Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

New Restaurant, Old (Traditional) Food – 上海粗菜馆–Shanghai Élan Restaurant

ImageAugust 22, 2012
上海粗菜馆 – Shanghai Élan Restaurant, Burnaby BC
马兰头香干 (Wild Vegetable w/ Diced Dried Bean Curd)
熏鱼 (Shanghai Style Smoked Fish)
南翔小笼 (Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Bun)
腌笃鲜 (Salted Pork in Hot Pot)
干锅茶树菇鸡 (Wok-fried Chicken with Chinese Mushroom)
红烧走油圆蹄 (Braised Pork Hock w/ Brown Sauce)
素什锦 (Stir Fried Deluxe Mixed Vegetables)

To wrap up a summer of hard but enjoyable work, I got invited out to dinner to a newly opened Shanghai-style restaurant, Shanghai Élan Restaurant in Crystal Mall. I have heard mixed reviews from Mom’s colleagues. The general consensus was quite right, though. It is a good restaurant with superb food but slightly pricier than normal. However, the evening was for celebrations and good food made it just that much better.

To start, we got the traditional 马兰头香干 (Wild Vegetable w/ Diced Dried Bean Curd). I will get this dish at all the Shanghai restaurants I visit. This particular one had decent ingredients: finely chopped vegetables and marinated bean curd. The amount of vegetables versus bean curd was nice. The dish had a nice savoury flavour but was not outstanding. The taste could use a little more savoury, or even sweet, aroma. For me, it was a little bland, or perhaps plain; I was looking for a more complex flavour.

ImageThe 熏鱼 (Shanghai Style Smoked Fish) was exceptional. The fish was crispy on the outside but still had some tender parts on the inside. It was nicely fried but not oily at all, just giving it enough crunchy texture. It soaked up the sweet marinade sauce really well. The smoky sauce was definitely on the sweet side, with some ketchup, soy sauce, and a few other ingredients. It was not watered down and very flavourful; the strong flavour certainly went well with the fish, making it an absolutely scrumptious cold appetizer.Image

Next came yet another traditional dish – the 南翔小笼 (Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Bun). The skin was thin, stretchy, chewy, and not overdone. There was some soup inside, but I thought the pork was not rich enough. More soup was definitely possible had it been fattier ground meat. It had a nice flavour, but again, I am missing that delicate freshness crucial for Shanghai food. The malt vinegar had just enough thin ginger strips and added a nice acidity to the pork. These were decent xiao long bao but they are not the best around town.

A traditional Shanghai-style soup is the 腌笃鲜 (Salted Pork in Hot Pot). It is basically a clear soup with salted pork belly cubes, bamboo shoots, bean curd knots, and bok choy. Due to the salted pork, the soup had an extremely refreshing and slightly savoury taste while not becoming oily and heavy. This also gave the soup its cloudy appearance. The pork was a little tough; the lean parts were slightly on the drier side and the fatty part was not exactly soft and melt-in-you-mouth either. The bamboo shoots and the bok choy were crunchy and refreshing, which I clearly loved. The bean curd knots were hard to get wrong and they added a nice texture to the soup, which in itself was quite good.Image

I am not sure how much of a traditional Shanghai dish 干锅茶树菇鸡 (Wok-fried Chicken with Chinese Mushroom) is, but I certainly loved this dish. It was extremely spicy and full of bold flavours. The tea tree mushrooms soaked up the flavour, as did the onions, bamboo shoots, and a few other vegetables in the dish. They were perhaps coated in a little too much of the chili oil, but at least the spiciness was much appreciated. The chicken was slightly fried so some parts had a little crispy outside. I found it to be a little dry and tough, the meat not being tender. It soaked up some flavour, but it could have been done better for sure. Despite all the oil in the sauce, I loved just how strong the spicy chili and other flavours were.Image

