The Penalty Box

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Adventures in Foodland - Hoisin Beef Roll

August 24, 2012 at 08:22 PM | categories: Culinary Capers | View Comments

I meant to post some more cooking attempts here, I really have. The problem is that I get too much into the planning of the dish and completely forget to start taking pictures with my camera. This time I remembered basically just before I started plating. Hey, better than nothing, right?

Anyway, this dish was inspired by a really good dish that roughly translates as "fried beef roll" at Long's Noodle House on Main Street in Vancouver. The best stuff there is probably the drunken chicken and the soupy buns, but I don't have the culinary chops for either of those. The fried beef rolls were something within my skill level, so I went with those.

There are three parts to this dish: the meat, the wrapper and the sauce.

Let's start with the meat:


  • 3 lbs beef shank
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp of chili paste (substitute Siracha if you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of dark soy sauce
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into about 4 slices
  • 3-4 cups of water, just enough to submerge the beef
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil


  1. Heat up a pot over medium-high heat. After it heats up, add your oil to the pot. Sear your shank on all sides. Remove and set aside. Depending on the size of your chunks, it shouldn't take more than 2-3 minutes per side.
  2. Add a little more oil if there isn't enough. Toss in your shallot, garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant.
  3. Put the beef back in, add enough water to cover slightly. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let it go for 2.5-3 hours, depending on amount of meat. Flip once or twice during the cooking process so the top doesn't dry out.
  4. Once done, bring out to rest for about 10 minutes before shredding.

The wrapper

Surrounding this shank of awesomeness will be green onion pancake. If you don't want to go through the trouble of making this, you can find the frozen stuff at your local Chinese market (T&T is a good place to go).


  • 2.5 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 cups of hot water (like basically too hot to touch, this is important)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • A small bowl of sesame oil (you can use vegetable)
  • 4 stalks of green onions, finely chopped


  1. Put the flour and salt together in a bowl. Sift if you have a sifter. I just mixed with my hands.
  2. Slowly stir 1 cup of water in until the dough comes together. If it's still too dry, add a little more water.
  3. Turn the dough onto a flat surface and knead for about 10 minutes. It should be a little tacky, but not come off on your fingers. If it's sticking to you too much, spread a little flour out and knead it in. If it's too dry, wet your fingers and knead it in.
  4. Dip your fingers in the sesame oil and rub all over the dough. Put it back in your work bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 2 hours. This will allow some of the gluten to form
  5. After two hours, divide into four equal portions. Mash one portion down with your hand and roll it out with a rolling pin to about 12 inches in diameter.
  6. Spread some sesame oil or butter across the dough. Sprinkle a small handful of onions out.
  7. Roll up the dough like a Fruit Roll Up (pictures would be awesome here, I know, but I forgot)
  8. Now that you have a thick noodle-ish shape, pinch the length-wise edge so it sticks to the dough.
  9. Roll it up into a spiral-like shape, like a cinammon bun.
  10. Mash it down and roll it out to a 10-12 inch diameter again. Some green onion might squirt out, that's okay. It may curl on you. Just flip it over and continue rolling on the other side.
  11. Repeat with the other 3 portions, stack them on a plate separated by parchment paper, wax paper or paper towel.
  12. Heat up a frying pan with some sesame oil and fry both sides until browned. It shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes each side because they're thin.

Green onion pancake

The Sauce

The sauce adds a touch of sweetness from the hoisin and a little moisture to the shank in case you forgot to flip.


  • 1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons of the broth from the stewed beef
  • Cilantro

Mix everything except the cilantro together in a bowl and stir to combine. Set the cilantro aside.

Putting It Together

Take a green onion pancake and place some shredded beef on one side. Spoon some sauce over the beef and spread some on the rest of the pancake. Tear off some cilantro and place it over the beef. Roll and slice diagonally.

Hoisin beef roll

This makes a good appetizer if you count 2 people per roll and a meal if you have one or two to yourself, dpeending on your appetite. I wouldn't let the pancake sit more than a day. Since I used oil instead of butter/margarine, it got pretty chewy when not fresh. Happy eatings everyone!

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Petal to the Ground

August 18, 2012 at 01:20 PM | categories: Five Hole Photo | View Comments

I listen to a couple of photography podcasts and on one episode sometime in the past, the hosts were talking about perspectives. Perspective is part of composition; what you include, what is in focus, what angle you use are all things that play a big part in the final product.

The idea of photo assignments came up, which is a really good way of keeping yourself shooting. One assignment I found was ground shots, so I set out on an overcast day to take all of my photos with my camera as close to the ground as possible. This is probably my favourite shot of the bunch, mostly because of the water droplets on the petals. One tip I picked up was that you can fake this by keeping a spritzer bottle filled with water in your bag. Water does some funky things with light and texture.


f/2.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200

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August 11, 2012 at 11:20 PM | categories: Five Hole Photo | View Comments

Kids are one of the hardest things to photograph, mainly because they won't sit still long enough. Even when they do, they give you some kind of silly face that gets old pretty quickly. However, if you stay patient (or know how to bribe them), kids will eventually give you a few moments of awesome.

