.
Day 5 and I really need to spice things up a bit. My meal plans are getting pretty boring.
Homemade Latte – Milk
Curried Lentil Poutine
Lemony Chicken & Spinach Salad – A freestyled recipe: 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice, 1/4 Cup Olive Oil, Garlic, 1 Tbsp Honey, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme – Sear chicken for a few minutes on a cast iron pan and then cook in oven at 350 for 30 minutes.
HOITO is a Finnish restaurant in Thunder Bay that was started to give the Finnish-immigrant Lumberjacks a cheap place to eat on their breaks from slaving away in the forest. Though everyone talks about how you MUST go to the Hoito when visiting Thunder Bay I would also keep in mind it’s basically a greasy spoon in a basement.
Personally I love the kind of restaurant that hasn’t changed in 30 years – you can still eat at the bar! (Side note: do they still call a counter a bar if they don’t serve alcohol?).
They have various foreign-sounding Finnish dishes but I opted for the pancakes. I had heard they don’t serve real maple syrup (maybe there are no maple trees in Finland) so I opted for the fruit dressing (I’m a big syrup snob). The fruit topping is homemade so it’s a good choice.
The pancakes are actually more like crepes than pancakes – in Finnish style. They were awesome.
Thunder Bay has a lot of Finnish influence. There are Finnish stores and spas everywhere – I don’t think it’s bad thing. If you’re looking for dinner or drinks the Madhouse is just down the street from the Hoito and is an offbeat pub with lots of interesting mixed drinks. Note the Finnish bookstore in the background.