The 红烧走油圆蹄 (Braised Pork Hock w/ Brown Sauce) was also decent but not the best I have had. The sauce was slightly sweeter than usual, which was absolutely fine by me. I think they might have added a little ketchup, although I am not sure. It was, however, not very strong in flavours: a little sweet, a little savoury. I think a thicker sauce would be nicer, and it was also a bit too oily for me. The pork was mostly tender but a few parts were a little dry and tough. It did not completely soak up the flavour, which also did not help it become moist and very succulent. The skin for the most part was soft; however, it was not melt-in-your-mouth perfection. The whole piece of meat just seemed to be a little overdone in my opinion. The bok choy offered a refreshing contrast in both flavour and texture. This is where I really would have appreciated a less greasy sauce, so the bok choy could be flavourful but not oily.Image

Finally, we had 素什锦 (Stir Fried Deluxe Mixed Vegetables) for something with more vegetables. It was a mix of some of my favourites: black wood ear fungi, shiitake and button mushrooms, carrots, bamboo shoots, napa cabbage, bean curd slices, and wheat gluten. All the vegetables were cooked nicely, coated in the sweet sauce. Again, this was a sweet dish, which I absolutely loved. The sauce was more of a sweet soy sauce but nicely thickened. The vegetables soaked up the flavour while maintaining their freshness and for some of them, the crunch. My favourites were the napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and black wood ear. The bamboo shoots were also good. I am just a fan of sweet dishes so this matched my palate perfectly.Image

The dinner that slightly expensive but offered great Shanghai food turned out to be an excellent way to celebrate. I loved the new renovations. While it was quite noisy, the service was friendly and the place looked great. The silverware and plates and such were all new, without chips on the side, and had some designs instead of just the traditional white round dishes. New restaurants are just so much nicer than ones that have been around for years. I think I would still go back to Richmond for Shanghai food but this was definitely not a bad choice for dinner.

Shanghai Elan Restaurant 上海粗菜館 on Urbanspoon

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A Plain Jane’s Breakfast – Tim Hortons

ImageAugust 22, 2012
Tim Hortons, Burnaby BC
Plain Bagel

Apparently, plain just plainly means really… well… plain. I was surprised to find that Tim Hortons’ Plain Bagel, while slightly sweet, was not as sweet as the bagels with sesame seeds and the other standard toppings. I would imagine that with nothing on top, the bagel would have a more distinct flavour. The texture was good: chewy, slightly tough, and quite dense. This is one of the main reasons I love bagels – my jaws get a workout from all the chewing! A little more sweetness would have been nice. If I had an option, I would not choose this bagel over the other varieties, but it was not exactly bad.

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Famously Cheap Yet Delicious – The Famous Warehouse

ImageAugust 21, 2012
The Famous Warehouse, Vancouver BC
Union Street Noodle Salad
Sweet Chipotle Chili Chicken
Mama T’s Crunchy Mac and Cheese
Yam Fries
Chiang Mai Bowl

Even early on a Tuesday evening, the line was never-ending for a table at The Famous Warehouse. I met up with two buddies, Jason and Rachael, both of whom I have not seen for over a year. At least we were busy exchanging stories while we waited. Even as we ate, people were constantly lining up. That just goes to show how popular $4.95 for decent sized entrees really are.

First up was one of their specialties, the Union Street Noodle Salad. It came in a decent sized bowl with lots of chow mein noodles. They were cooked with a soy sauce of sorts and while al dente and chewy, were extremely salty. At least the texture was good. The noodles were topped with a spring mix tossed in a sweet soy and ginger dressing. It did not have a strong acidic or tangy taste to it, which I was wishing for to balance out the saltiness of the noodles. The cucumber slices and pea shoots were refreshing at least and the avocado was creamy and smooth, offering the bland flavour I needed. The almonds I missed but the sesame seeds gave a nice aroma. The diced, marinated grilled chicken on top were nicely seasoned on the outside but way too dry and gritty. However, for $4.95, it was quite a good deal.

