Pork Mafia

Just about 1 minute before this whole pandemic thing started, I spent a week in Houston with my brother. Perhaps you read about it on this blog. That week included a lot of eating of really amazing barbeque concluding with Pinkerton's which was truly the best barbeque that I have ever had (you can search it on the web version of our blog. Be sure to include the apostrophe). I declared in that post that I was sure that brisket and ribs were ruined for me unless I returned. Sure enough in the year and more than a half since, although we have not eaten barbeque often, nothing has approached Pinkerton's....until now.

I stumbled across the Pork Mafia on Instagram. They do events and cater but you can find them set up on the farm on many weekends. The trick is of course to order in advance (which I eventually figured out) and wait patiently for your pick-up time to arrive.
This rack of ribs was $33 but started as 2 1/2 lbs. It was amazingly meaty and not at all like the ribs they serve you at your typical chain restaurants.
Yes, I'm going to show you a lot of pictures because these were outstanding and a bargain at the price. The bark was deep and rich while the smoke ring reached deeply into the meat.
They were stupid fall off the bone tender and delicious. They came with additional house-made sauce which was rich with molasses! We loved them!
We also ordered a combo of 1/2 lbs of brisket, 1/2 lbs of pulled pork, an Oyama beef sausage, as well as slaw and pit beans for $36. This is some of the best brisket that I have ever had! it was moist and super tender with the same impressive bark as the ribs while being deliciously beefy. The pulled pork and sausage were also pretty amazing, and the sides were impressive. Although we paid $69 altogether, this amazing barbeque lasted Mharie and me through 3 full meals and snacks in between.
So how did Pork Mafia and Pitmaster Jamie compare to Pinkerton's? How can I even answer a question like that? I have elevated Pinkerton's in my mind to legendary status and a lot of other people have also. Let's just say that this is the best barbeque that I have had north of the 49th parallel and probably as far as the Texas border. Beyond that would require a side-by-side tasting, something that I would gladly volunteer for!
Food                    5 out of 5
Comfort               Well, we weren't uncomfortable!
Service                 Right on time and friendly!
Value                    5 out of 5

Chaiiwala of London

Well, this is exciting! Chaiiwala of London has opened its first BC outpost in Abbotsford, with 5 more to come (in Surrey and Langley) in the near future. With 43 locations already in the UK (and 2 more in Toronto), this brand which has proven itself has arrived here and we are not sorry about that!Located at the corner of South Fraser Way and Gladwin Road, parking is not immediately evident.  There is some behind the Scotia Bank accessible off Fraser Way via a driveway to the west, or in the strip mall off Gladwin Road to the north. Try not to piss off the strip mall tenants. The process inside is to order at the counter, find a seat and they will buzz you when your food is ready.

The whole point of this place is chai. We tried a couple (they look the same but were quite different) of hot beverages. One was a Karak coffee (not chai at all) which was served Indian style, hot, creamy and sweet. They didn't ask how we wanted it which is fine as it was very nice but be aware. If you want black coffee, I'm not sure if you should ask for it that way or if it is elsewhere on the menu. The other was a Dirty Chai which was a combination of coffee and tea which was amazing. It is served chai style with cardamom, milk and sugar! There are too many choices to mention here.
Breakfast seems to be the specialty here and obviously, that means Indian style. We ordered Halwa Puri which was chana, halwa (a semolina pudding that was sweet and rich) and a couple of freshly fried puffy pieces of bread, a little like a delicate pita. I could eat this every day!
We tried a few snacks as well starting with a Karachi Bun Kebab. This is a minced lamb patty wrapped in an omelette with mango chutney and tamarind. This was satisfying and very tasty and the tamarind and mango were highlights!
There is also a nice selection of chat. I think this was Aloo Tiki Chat although, I can't find a very good representation of the complete CoL menu anywhere on their website or on Uber Eats to confirm that is what it was. Lots of potato, chickpea and assorted flavours made a nice spicy and rich snack.
The one item that we had trouble getting excited about was the Butter Chicken Roti. It was tasty enough and nicely grilled but it was a little lean on filling. It was like my common complaint about restaurants serving butter chicken namely a lot of sauce but very little protein! Still, at $6 you can't complain very much.
Chaiiwalla is beautiful inside with hanging pendant lights and art on the walls. 
There is not a huge amount of seating on the first floor but there are some tables on the second floor as well. There are a lot of interesting things on the menu that we would like to try. The staff are freindly and helpful.
They are all in on sustainability but their disposal station is actually a little confusing (what goes where is the bins?) and they served us with paper cups (all the photos show glass which would have been nice). They also didn't check our vaccination status but as a coffee shop maybe there is a different standard (?).
Anyway, these are minor quibbles and we really enjoyed this place overall.
Food                     3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                3 1/2 out of 5
Service                 4 out of 5
Value                    4 out of 5

