Beyond sweet and sour – Calgary Herald

Alberta pork plays a starring role at Vancouver’s new Chinese fine dining festival.

VANCOUVER — Forget your sickly, sticky, sweet-and-sour pork balls.

Vancouver, home to the best Chinese restaurants outside China (and,
some critics say, the world’s best Chinese restaurants, period), the
city’s exceptional chefs have discovered Alberta pork, and their meals
may never be the same.

“We always have to be
creative, to try new things,” says Yiu Fung Lau, executive chef at
Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant. “My experience cooking with Alberta
pork has been great.”

Ming Yeung, executive
chef at Bamboo Grove in Richmond, agrees: “I think, we are in Vancouver,
very close to Alberta. We source Canada products first for our dishes.
We do have to update classic dishes with Canadian ingredients and modify
or keep the flavour or do it even better.”

and Yeung are just two of the chefs participating in a new festival,
the Signature Dish Dining Festival, which runs from Nov. 1 to 18 in 18
Chinese restaurants throughout Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby. It’s a
prelude to the Chinese Restaurant Awards, to be announced on Jan. 17,
2012, but it’s also much more than that.

the first time, this festival celebrates the chefs, who traditionally
remain anonymous, while the owner or manager is the public face of a
Chinese restaurant. These chefs are proudly front and centre, smiling,
welcoming, their crisp white jackets gleaming and adorned with medals
and awards.

“The chefs were very excited about
the whole opportunity,” says Craig Stowe, founding director of the
Chinese Restaurant Awards and the force behind the new festival. “We
really focused on their pride and challenged them to come up with
something spectacular.”

Moreover, the festival focuses on the way Chinese traditionally like to dine.

western diners, who may choose a restaurant by its ambience, Chinese
diners pick a restaurant because they like a particular, signature dish —
say, the king crab in curry sauce at one place or the seafood congee at

But perhaps most importantly, this
festival celebrates the ingredients, chief among them Alberta beef and
Alberta pork, thanks to an initiative by the Alberta Livestock and Meat

“Alberta decided to come on board
because it’s a high quality market for a high quality product,” says
Norm Janssen, a senior development officer at Alberta Agriculture and
Rural Development.

Beef is something of a
luxury ingredient in Chinese cooking, but pork is an absolute essential.
It’s used in soups, sauces, noodles, dumplings, stir-fries, sausages,
appetizers, side dishes and main courses. It’s also nutritious,
versatile and delicious.

“We use almost every part of the pork for Chinese cooking,” Bamboo Grove’s Yeung says.

Henry Ng, executive chef at Northern Delicacy, a Shanghainese
restaurant in Richmond, “Pork has the charm for us to create various
dishes, combining it with other ingredients and even alone.”

western chefs would often choose the high end chops and roasts, Chinese
chefs prefer the more flavourful but less expensive cuts, such as spare
ribs and pork cheek. The latter is especially popular because of its
springy texture and delicate flavour that’s versatile in stir-fries.

standout pork dishes in the festival include Northern Delicacy’s
steamed pork brisket, a golden pillow of silky sweet fat and tender
salty meat, and The Jade Seafood Restaurant’s pork fillet with mushrooms
and basil, a complex banquet of mushroomy umami and aromatic herbal

Jade’s executive chef Tony Luk, the
CRA’s 2011 chef of the year, enjoyed how Alberta pork’s quality allowed
him to be more creative and update classic dishes.

“We have to explore ingredients most of the time,” Luk says. “Local ingredients are always fresh, with promising quality.”

fresh, fresh is what it’s all about in Vancouver’s Chinese
restaurants,” says Stowe, who’s noticed that customers are increasingly
asking for local ingredients and demanding to know the food’s

This is increasingly the case in
the city’s Asian eateries, especially now that Canada has received
China’s Approved Destination Status and affluent Chinese visitors are
flocking here just to dine.

“They’ve heard
about the super-clean process meat and seafood goes through in Canada
and they’re here to try it. Food and travel are completely connected,”
Stowe says.

