Blue Dragon

I was so looking forward to attending the Blue Dragon product launch but I had to cancel as I was sick. I asked if I could still get samples to try out, which they were happy to do. But imagine my surprise when I opened my apartment door in the morning to go to work, 2 days later, and this package is just lying there on my door step.I got home at 10pm the night before and I was now heading out at 8 am…when was this delivered?

I could not resit opening this suitcase box before heading out. It was the samples…I have to say I was very impressed. And opening the box was such a delight: 10 different samples of stir fry and cooking sauces. The Blue Dragon line does not end there: they also offer dipping sauces, noodles, wrappers, sesame oil, hoison and oyster sauce, fish sauce, and 2 types of coconut milk.

Blue Dragon is named after the Chinese symbol of good fortune. The company was created over thirty years ago when the founder realized there was hardly anything available in the shops that would help people create authentic Asian dishes at home at that time. Today Blue Dragon has become a great way to help you create delicious dishes from China, Thailand, Japan (UK site) and Vietnam. To bad not all the products are available in Canada, I guess I’ll have to go to there and look up cheap car hire from the uk to go shopping in London.

In the package I found the following flavors: Thai Red Curry Paste, Thai Green Curry Paste, Chinese Curry Cooking Sauce, Tomato & Sweet Chilli Cooking Sauce, Chow Mein Cooking Sauce, Sweet & Sour Cooking Sauce, Sweet & Sour Stir Fry Sauce, Wasabi Plum Stir Fry Sauce, Chilli Coconut Stir Fry Sauce, and Szechuan Pepper Stir Fry Sauce.

Obviously I have not gotten around to trying them all, I actually cooked 2 two meals so far only. I live alone and every sample gave me about 3 meals. All the sauces/stir fries mention they should be used within 3 to 5 days so opening everything to stick my finger in it was not option. Why a short self life you ask? Reading the ingredient’s lists of the Blue Dragon products is a pleasure because there are no preservatives at all! Just beautiful flavor packed spices, herbs, and sauces.

I really did love the ease of preparation for a full meal. All you have to do is cook your protein and/or veggies, add the sauce and cook a bit longer and then serve on a bed of rice or noodles. It’s a great way to use up all those veggies lying around in your fridge.

The stir fries suggest 350 gr of meat, chicken or seafood and 1 cups of veggies. I added more like 2-3 cups of veggies and I used chicken. The first one I wanted to try was the Chilli Coconut Stir Fry Sauce. I fell in love with it: so yummy, loved the coconut taste  and nice spiciness to it. I served it on a bed of Udon noodles. This one I will buy again and again.

Take a look at the ingredient’s list: Water, Coconut Milk (Coconut, Water), Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Lemongrass, Green Birdseye Chillies, Modified Maize Starch, Fish Sauce (Anchovy Extract, Salt, Sugar), Garlic Purée, Thai Basil, Ginger Purée, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Chilli Flakes, Galangal, Coriander, Lactic Acid, Lime Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid.

The cooking sauces ask for 3 meat, chicken, seafood portions. For this one I used a block of tofu and again 2-3 cups of veggies. I tried the Chinese Curry Cooking Sauce for this dish and I served the curry on a bed of Bamboo infused rice.

Ingredients listed are: Oil, Modified Maize Starch, Garlic Purée, Curry Powder (Coriander, Turmeric, Cumin, Salt, Garlic, Fenugreek, Chilli, Ginger, Fennel, Rice Flour), Onion Powder, Light Soy Sauce (contains Wheat and Soya), Chinese Five Spice, Spices, Salt, Citric Acid.

 

This one was a bit of disappointment unfortunately. The final taste was not packed with flavors and the only thing really coming though was the light spiciness. I also felt it needed salt…and I am not a salt kind a gal. Hopefully the other sauces pack a bit more punch, we shall see as I cook through them.