Marutama Ra-men

I'm a little surprised that Mharie and I have never been to any of Marutama Ramen's locations. A quick search of our blog reveals that it was our intention to eat at the Robson Street location after a Jazz Festival event (remember the Jazz Festival?) but it was closed and we ended up at YaYa Ramen.

So when we became aware that a new location had opened in Coquitlam, we decided to right this terrible wrong! Located right on Pinetree Way just north of Coquitlam Centre, parking is at a bit of a premium here and we ended up walking a few blocks (which is really not a big problem as our legs are not broken). We got a table right away just before noon on Sunday. I have seen pictures of line ups out the door though so be prepared.
We ordered a couple of starters including the pan-fried Gyoza. Each location of MR seems to have different sides available and the Gyoza are relatively rare. These were more than a little tasty!
The Karaage Chicken was also very good and a little different from what we are used to. Being deboned and rolled into a little dark meat ball offers an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that it is harder to overcook the meat as the thickness is greater. The disadvantage is that there is less surface area in total to be breaded and crispy. These were good but we still have mixed feelings.
I hadn't realized that all the ramen served at MR has chicken stock as a base. I would have sworn that pork broth was absolutely necessary but I have been convinced otherwise! The chicken broth is rich and flavourful! We ordered one Tamago Ramen which featured seaweed and green onion in addition to the usual chashu and soft boiled egg. This was a wonderful bowl of ramen!
We also ordered a bowl of Aka Ramen. This one came with lots of tasty seaweed as well as ground nuts and chilli. It wasn't spicy at but just slightly warming. The nuts did not make much of a flavour impact but maybe there was some richness and texture noticeable. This was a very good bowl as well. Both came with perfectly cooked thin noodles. You can order a second helping of noodles.
It was a little tempting to go crazy with the garlic chips on the side. Be aware that you will be tasting it for hours!
This place, being brand new, is a sleek and beautiful room. We were comfortable with the distancing and they were very careful with proof of vaccine and we appreciate that. The staff were friendly and efficient. Now we know why Marutama Ramen is rated so highly!
Food                    4 out of 5
Comfort               4 out of 5
Service                 4 1/2 out of 5
Value                    4 out of 5

Egg Bomb

I had kind of dismissed Egg Bomb as a social media opportunity kind of place but with not so much substance as their various less photogenic food producing neighbours. And yet, there we were! While it is true that EB was blowing up Instagram for a while with pretty sandwiches and breakfast dishes, we found that there were actually some pretty good eats to be had here.

Located at Fraser Highway and 203rd in Langley, we arrived to a full house on Saturday morning at about 10:30 but managed to get seats at the window bar. Don't be surprised if you have to leave your name and wait for a table during the morning hours. They are pretty popular.
It seems like a healthy enough idea to start the day with a salad. The Smoked Salmon and Cheese Salad came with a healthy portion of really decent smoked fish. In addition, the dressing which was a sort of combination of ranch and apple sauce (according to the menu) was pleasantly sweet and complimented the feta, fish and a nice selection of greens.
I think we ended up ordering the Avo in Love Toast. It was also a salad experience with a couple of nicely soft boiled eggs and Hollandaise. I have read some articles lately suggesting that avocados are causing some environmental crises but until everyone is off beef, I will not be eschewing avocados. Another nice dish!
Finally, EB's most Instagram-able product is the sandwich and they have quite a selection! They come in a cute little box and wrapped in paper which helps to maintain the sandwich shape until you chose to set it free! We ordered the Grilled Prawn Sandwich which was less a grilled prawn sandwich and more of an egg sandwich with a skewer of tasty grilled prawns with yogurt sauce on top. After we awkwardly shared 3 prawns, the scrambled egg and Hollandaise sandwich was still quite enjoyable. Big white toasted bread just as you would expect. Not too bad!
Not surprisingly, EB offers an infinite selection of coffees, teas, juices and ades. I thought that the regular black coffee was not terrible and Mharie enjoyed her Caramel Machiatto!
It's a nice room that could afford to be larger. There is outdoor seating as well. The staff are very friendly and the service is good. I should learn not to prejudge a place based on their Instagram!
Food                3 out of 5
Comfort           3 out of 5
Service            3 1/2 out of 5
Value               3 out of 5

