Saturday, August 15, 2009

Movies, Asian Grocery Shopping and New Dishes

Yesterday we didn't get up to much. I did accept that job offer at the call center, I start in just over a week (at 7:45am no less!). I spent most of the day trying to sew a skirt with some leftover fabric I had. I thought it would be a good learning experience and I was right. It's not quite finished yet, but I've learned:
  • How to use fusable interfacing
  • How to read a pattern and how to transfer it to fabric
  • Twill tape and bias tape are not the same thing
  • Measure your fabric before cutting out the pieces (I ran out so now the patterns don't match up)
  • My zipper sewing skills are inconsistent
  • I am currently hopeless at figuring out my measurements. I don't know where my waist is.
So I expect that when I have finished, the skirt will not fit and it will look a little sloppy, but making it has definitely been a worthwhile experience and I'm just out a meter or so of fabric that I probably wouldn't have used for anything anyway. And 99 cents for a zipper.

I've decided that if I'm going to waste a year in a call centre, I might as well learn to be an amazing seamstress as well so that I'll come out of this year with at least one new skill. I've got a few more projects in my head I want to try out and I hope to start taking sewing classes in the evenings this fall.

When John got home, we headed to the SilverCity theatre and saw District 9. What a great movie! I don't want to give anything away, so I won't say much other than that we both loved it and it gave us lots to think about. I hope they do a sequel!

This morning we slept in and made a leisurely breakfast of bacon, eggs, bagels, grapefruit and blueberry smoothies. I'm addicted to these bottled smoothies they sell at the grocery store. I've been drinking them pretty much non stop since we got here. I think it's a combination of the fact that we've been eating so much convenience food (because I'm trying hard not to unpack the kitchen) so my body is craving anything with real nutritional value and the fact that no matter how many liquids I drink, I seem to stay dehydrated. I don't understand it and John's saying he's noticed the same thing since we got here. I can drink 6 big glasses of water in a day and still be incredibly thirsty and feel dehydrated. Our best guess is that because the air is drier here than the ocean air we're used to, maybe it pulls more moisture from our bodies. Who knows?

After breakfast, John wanted to show me where he works and he wanted to show me the Asian grocery store and dish store in the attached mall. I gained a new appreciating for his commute as it was quite far away. We rode the subway all of the way to the end of the line, and then caught a bus from there. It was so hot out and so bright I was practically blinded. The bus ride was another 15 minutes but John said during rush hour it's closer to 35.

When we got there, we walked around the mall. We headed up to his office and I peeked in through the window of the locked door. I couldn't see much but at least now I know where it is if I ever want to come visit.

Next we headed to the Asian grocery store. It's called the T&T Supermarket, and it is amazing! It's about the size of a SuperStore, it's clean, bright and has all kinds of different sections. In the deli we picked up some dim sum steamed pork buns. In the bakery we picked up pretty much one of everything. I wanted to try so many things! The fish section was unbelievable. I'm used to a grocery store having one tank full of lobsters. This store had tanks and tanks filled with all sorts of crustaceans and fishes. One of the tanks held a live fish almost 3 feet long! There were all kinds of varieties of whole fishes on ice as well. I couldn't even take it all in, there were so many fish.

We puttered through the grocery sections, picking up a few odds and ends. I found agar agar, a form of gelatin I've always had trouble finding before and ube spread, which is a brilliant purple spread made from sweet potato yams (I've seen that you can make some crazy looking frosting with this stuff and I've always wanted to try it). We also picked up a couple of staples; noodles and a can of sweet red bean paste.

The produce section was incredible. They had so many wonderful veggies that I've never been able to get before. The meat section was the same way. They had fresh chinese sausage, sukiyaki beef and whole roasted ducks, none of which which I had ever been able to find in Halifax.

After we made our purchases, (Sadly I didn't get much because I don't want to have to move lots of food at the end of the month. John said I can just tell him what I need though, and he'll pick it up after work any time) we headed next door to this wonderful Asian dish shop called Utsuwa-no-Yakata.

So many beautiful dishes! They had stoneware, ceramics and lacquerware. They carried every type of Asian dish I could think of and a few I had never heard of. All of the pieces were heavy and felt like quality, well-made dishes. And the prices were lower than I could even believe. Dishes that I would have paid $25 for in Halifax are $7 here. Or less. I probably spent an hour just taking it all in.

In the end I settled on these. Everything looks small in this picture, but the dishes are actually fairly large.
John picked out the square plates that were $5 each. They are about 8" across and they look like planks of wood. I'm not sure what I will end up using them for but I know I always find myself short of pretty plates so I'm sure I will find something to do with them. The light brown pan is made to go from the oven or stove to the table and it was only $3 (it was the last one) so I figured why not. It will be good for cooking meats that need to be seared on the stove and then baked, or for baked side dishes like gratins.

I've been looking for bowls like the black ones for months, ever since John ordered the teriyaki bowl at Sushi Nami and it came in this type of bowl. It just looks so beautiful half filled with rice and then meat and veggies artfully arranged on top of that. Plus our current cereal bowls are terrible (they have the 1" lip around the bowl that makes it hard to sip the milk out of it at the end. Yes, we have no manners.) so I expect these bowls will do double duty.

And the piece de la resistance is my fabulous new donabe, a Japanese hot pot. I have wanted one of these for years! It is another dish that goes from stovetop to oven to the table. And if I can find a portable hot plate (do any of you know where to buy these?) I can use it to make sukiyaki or shabu shabu, which are sort of like Japanese versions of a fondue in that they are meals cooked at the table. I can't wait to try both of them!

I had only seen these a couple of times in Halifax, never looking particularly authentic (it would be like Wolfgang Puck's version or something like that) and always with a price tag of at least $80 and sometimes up to $160. The hotpot I bought today is exactly what I've wanted and it was a mere $30. Incredible.

The whole experience has completely renewed my enthusiasm for Asian cooking and I'm really excited to get back into it after the move in September. When I was in Halifax, I constantly had to find substitutions for ingredients I couldn't find or cooking techniques I didn't have the tools for, and it became tiresome. I could cook Asian food but it was so much work and so expensive to get it right. I think that now that I have the proper ingredients and tools readily available, it's going to be a whole lot easier and a lot of fun! I'm excited!

It was so hot out, so on the way home we stopped for Thai food at the food court in the subway station so that we could enjoy the air conditioning for a little longer before heading home to our oven of an apartment. John ordered a red curry and I ordered the mango salad. I've been ordering them everywhere we go, trying to find a good one to take the place of the salad served at Cha Baa Thai in Halifax that I love so much.

This wasn't it yet, the dressing wasn't quite right, but I was pleased to discovered that they had added fresh Thai basil to the salad. Thai basil tastes sort of like a mild licorice, so you might not think it goes with mango, but it was actually a really awesome combination. I was delighted to discover it. I've been growing a Thai basil plant since the start of the summer and haven't had a clue what to use if for, so now I have at least one idea!

By the time we got home, it was almost time for John to go meet Brandon for drinks so he took off and that's when I started blogging. I think I'm just going to take it easy for the rest of the night. Probably make a snack and watch some TV.


  1. Hey Jacki, about the thirst - I found it really dry when I was in Ontario too, definitely a difference with no ocean air. Toronto also has a lot of smog compared to here, and that could be irritating your throat and making you feel like you need a drink.

  2. Yeah, I've noticed the smog. Most days it's not too bad but some days it can be pretty nasty.