I feel like the theme in my kitchen will be Asian for a while. Normally I enjoy making my on sauce mixes and adding the amount of spices I like best but for someone with less experience or if you want a nice meal in a short amount of time I think Blue Dragon is definitely worth a try. Next I will try one of the Thai pastes for sure. The company seems to distribute out of the UK first, most of Europe and Canada. If you buy some let me know what you think.

The products were sent to me free of charge but my opinions are my own and are honest.

Exotic Dragon Fruit Flan

Funny how a recipe can travel around the world and take different shapes, take the crême caramel for example. Of European origin, crême caramel was found in most European restaurant’s menus during the 20th century. Sometimes a crême caramel is called a flan.

But the word flan comes actually from an Old German word “flado” meaning cake and around most of the world a flan refers to a tart with a crust and a egg custard filling…except in Latin countries and North America. Sometimes a flan is called a crême caramel. Confused? Wait I am not done yet!

Now let’s look at the Pitaya, also called Dragon Fruit. I had always assumed it was an Asian fruit. After all when it arrived in the markets I frequented it was always in Asian markets or in the pile of Asian fruits at the super market and the name Dragon Fruit kind of screams Asia. Well it turns out the Pitaya is actually native to Mexico and the South and Central Americas. It was only later that they started cultivating Pitayas in Asia which is were it was re-baptized Dragon Fruit.

When I was contacted by the wonderful people at Pitaya Plus for a review I was a little confused as to the big focus on Nicaragua and not Asia. Now I now why! The fruit is in fact native to them. This company offers a unique selection of products made from the Pitaya, or as they would say the Superfruit. The company offers juices, smoothies and dried Pitaya. I think these fruit ‘chips’ are really cool and I love the crispness to it. It is leathery like any dried fruit but there is a distinctive crackle when you take a bite. The juice is not a sweet one but it is refreshing as it is also mixed with coconut water and a touch of lemon. One bottle contains 16% of your daily dietary fiber recommendation!

When the dragon fruit made its first appearance in my local markets it was a ridiculous 8.99$ per fruit so I did not go exploring. I think my first taste was of a catered platter at a function I attended. I never bothered to look into this fruit, just admired the exotic look from afar. Now the store sells them for 2.99$ a fruit. And that is a good thing as it turns out Pitayas are very good for you.

Pitayas from Central America are characterized by a red flesh (unlike the white fleshed Asian Pitayas) and are just brimming with nutrients. Each fruit is packed with natural fiber, protein, vitamin C, antioxidants and Omega-3s. Pitaya has also been known to lower and stabilize blood glucose levels for people who suffer from Type-2 diabetes, while also decreasing levels of bad cholesterol. And now for some odd facts: did you know Pitayas are one of only a few fruits that grow from a cactus, and are the only fruits in the world pollinated by bats?

As of today Pitaya Plus offers the only certified organic pitaya on the planet! Pitaya Plus is also a great story of a social mission, social responsibility and empowerment. The company supports the community by hiring and working one on one with local farmers and single mothers which are all hired above minimum wage. The plant factory is solar powered, a renewable energy. The company is clear in specifying they are not a charity, they just want create something long lasting with benefits for everyone involved. Brava!

Dried Pitaya ‘chip’

I really wracked my brain when trying to come up with a recipe to test out the juice. I spent a lot of time surfing the net for inspiration. That is when I fell on flans. A Dragon Fruit Flan would definitely be out of the ordinary yet I saw it as a perfect marriage of a Latin fruit and a Latin dessert.

 

Ξ Dragon Fruit Flan Ξ

Ingredients

1/2 cup water
3/4 cup  sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup Pitaya Plus Super Juice
1/2 cup  milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Put water and sugar in a pan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Leave it on the flame until the mixture turns into a nice dark caramel color. Do not stir the pan while boiling. Immediately pour into ramekins.
  3. While the caramel is cooking, whisk eggs and sugar together, than add the juice and milk and mix thoroughly. Pour into ramekins over the caramel.
  4. Place ramekins in a large baking dish and fill with hot water 3/4 of the way up the edge of the ramequins . Bake for 45 minutes in the water bath until the flan is set and a knife comes out clean. Allow it to cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  5. Prior to flipping ramekin, run a knife along the sides of  flan to loosen it. Hold your deep plate tight to the ramekins and  flip.