Don Chepe's Latin Food

We have known about Don Chepe's for a long time but you know, so many restaurants, so little time. We love family-run restaurants that feature unique cuisines, so we finally found the time. DC serves Latin food specializing in the cuisine of El Salvador. We should have come sooner.

Located in one of Surrey's unimpressive strip malls on the south side of 104th between Whalley Blvd and 138th, at least parking isn't a problem. We were seated right away on Saturday around noon but the place was soon packed.
We are always fans of house-made tamales and that means different things from the different Latin cuisines.  These Tamales de Gallina were full of chicken potatoes and chickpeas. They are made with masa and in this case steamed in banana leaves rather than the corn husks that many of us are familiar with. They were remarkably tender and moist which can be a challenging result (they can turn dry quickly) as anyone who has made tamales would know.
We tried Platanos can Crema y Frijoles which was a a lovely dish. What I thought was sour cream is actually Salvadoran crema, a spoonable tangier form of sour cream. It was delicious as were the refried beans again in a distinctly non-Mexican style. They were rich and tasty and quite silky. The plantains were slightly sweet making it a very rounded group of flavours. Loved it!
We ordered the Majorra Frita, a whole deep-fried tilapia. Personally, I find tilapia to be a bit muddy but this was quite delicious. I watched as my wife joyously reduced this thing to an unrecognizable pile of bones! I did get a taste but I had to be careful for fear of losing a finger!
Their website refers to the "chef/owner/mom" as the 'Queen of the Pupusas" and we did not find that to be an exaggeration! This national dish of El Salvador is more or less a thick tortilla, split and filled with whatever tastes good. We ordered 4 and left it to our server as to which. There was some minced prok, some refried beans, a lot, a lot of cheese!
The results were delicious and the stretchy cheese factor certainly contributed to our contentment! By the way, the slaw which was spiked with oregano was also pretty special as slaws go. You do not want to miss out on this. Needless to say, we ended up taking about half of our meal home (other than the decimated fish) for dinner.
Our server (by lineage, the prince of the pupusas) had some enthusiasm for what they serve and was friendly after what we perceived to be a bit of a warm-up. Not everyone is your perky waitress from the pancake house nor do we expect that. What we do appreciate is someone who has pride in his family and culture.
It is worth your while to find this little hole in the wall and try some pupusas or any of the other tasty sounding items on this menu.
Food                      4 1/2 out of 5
Service                  4 out of 5
Comfort                 4 out of 5
Value                     4 1/2 out of 5

Mr Siaopao

"Call Mr. Siopao, that's my name. That name again is Mr. Siopao." I wish to apologize for the early Simpson's reference (Mr. Plow) but I couldn't help myself. Mr. Siapao is a Filipino couple working out of The Core Kitchen in Langley. CK is a shared commercial kitchen where you can also find The Biryani Chef and Dipped Donut Co and I'm not even sure who else. There is no dining room and no front counter. You need to get in contact, place your order and arrange a pickup time. A little complicated but worth the effort.

