January 2007 Archives

Off to the Big Apple!

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Yes I am!

Service: 68 Adirondack
Duration: 9h 50m

Montreal, QC (MTR)
01-FEB-07; 9:50 am

New York - Penn Station, NY (NYP)
01-FEB-07; 7:40 pm

Chez Doval

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Chez Doval is an otherwise perfectly good place to try Portuguese food in Montreal (and Jano's, aka the place you go to when the Schwartz lineup is too full, and your stomach, too empty, is not bad either). We went there for our office's Christmas dinner this year, where I got the grilled grouper. For some reason, grouper is not my fish of choice on the grill.

Went back tonight with S. You are first served a metal plate with one compartment with butter cups, and the other with a number of small black and green olives, and a basket filled with two gigantic Portuguese bread.

She had grilled squid as appetizer, which size could've well made it a main dish. The squid was served in slices, and had absorbed all of the grill's smoking taste that was expected. I had a chicken noodles soup, with the noodles being rice grain-sized stars, and the chicken, being what looked like real chicken stock (I won't bet my wallet on it, but the bits of chicken made it look like it didn't come from the can). I also had garlic shrimp, which was puny in size (six pieces), but was soaked in some interesting sauce that had tomatoes, and maybe some wine or porto (one review says it's butter).

For the main dish, S got a Portuguese-style steak, which was basically steak with a fried egg on top of it. XD It was a very good steak, she thought. I was intrigued by the "pork and clams" from the meat section. I was expecting to get something grilled, but I realize now that I had "scallops" in mind when thinking of "clams", the former being more easily grilled than the latter. It was reminiscent of the Chinese vinegared pork, or "khoh zhu yok", by the strength of its taste, and its appearance (dark undifferentiated pieces of meat and fried potato cubes in a thick sauce). The sauce, filling the bottom of a round dish containing the mound of pork/potatoes/four clams, was certainly wine-based, and too salty. I did not ask what this "pork and clams" was, so I only have myself to blame. The grilled chicken that the neighboring table had sure looked good after my third peck at the pork/potatoes.

For dessert, we were too full. However, they had at least natas, from what I can remember of last time. Got out of there for a little less than $30 a person. Just don't take the pork and clams. If you stay with the grilled meat and seafood, and are with a bunch of friends, it should be a food-sharing extravaganza.

Accommodements raisonnables

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There's the issue of "accomodement raisonnable" or "reasonable arrangement" raging over here in Quebec, punctuated with surveys of inflammatory properties, and just yesterday, small-town Quebec adding their voices to the debate. I still think that talking about it is a good thing, rather than bottling up, and then exploding with all the damage that compressed rage and misunderstanding may cause.

The small town of Herouxville near Trois-Rivieres published a document for immigrants that state a few too obvious rules such as "stoning of women is forbidden in Herouxville", and sent it to politicians at the provincial and federal level. I don't know if it's a publicity stunt, or whether the people realized what they said. It seems to me that it is motivated by ignorance, putting all immigrants of certain origins in the same basket, or that it is shock method employed by marginalized people (rural Quebecers) to provoke a harder, more clear-cut stance on societal norms than "accommodements raisonnables".

A hipster party in Mtl

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After watching Pan's Labyrinth (an excellent fairytale for grown-ups), we went to this party of a friend's friend, thrown in a nondescript old building at 10 Pine Avenue W, in what seemed to be either a building for small businesses (some Chinese newspaper I've never heard of before on the ground floor), NGOs, and perhaps shady activities. It was apparently someone's flat (or loft), but noone there really knew, as they'd just be holding these get-togethers once in a while. We were charged a cover of 5$, which probably helped pay the rent for the whole month. Weren't more than 50 at a time, but a lot of people just came and went.

It turned out to be organized by some Japanese expats, and more than half the guests were/looked like they were Japanese, and the other half, declared or implied Japanophiles. The first DJ (one of the host's friends) played more of that normal dance pop, and was saying how he didn't want to venture too much into his J-music collection for the sake of the many locals present. Of course, I didn't believe that, and hinted him to play some from it anyways. Eventually, Chara (MILK) and Yuki (Joy) (in a party!) was played, along with what the DJ described as children music. And it was a first time hearing J-music, and especially with noone reacting strangely. The second DJ (another one of the host's friends) played some electro that was hard and abstract the way we like.