Note the recipe make either 4 small ramekins or you can make one flan with a souffle dish, about 8 in across, like it did. In that case cooking time will be around 65-75 min approximately.

I always had a fear and a need to make a flan. As silly as it sounds single portion crême caramels turn me off but a cake sized Latin flan I adore. In a way by making this recipe I was facing my flan fears because it is very delicate in texture. And my flip was not exactly perfect as some sides broke off a little. The taste however was out of this world. My caramel was intense and a little overpowering but when I took a bite of the flan without the caramel I enjoyed a very light taste with a very subtle hint of Pitaya. It was a nice change from the usual cake or pie.

Wordless Soda Wednesday

Brought to you by Jarritos…and no I have not lost my mind, just having fun with the props.

Lucha Libre anyone?

Really sexy shot of me

The Yogurt, she is going Greek

OK now read the title of the post again but with the accent of the father in the movie My Greek Wedding!

Is it me or everyone is doing Greek yogurt right now? I have no complaints about it, I love the stuff, but it is the IN THANG in yogurtland. The newest company to come out with their version of Greek yogurt is Danone. Yes the same one where I recently visited the production plant and had a preview taste testing.

I received a sample pack from Danone to try out their Greek yogurt. And I have to say, like all their other products, I like it a lot. I was just amazed by the extraordinary texture of Oikos Greek yogurt. I found it uniformly thick compared to other brands. I loved the really rich and creamy texture in my mouth.

Danone uses only three ingredients (milk, cream and an active culture) and requires three times more milk than a regular yogurt to make Oikos. Traditional Greek straining methods combined with modern technology are the secret to the luscious consistency. And at approximately 90-100 calorie and 1.5 grams of fat (3% of daily recommendation) per 100 gr serving (average of all Oikos products)  the waistline will love it too.

Now for the kitchen test run. I wanted to do something quick to turn my boring bean salad lunch into a flavorful meal. First I thought of tzatziki but why not stray into something a bit more exotic: cumin and mint!

oikos yogurt

Ξ Cumin Mint Yogurt Sauce Ξ

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons mint, fresh chopped (3/4 tsp dry)
  • 2 teaspoon honey
  • dash of sea salt

Whisk all ingredients together and chill for a couple of hour so the flavors can develop. It is wonderful with vegetables, crudites, beans, seafood, meats or as a spread on bread.

I also received two dessert Oikos Greek yogurt versions: honey or blueberry and the bottom. The blueberry was very but the honey gave me a WOW factor, big time. It is so good and the honey is just fantastic. That one could be addictive. Also available in stores are strawberry and vanilla, and a plain organic version.

Jarritos Mexican Soda

One of the privileges of having a blog with a certain following is getting products to try out and review. In my case I try my best to stay on the ethnic theme. And in this case it could not have been a better product to review on Cheap Ethnic Eatz. We will look at an affordable ethnic soda. Yes! Sodas from Mexico called Jarritos.

I was very excited and intrigued. I am not a huge soda drinker but I have a little story about an ethnic soda that marked a trip to Peru. Peruvians are obsess with Inca Kola. It is all over the place there and I liked the taste which I would say is a cross between cream soda and bubble gum. I digress, let’s get back to the Jarritos family of flavors.

Jarritos reflects traditional Mexican flavors in 12 delicious varieties. I received Tamarind, Mandarin, Fruit Punch, Lime, Toronja, Pineapple, Strawberry, Mango and Mexican Cola. I did not get the Jamaica, Guava and Mineragua, a mineral carbonated water.

Before I get to my flavor reviews I wanted to tell you a bit more about the company. Jarritos or “Little Jars”, was started by Don Francisco “El Güero” Hill in 1950. The Jarritos brand is currently owned by Novamex, a large independent-bottling conglomerate based in Guadalajara. In 10 years, Jarritos became available in 80 percent of Mexico. In 1989, the first importation of Jarritos to retail stores in the U.S. began. And will ever make it to Canada? Hopefully one day.