The Sweet Chipotle Chili Chicken were served on a bed of tortilla strips and jasmine rice. The few pieces of chicken had a good batter coating, not too deep fried but still crispy and soaked up the sauce nicely. The sesame seeds on top added that extra aroma to the delicious sweet and tangy sauce. It was not as spicy as I would have liked but the flavour was still great. The cucumbers were again very refreshing. I also enjoyed the tortilla strips and rice since they were coated with the sauce and thus became very tasty. This was by far the smallest plate of the evening but the flavour was spot on so no one minded. Image

I heard rave reviews of Mama T’s Crunchy Mac and Cheese so it was a must try for us. It came piping hot and creamy. The macaroni was cooked al dente and coated completely with the gooey cheese sauce that was a blend of cheddar, mozzarella, and alfredo. It was a mild but rich and creamy cheese so while not the strongest of flavours, it was not bland. The smooth texture was great when mixed with the parmesan crust topping and the somewhat hidden crispy cornflakes. It was slightly seasoned from the thyme, which certainly made it better. I like my mac and cheese with ketchup so I added that to my plate. However, even without the ketchup, I did enjoy the simple cheese and pasta dish. The green onion garnish on top seemed a little out of place with a flavour so much stronger and incompatible with the dish. The cheesy pasta itself, though, was economic comfort food at its best; it was quite a large portion so we were satisfied.Image

We were not full after three plates, so we went ahead and got an order of Yam Fries. These were not the best that I have had. While each fry was large and thick, they were also slightly soggy by the time the bowl of them arrived at the table. I missed that delicious crunch, which is the defining factor in yam fries. I did appreciate that they were not overly oily but I would have liked them to be crispier. They were served with macho sauce, which is pretty much just chipotle mayo. I enjoyed the kick from the heat mixed with the tangy and creamy mayonnaise was quite a contrast with the sweet aroma of the yam. This is when two very different flavours work harmoniously together. If only they were brought out right after being fried, I would have been satisfied. There are certainly times when the food should not be brought out at the same time if they were not finished together.

ImageFinally, we also got the Chiang Mai Bowl. The ingredients were plentiful but simple: fat hoikken noodles, red and green bell peppers, onions, carrots, celery, pea sprouts, and broccoli. The dish was made with quite a lot of sesame oil, stir fried in a wok, and served in a metal wok-like bowl with handles. It looked quite cool and the colours were vibrant. The spicy soy chili sauce, in addition to the sesame oil taste, was tangy, spicy, and slightly sweet. Clearly, it was a pub’s version of Asian stir fry noodles. I did like the flavour though, and the noodles and vegetables were all coated in more than enough of the sauce. I found it to be slightly on the greasy side, so perhaps less sesame oil will have been better. I loved the extra crunch from the almond slivers. The vegetables were refreshing and not mushy; the noodles were chewy and al dente. This was another of my favourites of the night and while it is not a big portion, it would be enough for me.

Overall, considering the $4.95 pricing, I was extremely pleased with our meal. The flavours were not outstanding but they were still mostly very decent for comfort food. It is so much better than fast food, which nowadays is roughly the same price, if not more expensive. For $10 per person, this was such a good deal of cheap yet still good-tasting food. They have quite an extensive menu for such a small place, and there are certainly more dishes I could have tried. The ambiance was extremely casual, quite noisy as it was a pub. The servers were friendly but I found them to be quite underdressed. It is certainly not a place for anything close to fine dining in a quiet restaurant with elegant decor but rather a rowdy place to catch up over cheap and tasty food.

The Famous Warehouse on Urbanspoon

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Let the Conversation ‘Flo’ – Flo Tea Room

ImageAugust 20, 2012
采 – Flo Tea Room, Richmond BC
芒果冰沙+珍珠 (Mango Slush with Pearls)
干炒牛河 (Pan Fried Beef Rice Noodle)
鱼汤海鲜泡菜火锅 (Seafood, Kimchi, Fish Soup Hot Pot)
[配菜&饭 (Side Dish of Vegetables & Rice)]

I have meaning to see Jessica for a long time and also wanting to try out Flo Tea Room, so dinner there with her was like hitting two birds with one stone – except it was more like two straws in one bubble tea. Somehow, the Flo logo in that slightly fancy calligraphy just really appeals to me.