Siopao is the Filipino version of a steamed meat (or other) bun of which there are similar versions in Chinese, Vietnamese and other southeast Asian cuisines. They are a wheat and rice flour simple bun stuffed with whatever filling you like, the most common being pork or chicken asado. They are a filling, comforting and tasty snack and we are fairly impressed with what Mr. Siopao is turning out!
Not much to look at from the outside, the special part comes with your first bite.
On our first try, we ordered a dozen of the carnivorous variety for a reasonable price of $36. We had to compare them side by side with our previous go-to for Siopao namely, New Town Bakery. We found them to be very similar but there was a fair bit more filling and less dough in the New Town versions. In all fairness, while Mr. Siopao charges $3 per bun while New Town's prices are up to $3.50 each for the chicken and pork asado and $4.25 for the bola bola  ( the sausage and egg in the photo above). Still, these are pretty good siopao.
Next time around, we tried all the non-meat buns and they have a good selection. These were $28 a dozen so very reasonable. Pictured above are Ube (purple yam and a classic Filipino flavour), Red Bean and Coconut (our favourite). Mharie felt like the ube and red bean could have been sweeter (she does have a sweet tooth, to be honest) but I liked them all.
In this photo, you see Mung Bean Pandan, Taro and Mushroom Veggie. I think the mushroom veggie might be my favourite of all. Taro is a bit of an acquired taste and has always reminded me of Hawaiian poi. The mung bean was quite flavourful. 
Siopao is a favourite among Filipinos and Mr. Siopao does a pretty good job and is reasonably priced. We are big fans of people who start cottage industries and fill a community need. For non-Filipinos, you may wonder what the fuss is about but give them a try and if they are not warm when you get them home, try a little bit of slow microwaving. You may find that there is something really good and unique to be enjoyed. Check out their Instagram for sure as their preparation pictures will make your mouth water.

Wierdo Cafe

First of all, why is Weirdo Cafe not more of a big deal in the food person community? I don't know that I've ever read a blog post about them, nor have I seen a posting on Instagram among the people that I follow. They are certainly guilty of a wildly creative menu and the dishes that we tried were successful for the most part. So am I missing something? I will admit that I'm not a big fan of the name Weirdo Cafe, although I understand that it refers to, said creative (weird) approach to fusion cuisine.

We arrived in the middle of Saturday afternoon and it was quite busy even at that time. We managed to find a parking spot in the tiny strip mall parking lot which is good. The surrounding area is not a parking paradise and we might have had some walking to do if we had not scored.
The Orange Tofu Pyramid would not qualify as too weird but it was nicely prepared. The sauce was strongly orangy and the tofu was crispy outside and silky inside. Nice!
Next up was Golden Desert. Fries coated with salted duck egg and pumpkin puree. I admit that I expected a big sauce but the additions were a little more subtle and the result was pretty fine. Just a bit of a lovely, sticky glaze on the fries that was salty and barely pumpkiny and a bit sweet. We could not leave these alone and would order them again, for sure!
Not on the regular menu and only available until 3 pm, we just made it under the wire and ordered Omelette Rice. I have a weakness for this comfort food great and under the egg and sauce cover is a wonderful rice concoction. The only fail here was the 'gravy' which was overly strong and frankly made my throat hurt! Too much beef concentrate? I'm not sure but it was too much.
Blueberry Yogurt Pork Chop Spaghetti was one of the surprising items on the menu. Would you think to put blueberries with spaghetti? I assure you that for whatever reason, this worked very well! It was not too fruity or sweet and I think that the yogurt had a hand in tempering this. The 'pork chop' was more of a pounded breadcrumbed and deep-fried piece of pork loin which was very tasty. This is a dish that we highly recommend!
Our servers were very efficient and enthusiastic about this place. The kitchen did not have any issues even though we arrived in the middle of the afternoon. We were comfortable and content. Food persons (I have stopped using the term foodies), put this place on your list! 
Management: Let someone else name your place!
Food             4 out of 5
Comfort        4 out of 5
Service         4 out of 5
Value            4 out of 5

World Vegan Day

I'm not a vegan. I'm not even a real vegetarian. I call myself a week-day vegetarian which means what it sounds like. Some of you might therefore call me a flexitarian but that is a bullshit label. Literally, every human being on the planet is a flexitarian and the label holds absolutely no commitment other than to eat exactly what you feel like eating anytime or anywhere. At least I've got the weekday thing going on and to be honest, I'm not even religious about that. I stick to it for the most part. So go ahead and call yourself a flexitarian. We all will know that you just want to sound like you're doing something.