How pretty are those bottles all lined up? I love the the variety of flashy colors. You can practically guess which flavor it will be by the color. Now soda has a bad rap but this line is better then most health wise. For one only 100% natural cane sugar is used, they are made with natural fruit flavors and are more carbonated then the traditional soft drinks sold in the U.S.. Finally they are sold in cool glass bottles in individual portions of 12.5 oz which give a retro look I like. Let’s look at the flavors I got to try…

Overall I found all the sodas extra sweet but apparently that is typical of Latin countries. It is not unpleasantly sweet, just quite more then you would expect. I found the level of carbonation varied greatly to from one bottle to the next.

Toronja: this flavor is grapefruit and the carbonation in it was intense. Every sip was frothing in my mouth. The flavor was delicate and sweet without the tartness of the fruit. My 2nd favorite.

Fruit Punch: the carbonation was normal and lovely. I really could taste a fruit punch flavor with a balanced sweetness.

Mexican Coke: this cola is unlike what we are familiar with but I like it better. There is a lemony flavor too with the cola.

Mandarin: this would be comparable to a fancier orange crush but better. It did stain my glass until washing???

Lime: just simply nice and refreshing.

Pineapple: I got the pineapple flavor right away but my friend only tasted it after 3 good sips. We used the balance in a sangria

Strawberry: why is it so hard to make strawberry anything. I found this one to have the most artificial flavor, sad.

Tamarind: No.1, my favorite thus far, I really get the tamarind flavor and it is very unique for me. So nice.

Mango: this one was pretty good as well, 3rd favorite, and the flavor was close to the natural real fruit.

Jarritos Mural

Jarritos has a lot of cool stuff happening on our Jarritos Facebook page! We’ve just unveiled a new “Jarritos Nation” contest app: a daily scavenger hunt where users can follow clues to win free sodas, t-shirts, gift cards and other great prizes. Check out also the Club Jarritos website which is also running a daily summer promotion where you can win cash instantly just for signing up and redeeming your cap codes. You can also earn Club Jarritos points just for playing our apps.

Just to clear things up. Now lots of people think we get paid or bribed…..trust me companies want honest reviews, they want them fair and objective. All we bloggers get is a sample. And I would like to thank RocketXL for this review opportunity.

My Watermelon, my Melon Baller and I

My regular readers know how much I enjoy a food challenge. From friendly recipe challenges to figuring out what is the name of that exotic vegetable I bought at some ethnic grocery store with the illegible (to me) item sign, I have fun pushing my kitchen limits. So when I was asked to participate in a watermelon carving contest how could I resist!

Only problem is I have never carved a watermelon before. I must have a good 15 to 25 pumpkin carvings under my belt since my parents let me hold a knife, but a watermelon carving, this is a first. And the design must be original. OK time to roll-up the sleeves.

The National Watermelon Promotion Board was kind enough to supply a set of paring knives, a double ended melon baller (one round scoop and one v-shaped cutting tool) and a small watermelon. Thankfully we could get a different  watermelon then the one provided as it was too short for what I had in mind.

I had sorbet on my mind, yep watermelon sorbet. Ever since I saw Emily Maloy’s post for a watermelon sorbet recipe I have been salivating for a cold spoonful of this sorbet. Now all I had to do was come up with a way to combine a carving and sorbet. Finally I had a vision for my submission for the Watermelon Blogger Carving Challenge. How about building an art deco inspired stage showcasing the watermelon sorbet? I can almost hear Bessie Smith sing.

Yes, the Halloween pumpkin tradition was too strong, I had to incorporate a candle in there. Unlike a pumpkin though, watermelon gives off a gorgeous neon pink glow. What a great way to show case Cheap Ethnic Eatz, or CEE. I really liked my watermelon carving experience. Perhaps you think my Watermelon Sorbet Stage was a difficult and time consuming exercise but it was actually quite simple, as long as you mentally picture the architecture of your design.  Let me walk you though the steps…

With the watermelon standing make a horizontal cut halfway up, then cut out your piece by making your vertical cut a bit further to the back then half way.