Our drink to share was the 芒果冰沙+珍珠 (Mango Slush with Pearls), regularly priced at $4.50. We originally wanted a special drink with mango stars but our server told us for $2 we can change our mini meal drink to a bubble tea. It was a good deal we could not pass up so we got Mango Slush with Pearls since there would be too much mango otherwise. The slush was good, although not the most consistent in texture. Some parts had larger ice bits and the bottom was more watery. The flavor was very sweet, which I like, but it was quite artificial with only the lightest hint of a fresh mango aroma. The pearls were not consistent either; some were softer than others and they were not exactly sweet. I think they were leftover ones, perhaps from the weekend or at least early that morning. For a cafe with so many specialty bubble tea drinks, I really expected a top notch drink. For $4.50, it was somewhat disappointing.Image

The dish with which the drink came with was the 干炒牛河 (Pan Fried Beef Rice Noodle). It was quite a decent size for $6.50. There were plenty of beef slices and they were tender. However, I found the dish to be on the bland side. While the rice noodles were nice and ‘al dente,’ with a good chew and stretch to them, they did not have much flavor. Although the whole dish, including bean sprouts and onions, had enough colour, the taste did not reflect that. I still enjoyed the wok taste and it is hard to screw up a generic comfort food like this one. Having not had this in quite a long time, it was still satisfying.Image

Since it was chilly for August, we also ordered the 鱼汤海鲜泡菜火锅 (Seafood, Kimchi, Fish Soup Hot Pot). They put it ona little pot with an open fire on our table to keep it warm. The soup was basically a kimchi flavour and the pot was filled with kimchi, which I really enjoyed. I love spicy soups with vegetables so it was perfect. The seafood consisted of pieces of a white fish fillet, shrimp, squid, mussels, and imitation crab sticks. I would have liked to have some scallops but there was plenty of seafood for $9.75. The flavor of the kimchi was strong and it warmed me up nicely.

The hot pot also came with 配菜&饭 (Side Dish of Vegetables & Rice). The first was pickled strips of carrots and white radish. They were crunchy yet sweet and acidic. The vinegar taste was strong but along with the sweetness of the sauce in which the vegetables were marinated, it was not overwhelming. Instead, these were rather refreshing and quite enjoyable. The salted peanuts were quite boring. I do not even consider them a side dish of vegetables. They were crunchy but not the freshest of peanuts. The flavour was definitely salty enough and for what they were, they were decent, although some more complexity in the flavour would have been nice. The rice was also more than enough for the two of us, especially since I prefer to eat the soup by itself.Image

Our bill came to $22 after tax and tips, which was very reasonable. The portions were good and so were the taste. Nothing was exactly outstanding but we did not expect them to be. Comfort food is always nice to have when catching up with an old friend and really, that is all that we needed. We even had a lot of food left and took it to go since neither of us were extremely hungry. The service was friendly and the ambiance casual and relaxing. For a quick meal and a place to chill, I would come back again to try more from their extensive menu.

Flo Tea Room Richmond 采 on Urbanspoon

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Cheesy Yet Sweet – Tim Hortons

ImageAugust 20, 2012
Tim Hortons, Burnaby BC
Cheddar Cheese Bagel

Tim Hortons’ Cheddar Cheese Bagel may look appetizing but I found it rather plain. The problem was that the savoury cheddar cheese did not go well with the slightly sweet dough. The textures were nice; the cheese was melted and hardened, adding to the chewy and dense bagel. Once you started chewing, the wholething became softer and softer. However, I just did not like the quite savoury cheese with the sweet dough. The two did not come together harmoniously. For a cheddar bagel, I think a neutral dough would have been better. 
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Dragons and Fish – Ichiro Japanese Restaurant

ImageAugust 19, 2012
Ichiro Japanese Restaurant, Richmond BC
Salmon Sashimi
House Prawn Roll
Steveston Roll
Dragon Roll
Beef YakiSoba
Unagi Omelette
Chicken Udon