I took this photo of my cousin's son, Kyle. He's a rambunctious little scamp, hyper as any kid under the age of 10. He has an infectious laugh and I managed to capture him giggling at something funny another cousin was doing. Kids at weddings are pretty great to photograph, and Kyle didn't disappoint.


f/3.5, 1/800 sec, ISO 200

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No, he's not dead

August 04, 2012 at 03:20 PM | categories: Five Hole Photo | View Comments

You know those times when you just come across some fantastic sight and are lucky enough to capture it on camera? This is what happened to me on a trip to China in 2011. We were being led through a garden near Nanjing where the historical details weren't nearly as interesting as the botanical offerings.

I wandered a bit off the beaten path and came across this guy in this position. He wasn't obviously breathing, but I was close enough to see that his chest did move up and down ever so slightly. With the cause of his position so very clearly in the "sleeping on the job" category, I snapped a photo to capture the hilarity of the moment.

No he's not dead

f/4.5, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400

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Night Market Fooding

August 01, 2012 at 08:51 PM | categories: Om Nomenclature | View Comments

Yikes, I didn't realize how long it had been since I had posted something here. And here I thought rebooting my blog would encourage me to write more. Whoops. I'll toss the usual excuses of work, vacation and catching up on work from vacation, but those are boring details. I've even got a review of a vegetarian restaurant I went to in Hong Kong, but it requires a little more organization of a few random thoughts.

The Night Market always brought out the most interesting of eats that you might never see otherwise. Growing up, my mother didn't trust a lot that didn't come from her own kitchen, so despite heading to the Night Market in my younger days, I never got to try the food. Fortunately there were booths upon booths of useless trinkets to keep the attention of a kid. Nowadays the merchants are divided into two groups: cell phone cases and everything else.

Having somewhat grown up and attaining an attention span of greater than 5 seconds, I have turned to the food section of the Night Market to provide my amusement for the evening. True, health codes have gotten a tad more strict over the years so the food booths are less sketchy than they were all those years ago (although tell that to the school bus that deep fries candy bars because I'm pretty sure they haven't heard of health codes).

Last weekend I wandered down to the Summer Night Market down by Bridgeport. In short, the food is way better than the food at the Richmond Night Market by the old Ikea. I think a bunch of booths left the one by Ikea and came to this one by Bridgeport. I couldn't sample everything, no matter how hard I tried, but it's a good incentive to go back. Here's a sampling of what I consumed that night.

Takoyaki Noodles


Basically a noodle dish with some seafood on it and Japanese mayo. The buckwheat noodles were cooked well and the fish in it was tender. The preserved octopus (the big red thing there) was a little chewy, but less than I thought it would be. The corn provided a nice sweet contrast to the dish, although the texture didn't quite work with it overall. Still, a good starter since it was basically at the entrance.

Xian Burger

Xian burger

Pork shoulder meat marinated in assorted spices with some cilantro stuffed in a toasted bun. The meat was braised long enough to be tender and kept its juices pretty well. My only complaint would be that there wasn't enough of it. Probably could have used some siracha to give it a bit of a kick.

Kung Fusion booth

Kung Fusion

Once I saw this place, I knew I had to try something from here. I admit, the campy nature spoke to me and almost made me order the "Hai Miso Tasty" on the spot. Eventually after perusing all of the selections and their associated ingredients, I selected:

The Dear Leader

The Dear Leader

A pork and beef burger topped with kimchi. It was a pretty rad combination. The cabbage in the kimchi was still a little crunchy, providing a nice contrast in textures with the soft meatball-like consistency of the burger. I think they toned down the kimchi a bit as it wasn't as spicy as I'd expect it to be, but that's expected when they're trying to get some exposure. I'd love to go back and try some of their other stuff.

Chinese Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn Chicken

Unlike your traditional leftover bits of chicken battered out of existence, these were actual chicken breast chunks. However, just like your traditional popcorn chicken, it was either left in the fryer too long or the oil temperature was screwed up as these were pretty greasy. I'd avoid them.

Fried Bananas

Fried banana

Banana chunks dipped in some sort of batter and deep fried. Not greasy, but unfortunately mostly flavourless. There was a light dusting of powdered sugar on top, but not near enough to overcome the very bland batter it was fried in. It probably would have been better served if the banana were rolled in something before battered or if there was some kind of glaze on top. Turon this ain't.

All in all, a pretty good night. If you're on a diet, I wouldn't suggest going, but for a cheat day or for those curious, the Night Market does provide some interesting confections to try out. Hit me up if you're interested in going, I'm heading back some time before the summer's out anyway.

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