In no particular order. I was just told that Van Roy's famously greasy pork chops (included in tonight's Szechuan combo) negates the effect of two days of working out. I don't like to think of working out as a way to burn fat, but more for activating one's body and feeling healthier in general. So, I don't.

In some disturbing news, I will attempt to pass my driving school's test next Tuesday. It is but a question of confidence, b/c noone ever has a slight idea of what a "hand-over-hand" or "checking one's blind angle" really means.

On Friday, we went Piknic Electronik, with unspecified friends. The weather was clement (-10C, with high winds), and we witnessed a fire in Chinatown destroying the building that used to house the corner grocery store (declining for a few years already, and it's not a bad thing that they think of building something new on that corner).

And, plans to go to 纽约市, as a shameless occasion to stock up at the UniQlo in SoHo. But seriously, museums, restaurants, and the richest city in the world? Who'd say no to this, even if it's going to be in the midst of the deadly month of February? It would be improvised, at best, and mayhaps in train through the snowy Adirondacks, if I mind myself to go through with this extravagance. Cheers.

Google owns me

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I recently allowed Google to index my blog, and some things that I write about place me way up there. The topic of Montreal sushi buffets has me as a Top 10 hit since that post on Odaki last year. It's probably temporary, but my post last week on Dragon Boys also scores pretty high. Obscure HK and Quebec indie bands I write about also score high (and I suppose that scoring highly doesn't guarantee good traffic).


The posts I am the most fond of are the posts about food, Linux how-tos, and the trip to Asia in 2005. It probably makes sense that _good_ contents, the contents that you've researched and integrated, is what would score the highest, just because people trust you and link you in return... The downside is of course that I can't afford my 15Kb of Google fame (bandwidth has been averaging 100Mb for the past week, and I have 1Gb "for free").

Curse of the Golden Flower

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I am no longer surprised by the sort of the ending crazed egomaniac director can feed their audiences at career-end. Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower was more than good for the first half of it. I thought, all this preemptive worrying that it would be like House of the Flying Daggers was perhaps not justified? Wrong. Oh, so wrong. It wasn't the type of What The Hell that makes me regret paying for my entrance ticket - more the sort that you laugh out loud with your partners in crime. Yes, that's it. Just like why Seven Swords is meant for a genre and localized crowd to appreciate.

Some people behind laughed when Jay Chou, who does a Taiwanese pop/rap singer for daytime job, appeared on the screen, with a goatee, and soldier equipment on him. There were a lot of Asian people, and probably Chinese people, from the language spoken in the theater before the movie started; I expected a mostly White arthouse crowd, but man, I was so wrong. I should've known after Zhang Yimou's latest movies, which all sort of fit in the action/wushu genre. The audience was young and Asiaphile, just like us. I didn't recognize Chow Yun-fat, in the role of the emperor, for about two and a half scenes he was in, perhaps because I didn't know he did such a natural Mandarin or because of the goatee too.

Jay Chou - Ju Hua Tai

The first half of the movie is a display of wealth, and I thought, gee, is that to say that anyone in today's China can live like an Emperor? And then, suffer all the consequences of greed and backstabbing-mania, with chrysanthemum as silent (and trampled) witness, and happy Jay music to cheer us up in the midst of all this bleakness. If Zhang Yimou meant it as a critique of today's capitalistic chacun-pour-soi China, then, bravo, you are a master indeed!

The lost tapes

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Also, one of the music tapes my father recovered was taped over with a minute and a half of a conversation we had while playing mini-golf, with grandma. Either me or my brother spoke exquisitely cute baby Cantonese, minus the twenty years of acculturation from today. With the "wor" and "ma", we sounded like genuine Cantonese, not this distorted chimera of Chinese, English, French mix. My father sounds a lot like me, his voice clearer and a lot less mature. My mother sounds like her youngest sister. My grandma, well, sounds like my grandma. :D

It's ironic that the song being taped over is some patriotic song in Cantonese called "Ngor hei chung kwok yan" (I am Chinese). It's interesting to know that we were so frighteningly Chinese in the language we spoke, and lets me think that something from my early childhood makes me fond of hearing Cantonese sounds (I have the vocabulary of a 8 years old'er, and none of the colloquial).

Yan Lei

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"Kétaine au boutte", would be how you would describe the music of Jenny Tseng Yan Lei. If the retro-kitsch movement reached HK, then they'd certainly be playing that stuff among certain circles. My father says it dates from the 1980s, but it is reminiscent of 1960s music in the West.