The food is not so important when there is some much needed catching up to do with friends. The chatter around the dinner table is much more amusing and requires significantly more attention. However, great food certainly makes everything better all of a sudden. That is what happened at Ichiro Japanese Restaurant with three of my friends. After a long and tiresome biking trip – that included a heron, two dragonflies, and two coyotes – chilling over sashimi, sushi, and Japanese noodles was just what we needed.Image

We ordered the generic but incredibly fresh Salmon Sashimi. Six pieces of super red sockeye salmon for $7.95 was not exactly cheap. However, it was so fresh and tender. The fish was not too fishy. Each piece was very consistent in size and quality. The presentation was neat and pretty but not overly exaggerated. I also enjoyed the mini bite of seaweed besides the lime slice. This is definitely the best sashimi I have had in a long time.Image

Next came the rolls. As recommended by Amanda, we ordered the House Prawn Roll. It was avocado and cucumber wrapped in the roll and topped with tobiko, mayo sauce, and two prawn tempura. Despite the fact that the prawns needed to be cut up in order to have a small bite in every piece, I loved the roll. The avocado was creamy and the cucumber refreshing. All of it was topped in more than enough of the deliciously tart and creamy mayo sauce, which did not appear to be spicy at all. It was not a strong flavour, quite mellow and soothing although still distinct. The sweet and sour levels were just right. The rice was also good; it was vinegary and soft but not mushy at all.Image

The Steveston Roll was bright and pretty. Inside were sweet shrimp, salmon, tuna, and cucumber with more salmon on the top. The sashimi was again very fresh and the cucumber made it even more refreshing. The shrimp were tender and slightly sweet, adding to the sweet and acidic flavour of the rice. This roll had to be eaten with wasabi and soy sauce since its flavour was quite bland; none of the ingredients have a very strong taste and there was no sauce. However, the quality of the roll was undoubtedly very high and with so much salmon, I was satisfied.Image

The best roll, however, was the Dragon Roll, which was a whopping $14.95. It was a roll with imitation crab, asparagus, and avocado on the inside, all topped with a very thick piece of BBQ eel or unagi. The presentation was superb. The dragon’s head, including the eyes and horns – made from sunflower seeds and fried soba noodles respectively, and thus very creative – actually resembled a dragon very closely. The amount of unagi certainly justified the price. Each piece was thick, perfectly grilled, and very flavourful. There was a fatty layer on the bottom but that was expected. Inside, the crab was slightly sweet and creamy, with the avocado even creamier, and the asparagus added a refreshing crunch different from the usual cucumbers. The entire roll was drizzled with BBQ sauce, one that was sweet and full of great flavour. There was hardly any rice around the roll, which I really appreciated. What was there was also top quality. This roll is definitely worth getting again.Image

For some more filling food, we first went with Beef YakiSoba. It came sizzling hot, with nicely grilled and thin slices of beef. I loved the slight char on the vegetables, which included bean sprouts, cabbage, onions, broccoli, and carrots. The noodles were tender with a slight chew. They were on the thinner side but still not overcooked. The slight char on the dish was great as the smokiness seeped into everything. The soy sauce flavour was good, but I prefer my yakisoba to be slightly sweet, perhaps made with a little teriyaki or barbeque sauce. This one was just savoury.

ImageAmanda ordered the Unagi Omelette, a whole piece of BBQ eel wrapped in a tender omelette made from three eggs. The portion was quite large, justifying the $8.95. I thought it was quite reasonably priced. The unagi was tender and flavourful. The eggs were incredibly soft but still cooked. It was drizzled with more BBQ sauce, which gave it a lovely and strong BBQ flavour. Soft, tender, sweet, what is not to love?Image

Finally, we had the Chicken Udon, which was also the best udon I have ever had. The slice of fish cake was tender, as were the small pieces of chicken. They seemed to me like chicken thigh meat and I was glad they were not overcooked – almost but not yet. The little bit of spinach was good and I could definitely use more of it. The soup was delicious and slightly sweet and I could down a whole bowl of it no problem. What surprised me were the noodles. I do not usually like udon because they are so often overdone and become mushy instead of ‘al dente.’ These were perfect though. Each long strand was incredibly bouncy and chewy even though they came in a bowl of soup. This definitely changed my whole perspective on udon noodle soup.