Of course, local residents are also demanding what’s fresh, local and high quality.

have a large demand for local ingredients as they are easier to be
sourced and the quality is guaranteed,” says Fraser Court’s Lau. “There
is more consistency of quality and flavour of the dishes.”

And if the chefs have their way, Alberta pork will continue to appear on their tables long after the festival is over.

If you go:

The Signature Dish Dining Festival runs to Nov. 18, featuring 18 Chinese restaurants in Richmond, Vancouver and Burnaby, B.C.

restaurant offers set menus for four, six or 10 people, with prices of
$100, $150 and $300 (tax, drinks and gratuities not included).
Reservations recommended; mention that you plan to take part in the
festival. For more info, visit

Baked Sliced Alberta Pork Fillet with Herb & Mushrooms

striking and subtly flavourful dish is prepared by the 2011 CRA Chef of
the Year Tony Luk at The Jade Seafood Restaurant in Richmond. You’ll
need to start making the sauce a day before you prepare this dish.

lb (250 g) Alberta pork tenderloin

1 tsp (5 mL) potato starch

1 tsp (5 mL) sea salt

6 slices Portobello mushroom

butter as needed

Yunnan Wild Morel Mushroom Sauce (see recipe below)

6 slices cucumber

6 fresh basil leaves

the Alberta pork tenderloin and slice crosswise into 6 fillets. Toss
with a bit of potato starch and sea salt and allow to marinate for 2

Preheat oven to 200°F (100°C).

Wash the Portobello mushrooms, trim any especially dark gills, then cut the caps into about the same size slices as the pork.

Alberta pork fillets into a baking dish and cover with the Yunnan Wild
Morel Mushroom Sauce. Put the fillets into the oven and bake for 20

Meanwhile, heat a
wok or large skillet on medium heat, then add a small knob of butter.
Pan-fry the Portobello mushroom slices till half cooked, then remove
from heat and sprinkle with sea salt.

On a
serving plate, arrange the cucumber slices, then top each first with a
slice of Portobello mushroom, then a pork fillet and finally a basil
leaf. Use a toothpick to sandwich each stack. Serves 6.

Chef Tony Luk’s Yunnan Wild Morel Mushroom Sauce

you can’t find the dried mushrooms at your local gourmet grocery story,
order them through Mirin and yakiniku sauces
are available at Asian markets; so is chicken powder, a savoury base
frequently used in Asian cooking for soups, sauces and seasonings.

3 oz (90 g) dried morel mushroom

3 oz (90 g) dried porcini mushrooms

5 oz (140 g) red onions, minced

butter as needed

2 cups (500 mL) water

1 tsp (5 mL) Ebara Yakiniku no Tare sauce or to taste

2 tsp (10 mL) Japanese mirin sauce

1 tsp (5 mL) brandy

2 tsp (10 mL) chicken powder

the dried morel mushroom and the dried porcini separately in water for
24 hours. The next day, wash well and pour out the water. Mince the
morel mushroom and the dried porcini separately.

Use a blender to blend the morel mushroom and dried porcini into very small pieces.

a pot over medium heat, then add a generous knob of butter and let it
melt completely. Add red onion and mushrooms, then stir-fry.

Add water, yakiniku sauce, mirin, brandy and chicken powder. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat. Serves 6.

Alberta Pork Spare Ribs in Sweet Vinegar Sauce

deceptively simple dish by executive chef Ming Yeung at Richmond’s
Bamboo Grove Restaurant has surprising depths of flavour.

8 Alberta pork spare ribs

1 tsp (5 mL) white sugar

2 tsp (10 mL) brown sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) chicken powder

1 tsp (5 mL) apple cider (non-alcoholic)

6 tsp (30 mL) Chinese black vinegar

cup (100 mL) water

vegetable oil as needed

Wash the Alberta pork spare ribs, pat dry, then toss with white sugar and allow to marinate for 2 hours.

Mix brown sugar, chicken powder, apple cider, Chinese black vinegar and water together to create sauce. Set aside.

a large skillet or wok over medium heat and add a little bit of
vegetable oil. Pan-fry the pork spare ribs until they are half cooked.
Add the sauce and stir-fry at medium heat for another 10 minutes.

Serves 8.

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