After trying to (unsuccessfully) repair the old sound system controller, I guess that my father fell on some old music tapes, including that of Yan Lei, and is currently playing it in their room next door. What wasn't my surprise when I overheard it! Because, to tell the truth, I have been passively wanting to find such oldie-sounding music originating from a certain lost era between WKW's sixties and today. There was some of it all throughout Fantasia, the 2004 Cecilia Cheung movie set in the sixties, and one of those Asian uber-goofy mainstream flicks.The first reference that comes in mind is, what, Quebec's Robert Charlebois, or Beau Dommage? (It's the same era, for sure) The only explanation as to why I am fond of this kind of music is that I like to live in the past and feel nostalgic aout everything. As good as it might be, it's definitely not to be listened all day long.

My foot back in Kansas

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Dragon Boys, part I

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Yeah, so it was aired tonight. Not going to be the talk of the town over, b/c of our tiny tiny Chinese population, but according to Google, it did stir a little discussion over on the West Coast. For one thing, it was interesting to see HK stars (Eric Tsang, Lawrence Chou) on the small screen, the CBC, no less. Tsang does the gangster boss again, which he played memorably well in Infernal Affairs (even reprising his own role in parody Love is a Many Stupid Thing, shamelessly helping to milk the Infernal Affairs cow).

The TV adaptation of John Woo's Once A Thief on CTV was the last Canadian series I could remember involving Chinese people and topic, as more than one cast member. Incidentally, it was also about gangsters (being based on John Woo's work). I particularly liked the tirade between Inspector Jiang and his Scottish-descended colleague, where they speak about why he chooses to identify himself as Chinese, while his colleague long-forgot that he was of Scottish origin. Canadianess will never be just an abstract set of values. The part where the colleague shows off his Cantonese skills is also sweet. Generally, I wasn't offended by the portrayal of Chinese people, and a Chinese version of The Little Mosque In The Prairie would be intriguing, yet irrelevant to a Canadian audience. I look forward to Part II.

After work, I bussed down to Chinatown to pick up dinner for tonight. In about less than an hour, I walked around the quarter, and here's a summary of what I found out, or found was worth blogging about.

Cured duck leg

Cured duck leg hangs at the window of Sun Sing Lung, on De La Gauchetière, below Keung Kee restaurant, near Clark and St-Urbain. It sells for $9 a pound, and the leg piece I had cost $3.45. Cured duck leg, also called "air-dried duck leg" (or "lap ap pei" in Cantonese) is typically cooked in the rice cooker, so that the juices are absorbed by the rice. In restaurants, the rice cooker is substituted with an earthenware pot, and Chinese bacon, salted eggs and Chinese lap cheung may be added as well. This is generally called "lap mei faan", which is loosely translated as tasty rice. It is indeed very tasty.

HK-style milk tea

milktea.png HK-style milk tea is a metaphor for its namesake: it is a very strong Chinese tea, mixed with evaporated milk, like the Brits do. The concoction should be as bitter as coffee, and yet keeps the smoothness of its lactic parent. Authentic milk tea can't be gotten anywhere (at least in Montreal), because not all Chinese restaurants keep strong tea, let alone evaporated milk. In Chinatown, there are two places that I know which serves the real thing, both being two of Chinatown's "cha chaan teng", or tea eateries: the Unnamed Eatery Under Kam Fung (on St-Urbain, below René-Lévesque, and facing Complexe Guy-Favreau), and Legend ("Lai Tsing") on De La Gauchetière, between Clark and St-Urbain. Milk tea at bubble tea places like L2 and Magic Idea are too diluted to be considered HK-style milk tea.

Chinese BBQ (to go)

Char siu & Siu yok
It's meat, after all, and not really the kind that you soak up with saline water or gelatin to increase its weight. "Siu yok" is roasted pork. The best cut arguably traverse the ribs, as it is leanest (as you get real meat, you also get a lot of real lard). Two rib bones should be enough to feed 3-4 hungry people, and I got mine for $9.50 at Restaurant Hong Kong, on the east side of St-Laurent, below De La Gauchetière, in that cavern-like shopping mall. Other tenants there have changed hands at least three or four times each since my childhood, from fishmonger to Korean restaurants, while Restaurant Hong Kong stood there for over fifteen years. They are especially good for their char siu (Barbecued pork filet, and a semi-fat piece is good - for $5 a strip). Either have it chopped up in front of you, if you're planning to eat it the same night, or not, if you wish to eat it another day and preserve the meat's moisture (can be frozen and thawed in a bowl of hot instant noodles). For the same day, the best is to not heat it up in the oven, such that the pieces' don't become dry and gelatinous.

Generally, people prefer to eat it on rice with veggies, but it can also be served in noodles, or in a stir fry (where siu yok loses its crunch, and char siu, its flavour, however). My father thinks that the Chinese meat place under Kam Fung restaurant is also great for its siu yok, but not the rest.

Chinese green vegetable

Fried baby bok choy
You can buy Chinese greens, or "choy", about anywhere. "Bok choy", or White Vegetable, can mean a lot of things. It typically points to the Chinese cabbage, or Nappa, which is the same that is used by Koreans for kimchi. The variety pictured here is a lot different, but also called "bok choy", and more specifically "Shanghai baby bok choy". They are bulb-shaped, bright green upon cooking and bite-sized (the ones slightly bigger ones drop the "baby").

Prices vary depending on the season, and they now currently fetch for $2.69/lbs, a big pack for four people costs $4.25. I like going to the grocery store "Wing Cheong Hong" that opened in '05 on Clark, in the Ruby Rouge shopping mall, and with a door on the street too, because they are the only grocery store in Chinatown with a vegetable counter. The vegetable counter is just a table in the front store where the employees open up boxes of vegetable and pack them in transparent plastic bags in front of customers. It's a common practice in supermarkets in Asia and in Chinese Canadian supermarkets, like T&T and Hawai, but the concept still doesn't register with many older grocery stores.

Cooking SH baby bok choy well is art. Prepare about a garlic clove per person. I prefer finely chopping my garlic, as I think the flavour releases more evenly. You must heat up a fair amount of oil in a wok. The oil's the key to cooking good bok choy: the vegetable must be crunchy, yet cooked. The hot cooking oil rapidly transfers its heat to the vegetable, cooking it quickly and thoroughly. If the oil's not hot enough, then it extends the cooking for too long, and the choy become soggy. The other requirement is for vigorous stirring, or otherwise, the vegetable won't cook evenly, and you will end up with the inside of your bok choy left uncooked. Throw in the chopped garlic on the nearly-smoking cooking oil, but don't let it brown, or you will be stuck with a bitter garlic aftertaste. Then, throw in full baby bok choy, and fry while stirring well, until you get the consistency that you want (slightly more raw is better, because it will cook some more at rest, in the presentation vessel).

FFXII == hash and slash crack

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After playing my 18th hour, I decided that FFXII was absolutely no good, except for its fabulous cinematics. The graphics are alright, but I've seen better with WoW on a cranked-up graphics card. The landscapes are, ugh, as repetitive as one's mother's blather (<3 mom), especially now that I am in the Seasand.

As for the storyline, there are a few points of interest. First, are Gabranth and Basch actually two different people? For the longest time, until maybe the 15th hour, we didn't see Gabranth's real face, so were left to guess. At this point, we can believe that he might still be some weird apparition, which would spice up an otherwise "Dallas cliffhanger-esque" explanation. Secondly, noone should get together, except for Vaan and Penelo. Not that it is a reason, but Ashe is also older and more mature than Vaan, and she is not going to hook up with Vaan, except in some many fanfics to come to a computer monitor near you. Thirdly, well... isn't it confusing when all the White folks in that video look the same, save for baby-faced Rasler? Fourthly, I thought that Lamont (whatever his real name) really really looks like a young woman, but it's just an aristocratic accoutrement. Between about the 10th and 12th hour, one could've still believed that another interesting twist of event was for Lamont to be revealed as another woman posing as a man! But no, it's old, and Ivalice is a progressive place.

Off to the Bell Centre! My uncle and aunt fetched two tickets in the Rouges for myself and my brother. Section 110, Rangee V, Siege 1!

(The game's addictive, no duh.)

FFXII == red eyes

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So I caved in and bought a PS2, and have logged over 15 hours in two days. My blood-injected eyes won't do anything to stop me from playing, even as the storyline cries "Star Wars!". I missed a whole generation of games, so FFXII's in-game graphics do blow me away. The game, on active battle mode especially, plays a lot like World of Warcraft, as you slice-and-hack and gather loot, but you can't really block by moving around, nor are your spells stopped by an enemy's hit, and you can't target NPCs. I didn't play FF Online, obviously, but you can tell that the slash-and-hack mmorpg influence probably does come from its series predecessor.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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