Ichiro can be a bit pricey, but the food is definitely more top notch than many of the Japanese restaurants around town. I would certainly bring friends back here, especially for something a little nicer or more formal. It may not be the best place for cheap, casual, and filling comfort food, but the service is great and the ambiance is friendly and relaxing. The restaurant was also quite clean. From the food to the atmosphere, I know I will be back when I need some great Japanese food close to home.

Ichiro Japanese on Urbanspoon

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I Like It Sweeter – Cupcakes Like It Sweet

ImageAugust 18, 2012
Cupcakes Like It Sweet, Bellingham WA
Chocolate Mint Mini Cupcake
The Mumsie Mini Cupcake

Having realized a new cupcake store opened up in Bellingham when I was last there, I just could not resist the temptation to check it out. I love cupcakes way too much for my own good. After looking up the place on my phone – and seeing not only did it have decent prices at $2.50 for a regular or $1.50 for a mini, but also some good reviews – I just HAD to visit Cupcakes Like It Sweet. The store was new and thus looked really nice. The chairs and tables were cute but not exactly girly. I liked the blue walls and décor as well. It all made for a very upscale bakery and a casual, nice spot to chat over a sweet bite.

Full after lunch, I only ordered two minis. The first one was the Chocolate Mint Mini Cupcake. It had a chocolate cake base, mint buttercream, and a piece of mint filled chocolate. It was cute and decorated nicely. The cake was not as moist as I would like it but it was not exactly dry either. It was not too sweet and still very soft. The mint buttercream had hardened on the outside but the inside was still soft and smooth. The mint taste was quite strong and the amount of sugar in the frosting was also good and sweet. It was not oily or greasy so I loved the buttercream. The addition of the chocolate on top just added a nice crunchy bite.Image

The other one was The Mumsie Mini Cupcake. I adore the name! The Mumsie is a chocolate cake base, dipped in chocolate ganache, and topped with a cream cheese frosting and chocolate flake sprinkles. The cake was the same as the Chocolate Mint – not too sweet, moist, or dry but still soft and airy. The chocolate ganache had a good cocoa flavour but I could not taste much of the cream cheese in the frosting. It was still a good frosting, since it was smooth, sweet, dense, and not greasy. However, I found myself wishing for more cream cheese.

The regular cupcakes are certainly more worth it as they are more than double the size. I just could not handle it this time, and these two flavours only had minis left. The owner was very nice and I am sure I would be back again the next time I visit Bellingham. They have some rare flavours, such as White Chocolate Raspberry and Cinnamon Roll. For a small town and a privately owned small cupcake business, the place looks quite fancy and professional.

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Melted, Gooey, and Warm – Costco

ImageAugust 18, 2012
Costco, Bellingham WA
Hot Turkey & Provolone Sandwich

One of the last few things to try at an American Costco, we finally got the Hot Turkey & Provolone Sandwich. At $3.99, it is a lot cheaper than in Canada. It had so many layers of sliced turkey meat, sliced tomatoes, red onion rings, provolone cheese, and an adequate amount of the basil garlic mayonnaise on the toasted torta roll. Not a fan of processed meat, the turkey was just okay to me. It was tender and slightly savoury, and the amount of meat that was given definitely justified the price. The sandwich was fresh from the oven when I got it, so the cheese was a gooey, melted, delicious mess. It was stretchy and savoury… absolutely cheesilicious! ImageThe tomatoes were slightly refreshing and the onions tasted good with its sweet flavour and crunchy texture. There was no sting from the onion, which I greatly appreciated, since it was cooked just enough to be sweet yet not spicy. The basil garlic mayonnaise was also nicely flavoured and tasted great on the soft and chewy roll. The roll was warm and had a nice, crunchy exterior with a soft inside. Overall, the combination of flavours was harmonious and deliciously toasty.

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Cinnamon, Cherry, and Chili – McDonald’s

ImageAugust 18, 2012
McDonald’s, Bellingham WA
Cinnamon Sugar Gourmet Twists Topped Soft Pretzel
Cherry Berry Chiller
Sweet Chili Sauce

This was literally the first McDonald’s that I have seen selling soft pretzels, so being adventurous, I decided I needed to get a Cinnamon Sugar Gourmet Twists Topped Soft Pretzels. It was freshly toasted, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and came out piping hot with some butter melted on the outside. It was slightly too oily with all the butter but the mix of savoury butter with the sweet cinnamon sugar was pretty good. I could have used more of the cinnamon sugar, though, just because it was not overwhelming enough. The soft pretzel itself was chewy and, well, soft. The texture was certainly tough enough for a pretzel and it was quite large for $1.99. These are from the Gourmet Twists brand, but I think it is cool for McDonald’s to be serving these.

ImageThe Cherry Berry Chiller was good but not great. One of the limited-time offers this summer, it was a refreshing drink with the cherry and berry slush. The sweet and tart were nicely mixed. I love the berry flavour but the cherry taste did not appeal to me. It tasted too artificial, and an artificial cherry flavour is one of the only tastes that disturbs my palate. It was certainly a bit overwhelming, but I guess it was sort of expected. At least the slush was nicely blended.

Finally, I tried the Sweet Chili Sauce when Mom wanted to get the Spicy Chicken McBites again. The sauce was actually quite spicy with a lovely, sweet chili kick. It was sweet and tangy, and I had pretty much nothing to complain about. The texture was fine and the flavour was strong yet not too overwhelming. I would dip pretty much anything into this sauce and I appreciate that McDonald’s is now serving Asian-style sauces.

McDonald’s in Walmart stores is quite convenient for many shoppers. Both are cheap while maintaing an acceptable, decent quality. If that also means special menu items like the soft pretzels, then by all means, keep the two together.ImageImage

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Bountiful Buns – 大统华面包坊–T&T Bakery

ImageAugust 17, 2012
大统华面包坊 – T&T Bakery, Richmond BC
菠萝奶黄包-港式 (Custard Cream Pineapple Bun (HK))
甜奶酥芝士包 (Custard Cheese Bun)
杏片椰丝包 (Coconut Bun W/ Slice Almonds)
海苔肉松卷 (Dried Pork & Seaweed Roll)
肠仔包 (Sausage Bun)

红豆包 (Red Bean Bun)
杏仁牛角包 (Almond Croissant)
牛角火腿沙拉包 (Ham Croissant)

ImageYet another night of picking up various small buns from T&T Bakery. This time, Auntie came along and we spent a good few minutes picking out our bags, looking for both items we have not yet tried and our favourites. I got lucky, picking up a bit of both.

The first was the 菠萝奶黄包-港式 (Custard Cream Pineapple Bun (HK)), which I got from Auntie’s bag. By the next day, although slightly flattened out, it was still incredibly delicious. The pineapple sugar topping was crumbly and sweet, covering pretty much the entire bun. The bread was still sweet, and extremely soft and moist. I am not sure where the extra moisture came from, but the texture was closer to that of a moist cake. I absolutely loved the bread, but even better was the custard filling. It was also very moist. The light yellow was pleasant to the eye and the flavour was spot on – perfectly sweetened with the aroma of eggs and milk. I love Asian custard fillings, and this is by far one of the best I have tried.Image

None of us were sure what exactly was inside the 甜奶酥芝士包 (Custard Cheese Bun) when we bought it. A look at the labels on the empty shelves told me it was probably the crumbly custard. The cheese layer on top was very thin yet had a distinctively savoury cheese flavour. The bread was soft and puffy, not exactly moist but not dry either. If just biting into the cheese and bread, it would just be a savoury bun. However, the crumbly milk custard inside changed that completely. It was a very firm filling and I hesitate to call it custard. Rather, it is a milk, cream, egg, and sugar crumble that has hardened slightly. Still, it was sweet and good, even when paired with the savoury cheese.Image

The 杏片椰丝包 (Coconut Bun W/ Slice Almonds) was quite uninteresting, although still decent. It is a simple bread dough with a cream coconut crumble filling rolled into it, then topped with almond slices. The presentation was nice and pretty, the twists made quite evenly and the layers were evident. There was a decent amount of the coconut filling as well. It was quite sweet but with the shredded coconut and crumble texture. The almonds also added more crunch to the bread, which was slightly on the dry side by the next day. For those looking for something simple yet not too plain, this would be perfect.Image

The 海苔肉松卷 (Dried Pork & Seaweed Roll) was actually surprisingly simple but good. It is just their regular bread dough, barely sweet and not too moist or dry, with dried pork fluff rolled into it, sticking to the egg white-mayonnaise-sweet butter concoction. I am not sure what that sauce is actually made of, but it is transparent with a light yellow hue, only the slightest bit oily, and tastes like a sweet mayonnaise or butter but not as rich. Mom thinks it is made with egg whites but I have no clue. It is the same one that goes into their other rolls and buns with dried pork fluff and I absolutely love the combination. The seaweed wrap just gives it another, slightly savoury flavour and adds a bit of a chew to the roll.Image

The 肠仔包 (Sausage Bun) is perhaps one of the simplest in design T&T Bakery offers. There is nothing creative here, just a regular, small wiener inside bread, just like a hot dog. The sausage was very tender and flavourful, although it did taste like those mass-produced ones that are processed so much the real flavour of the meat gets lost. I still like them, just like how older types of bad quality food are still comforting. The bread was incredible in this bun though. It was very soft, slightly sweet, and quite moist but not too wet. Rather, it had the perfect stickiness while still maintaining the shape, and could be squished to make it denser. It just had the most perfect bread dough I could ask for in any of these rolls, neither over nor under baked.Image

The 红豆包 (Red Bean Bun) was another extremely simple concept. It had an azuki bean filling, with some of the beans mushed enough to form a paste. This kind of red bean paste is certainly not smooth, with whole beans or parts of beans scattered throughout. It was sweet but not overwhelming, still keeping some of the natural aroma from the azuki beans. The scattered beans actually gave the filling a nice, hard, yet still easily chewed texture, smooth and coarse at the same time. There was a decent amount of filling, though I could have easily used more since it certainly is not the sweetest red bean paste I have had. The bun was not exactly moist or sticky enough for me, but a bite or two and the dough would once again be of that perfect texture in my mouth. Even though the outside layer is slightly brown, the insides were still soft and fluffy.Image

The 杏仁牛角包 (Almond Croissant) is not complicated either, priced at only $1.19. It looked decent and had the buttery taste of a croissant. It had good layers but could have been slightly more buttery and soft. I like my croissants to be on the more buttery side rather than somewhat dry. It was a little over-baked and the almonds only added a little crunch and not much else to the pastry.Image

Finally, there was the 牛角火腿沙拉包 (Ham Croissant). This croissant was much better, more flaky, buttery, and soft. It was also a lighter, golden shade, signifying that it was not over-baked. There was lettuce, a processed cheddar cheese slice, ham, and an egg omelet inside. The egg was tender and soft while maintaining some moisture. The ham was average and slightly savoury. The lettuce was kind of wilted and I could have done without it. The cheese added more flavour to the sandwich and made it taste more western. This was the standard Asian take on a western sandwich and nothing out of the ordinary. The ingredients were of decent quality, though, and tasted fine for what it was.Image

I am still amazed to find that there are still a couple of buns I have not blogged about, which means I have not eaten it for at least a couple of months. Perhaps there will be time for one more round to try the last few that I want to sample before school starts again. Looking at what is in each bag and having a hard time comparing bags and finally picking out one or two is always something that I will miss when I am away; the simplicity of life from grocery shopping easily turns amusing and becomes a fond memory. Image

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