With the v-shaped cutting tool I cut out an accordion pattern which would represent my stages background, very art deco and linear. Oh and I LOVE this tool, so easy to cut.

Next I drew my letters CEE with a marker and cut them out. My first cuts where at an inward 45 degree angle so they could pop out easily. Then I cut my lines clean. I turned my watermelon around and I cut out the place where my candle would be. I fleshed out the interior with the scoop melon baller carefully to have a thin flesh layer remaining where my letters were. I adore the pink color it gives off.

Finally I added a bit of decoration with the paring knives by cutting out 2 hearts on each side and cutting a thin line below the stage to give a floating floor effect. That is it. See! It was not that difficult.

And now I have all this beautiful watermelon flesh left over for the sorbet. But before make a few pretty watermelon balls with the scoop tool.

Ξ Watermelon and Basil Sorbet Ξ
adapted from Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Ingredients:

4 cups pureed watermelon
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp fresh basil

Directions:

1. Puree watermelon with basil.
2. Boil 1 cup of the pureed watermelon with the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, making a syrup, and allow it to cool completely.
3. Add to remaining pureed watermelon and and process for 25 minutes in an ice cream machine.
4. Freeze for 3 hours or up to overnight.

Place some sorbet balls on the stage, add a few melon balls and a couple of basil sprigs.

And the final touch: light the candle and dim the lights! A natural electric pink neon light!

A few watermelon health facts:

  • Watermelon has 92 per cent water content and is an excellent hydrator. So take some with you on your hike.
  • Watermelon is low in fat and cholesterol-free.
  • Watermelon is an excellent source of an important amino acid, citrulline. The human body uses citrulline to make another important amino acid – arginine – which plays a key role in cell division, wound healing and the removal of ammonia.
  • Watermelon contains high levels of the antioxidant lycopene – a 2 cup serving of watermelon contains 18.16 mg.
  • Watermelon is low in sodium and a source of potassium.
  • Watermelon is a good source of the following (per 250 mL or one-cup serving):
    • Vitamin C
    • Thiamine (vitamin B1)
    • Vitamin B6
    • Vitamin A

Thank you to The National Watermelon Promotion Board for hosting this great challenge and introducing me to the fun art of watermelon carving.

Matsuri Japon, Montreal Japanese Cultural Festival with foodies

Last Saturday, August 13th 2011, I had the pleasure of discovering a small festival I had never even heard about: Matsuri Japon.  Taking place in the backyard of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Center of Montreal, this great little festival is presented in the spirit of a traditional Japanese festival, as a means to develop greater awareness of Japanese culture among Montreal citizens and foreign visitors. This was actually their 10th year!

There were neat kiosks for Japanese items and official Matsuri souvenirs, a games area, lots of traditional Japanese cuisine food kiosks, and  2 performance stages dedicated to martial art and traditional  performances like dances, Taiko drums and much more. Not only was the festival a thrill already I got to enjoy it with two very special friends: Valerie of The Chocolate Bunny who is a local food blogger and a friend, as well as the visiting Mary of Mary Mary and Culinary from Ottawa. It was a lot of fun to share such ethnic foods with fellow bloggers.

I will now let you enjoy the pictures of our day there with a few comments when a food is in the picture.  But first enjoy this (shaky) video of a Taiko performance, I love these drums. Oh you should check out Valerie’s post on this outing too, she has great pics of performances I did not snap.

 

 

 

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. This one was predominantly a rice base with cabbage. it was served topped with a sauce, mayonnaise and Katsuobushi (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna).

 

 

 

 

Hiyashi Udon is served cold and consists of  a bed of udon noodles with a sauce (made of soy, Mirin and Dashi) and covered with sliced negi and flakes of tempura batter.

 

 

 

Takoyaki are fried or grilled octopus ball-shaped Japanese dumpling made of batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan (see above). It is typically filled with diced or whole baby octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion.