Sun Noodle Brand Instant Shoyu Ramen

My trip to T&T last week resulted in me bringing home a whole load of new things I wanted to try, of course. The first one that I broke out was Sun Noodle Brand Instant Shoyu Ramen. It’s about $6.50 per frozen package, but each one serves two, so even though it’s not as cheap as the dried, instant stuff, it’s still a pretty darned affordable meal.

I’ve had shoyu broth, which is predominantly chicken and soy sauce flavoured, in Japan, and at Ichiko Ramen (formerly Ginza Ramen), and I’ve made it at home as well. (The fantastic — and easy! — homemade soup base recipe can be found on page 8 of Simply Ramen by Amy Kimoto-Kahn (2016) or at easypeasyjapanesey.com.) Although I’m by no means an expert, I think that I can at least tell what shoyu ramen is supposed to taste like, for the most part.

The package only contains the noodles and the broth, though; the instructions on the back of the package recommend adding your favourite toppings. I needed to make a quick meal, so I went with what we had in the fridge/freezer/pantry: soft-boiled eggs, narutomaki, enoki mushrooms, dried shrimp, and nori.

The verdict on this quick dinner was pretty positive. Sure, it’s not as good as homemade, and definitely not as good as restaurant fare. But it’s miles better than the dried instant kind. The noodles have a better consistency, which in the case of ramen means that they’re chewier (dried ones have a tendency to be soggy when cooked). The broth had more depth of flavour, although the one complaint I did get is that it was a little bit too salty. That might have been because of the dried shrimp, which are quite salty in and of themselves. Usually I add them to my homemade broths, which are very low in salt, and that works well, but they may not be a great combination with packaged stuff. It also could have been because I didn’t water down the broth enough. The instructions gave a range of the amount of water you could use, and then said “to taste”, so I guess our “to taste” is a little more watery than the official directions.

That being said, they were definitely good enough to try again! Maybe I’ll switch up the toppings next time; we could definitely have used more vegetables that night.

The Passing of a Legend

I took one twenty-four hour period away from the Internet last week and took the girls up for their first visit to the cottage that my parents rent for the summer, and it seems like in that time the world decided to fall apart. The local and world political stages became even more polarized, interpersonal crises reared their ugly heads… And on Friday June 8th, Anthony Bourdain, one of my absolute favourite celebrities, committed suicide.

I’m having a very difficult time articulating why the death of this man has hit me so much harder than the passing of other famous people. It’s definitely not because I had any kind of personal relationship with the man; in fact, I had never even met him (although it was kind of a personal goal to get him to sign something at some point). Perhaps part of it is because he was not yet old, and still very vibrant. After all, he was working on Parts Unknown when he died. Perhaps part of it is because of the way that he died. Depression affects many of those that I hold nearest and dearest, and so it is brought up to the forefront of my mind that I might lose loved ones the same way.

So I sat in my favourite corner of my house — the end of the living room couch that I have claimed as mine — with copies of the Bourdain books that I own and an iPad running the old episode of No Reservations about Quebec. I poured myself a stiff drink and listened to his voice over — and honestly, the attitude that came through in his voice overs (and in his non-fiction writing, which played in my head in his voice) were the best part. For example, when describing poutine: “I’d like to introduce you to that most magical and indigenous dish for which every Quebecker holds a rightfully special place in their heart. It’s called poutine, and it’s as unlikely a melange of ingredients of any of the other incongruously bizarre yet much loved national dishes. To experience this conceptually nightmarish yet thoroughly wonderful gastronomic trainwreck, my friend Ian takes me to La Banquise, where demand for this stuff is such that it necessitates staying open twenty-four hours a day.”

It wasn’t until then that I could put into words why Anthony Bourdain’s death devastated me in a way that David Bowie’s, or Alan Rickman’s, or even Carrie Fisher’s never did. You see, although I love music, I will never be a great musician. I love film and television, and even though I worked in the industry it was always behind the scenes — I just don’t have the right stuff to be an actor. But I can cook — not always successfully, not always beautifully, and definitely not professionally, but I can cook. And I can explore. And I can travel. And I can meet people and learn about cultures and traditions and life.

That was what Anthony Bourdain, his writing, and his television career were to me: an inspiration, and a gateway to the world. He traveled and ate and wrote and I could live vicariously through him. Not only that, he didn’t just travel to the hot spots and eat in fancy restaurants, he visited peoples’ homes and ate home cooked food. Heck, he even had a soft spot for street meat. Haute cuisine or a family dinner, he saw it all as important, and he forced us all to see that for all of our differences, we all have at least one thing in common: we all have to eat.

Anthony, you will be greatly missed. The world is lessened with your passing.

Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.
(Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly)

But I do think the idea that basic cooking skills are a virtue, that the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill, should become as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.
(Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook)

Unless you’re one of us already, you’ll probably never cook like a professional. And that’s okay. On my day off, I rarely want to eat restaurant food unless I’m looking for new ideas or recipes to steal. What I want to eat is home cooking, somebody’s — anybody’s mother’s or grandmother’s food. A simple pasta pomodoro made with love, a clumsily thrown together tuna casserole, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, all of this is pure exotica to me, even when I’ve been neck deep all day in filet mignon and herb-infused oils and all the bits of business we do to distinguish restaurant food from what you get at home. My mother-in-law would always apologize before serving dinner when I was in attendance, saying, “This must seem pretty ordinary for a chef…” She had no idea how magical, how reassuring, how pleasurable her simple meat loaf was for me, what a delight even lumpy mashed potatoes were — being, as they were, blessedly devoid of truffles or truffle oil.
(Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly)

613flea Saturday June 9th

I’m happy to say that I’ll be at 613flea tomorrow (Saturday, June 9th) from 10am to 4pm. 613flea is held, as it usually is, at the Aberdeen Pavilion in Lansdowne Park, right in downtown Ottawa.

I have so much new-old stuff this time! The last 613flea was such a success that I was able to invest in all kinds of interesting vintage kitchenware — particularly Pyrex and Tupperware this time, alongside some actual antiques.

So pop on by for a gander! It’s a lot of fun, with so much cool stuff to browse. Hope to see you there!

T&T Supermarket

I spent a few wonderful hours yesterday perusing T&T Supermarket with a good friend. It really got my creativity rolling to check out so many new ingredients. Sadly, I didn’t find any shiso, which was one of the things I needed for a Pork-Wrapped Egg Onigiri that I wanted to try. I may have to improvise, but that’s nothing new.

As is our wont, we had to stop by the hot foods area (a canteen, really) in the store for some lunch. I grabbed an assortment of foods from the hot buffet, including deep-fried octopus, salt and pepper pork, sweet and sour pork, General Tso chicken, pan-fried pork dumplings, and breaded, deep-fried fish — with a side of rice, of course! Not necessarily the healthiest lunch, but definitely enjoyable. My fave was definitely the octopus.

Pulled Pork

Last night we had my brother-in-law over for dinner again, so I had to make a meal that was filling enough for a family of four and a grown man who is seriously into Muay Thai. I settled on pulled pork, using my trusty formula (not really a recipe per se).

This time I served it with mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus, although it would have been a perfect day to run the oven and make some fresh bread. I don’t think it went above 15°C (59°F) and it rained most of the day, so it was pretty damp as well. That’s not horrible weather for spring, but by the time we hit June around here we expect it to be a bit warmer. I have been kind of hoping to start working on my garden this week, but the weather just hasn’t been cooperating. At this point I’m just growing a fantastic crop of weeds, and that’s just sad. I can do better than this.

Breakfast for Supper

Last night I was running errands with the girls until just before dinner time, so I needed a quick, easy, and nutritious meal to feed the family. I chose bacon (cooked in the microwave — it’s much less messy that way), eggs (over easy or scrambled, depending on preference), enormous everything bagels from Costco, and a homemade fruit salad.

It’s a good thing that I chose such a simple dinner, actually, because my brother-in-law popped by around dinner time. I don’t think he was originally planning to join us for a meal! However, it’s quite easy to throw on a couple of extra eggs and pieces of toast. My door is always open, but for some meals it’s definitely easier to “throw an extra potato in the pot”, as my mother would say.

Just Breathe

This weekend was a great deal of fun, but hardly what I’d call relaxing. After sending the girls to school Friday morning, I drove up to the cottage my parents are renting for the summer to help bring up a season’s worth of gear. I was back in time to greet the kids after school, at which point I starting packing up everything I’d need for Russell Flea on Saturday.

Saturday I was up bright and early to vend at Russell Flea; after packing up my stall at close of business, I drove directly from there to a friend’s fantastic house party that doubles as a fundraiser for CHEO. At the same time, the kids participated in a community parade in the morning, then went out with their grandparents, then Thing 1 went to a birthday party. Meanwhile, after getting the kids to the grandparents, my husband went off to a Magic: The Gathering tournament with his brother.

Despite the late night at the house party, Sunday I had to be up early again to make an out-of-town pickup of items for my flea market stall. I brought Thing 2 along with me, since my husband was taking Thing 1 with him so that they could play as a team at the second day of the Magic tournament. I brought Thing 2 with me back to the house party, where we hung out and played video games, most notably Beat Saber. Then Thing 2 and I went out for dinner with a friend of mine, then I dropped her off, then I brought Thing 2 home to put her to bed…

And then I collapsed on the couch for a few hours.

All that to say that it has been a pleasant weekend, but I am exhausted. I rather wish that we had a labyrinth like the one in Carleton Place, which I happened upon a couple of weeks ago when in town for yet another pick up. When I saw the sign, I was kind of hoping for a hedge maze, but this was pretty darned cool. It’s meant to be a meditative, spiraling walk to the center of the stone pathway, and then back out again.

I’m not generally much of one for meditation, but after a weekend like this one I think that walking a labyrinth like this would help me clear my head. A good night’s sleep probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

And I have to remember to breathe.