I started fooling with a vegetarian diet four decades ago after reading Frances Moore Lappe's book, "Diet For A Small Planet." It taught me about the problems that a carnivorous diet causes for the planet. I learned that 16 pounds of plant protein go into making one pound of meat protein. I also learned about protein complementarity and how all the talk of not getting enough protein on a plant-based diet is crap.

Three further personal elements went into my leaning into plant-based eating. The first was that I really like legumes and whole grains. I always loved the rice and beans that came on the side when we went for Mexican food and I realized that many world cuisines rely heavily on these two food groups which just happen to work together to produce complete proteins. Secondly, I was an inherently cheap guy and I loved that a plant-based diet was much less expensive. You could save the animal proteins for weekends and much less of your income would go towards feeding yourself.  Thirdly, evidence was mounting even at the time that cutting animal proteins was far better for your health. We weren't overly aware of climate change back at the end of the 70s but that factors in a great deal now. Not to mention, the unethical treatment of animals.

Just a note about organic foods. I am not a fan. Not that I am in favour of raping the earth but organic food is the food of the privileged. Many organic crop yields are literally half of that of conventional farming. If all farmers went organic, how would the world feed itself? Not that conventional single crop massive farms are the answer either but organics are promoted by "big organic" in the same way that "big oil" continues to push its own money-making interests to the exclusion of evidence-based science and the interests of people in general. Don't be fooled. Sorry folks but the answers lie in GMOs which are safe having been exhaustively tested and investigated before being made available to the public. All you now furious organic eating people need to read some peer-reviewed science and not the health magazines available at your local health food store.

Here is what I ate today on World Vegan Day:

Lunch was rice and beans as it is on most days. You are welcome to roll your eyes at this point but I am practicing intermittent fasting these days so lunch is the first meal of the day. You can read some decent evidence-based science about it and it makes me feel pretty good. The bean mixture is my own variation on hummus and I love it! Every three weeks I make a batch and freeze it in one week portions. Two cans of garbanzos and one of black beans along with a 1/4 cup of peanut butter, some chipotle, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, cumin, chilli powder, salt, pepper and enough tomato sauce or even ketchup to make it a little less solid. All of it gets thrown in the food processor. Brown rice of course. I don't usually garnish my lunch at work but hey, this is a blog post!
I also oblige myself to eat a couple of pieces of fruit a day. I am not a huge fan of fruit but it's part of a balanced diet, right? Today it was an orange and an apple.
My afternoon snack today was a couple of rice cakes with some marmalade. Just a bite to tide me over to dinner.
Dinner starts with vegetables and I love my mandolin for this. Mix them up and shred them thin and then stir fry them in a little olive oil quickly. I might add a little soy sauce, miso paste or gochujang at the end and put a lid over them to steam them a bit. Whatever you have and however you want to finish them just remember that vegetables are at the top of the new food pyramid and they are the thing most people often like the least (Not me. I love vegetables).
Joining the veggies on my dinner plate where more of my usuals. Quinoa, stir-fried tofu and curried lentils round out this healthy vegan meal. I make my curried lentils in quantities that allow me to freeze them too. I use one of Patak's curry pastes, a can of tomatoes and a can of coconut milk along with whatever veggies I have on hand. Peas are good as are sweet potatoes and cauliflower. I don't really have a recipe. I just add stuff that tastes good! And I almost always love the results! 
As mentioned, I'm more of a vegetarian than vegan and most days a little sour cream or shredded cheese will make an appearance. I like a fried egg on top once in a while and I have a weakness for frozen yogurt.
But today is World Vegan Day.
There are so many reasons to cut back on animal products and I hope that one day, I will have the fortitude to take this to the next level. 
As a baby boomer, I am aware that my generation has had a large hand in screwing up the planet and many of us still deny that anything is even wrong. It is just pure selfishness.
Eating less meat is one thing that everyone can easily do to reduce their carbon footprint but even that does not absolve us of all responsibility.
Happy World Vegan Day!

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...