The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 06.26.03


Desperately in need of a stone mortar and pestle

Do I know people who like to cook? You bet. My visit to the West Coast and northern British Columbia found me indulging in foods from around the world.

Here is a small sampling of culinary wizardry at the hands of friends I visited. Thai green curry with lingcod was served at the most remote of locations in Terrace. A good hour of pounding chili, galangal, Kaffir lime and leaves with a mortar and pestle provided the ingredients to simmer in coconut milk, fish sauce, and palm sugar.

Molly put it best. "You must pound paste harder, must make good paste, make good wife!" Ah, the lessons learned while dining in this mountain valley in a basil-infused state.

You'll catch me buying a large stone mortar and pestle soon. I'll give credit to Molly's male significant other as he pounded the paste long enough to qualify him as a good husband, too.

This same couple served up a different theme the following evening after chasing bald eagles around (and fish) on the Skeena and Kalum rivers all day.

A caribou roast with wild chanterelle mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and huckleberry-rhubarb tarts preceded by homemade jalapeno cheddar bread and a quality 'U-brew' red wine made for fine northern dining. The tree-planting crews that Molly cooks for professionally must be the best-fed bunch in the bush.

A visit to Frank's place in Vancouver produced terrific tandoori chicken skewers on the barbecue. Local East Indian grocery stores produce great pre-marinated meats, apparently.

The West Coast brings multi-cultural foods to the table in volumes. I believe there are more ethnic eateries than taxis in Vancouver and that's saying something. A few days in Lotus Land saw my partner and I enjoying Hong Kong, Vietnamese, Singapore and Malaysian foods.

Did I mention the best fish and chips at Granville Island? Deep-fried sockeye salmon, anyone?

Great coffee and desserts can be found everywhere. Starbucks has taken over every available corner and jittery patrons can follow up with nightly trips to Death by Chocolate whereby the most decadent of chocolate cakes are offered.

Cruise along Robson Street and you'll think you are on Rodeo drive. The most expensive of cars and the loudest of car stereos unite while the young and good-looking show and know what they've got. Even Vin Diesel would be jealous.

Here at home we are proud of our eateries and fashionable people. It's just that long winters make everyone pale, cars rusty, and dining rooms dark.

Thankfully, summer has arrived and tank tops, terraces and shiny autos are on the horizon.

Here is a recipe for salmon and chips that you'll have to make at home as I defy anyone to find it locally. I'll not be providing the recipe for the frites, as I believe you know where to find them.

Deep fried batter for salmon

2 cups biscuit mix
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups (16 oz.) beer or lemon-lime soda
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 to 3 pounds salmon fillets cut into serving-size pieces
Additional biscuit mix

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine mix, dill weed, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper together. Add beer and eggs and mix well.

2. Dredge salmon fillets in additional biscuit mix and immerse in the prepared batter.

3. Refrigerate fillets in the batter for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Heat deep-fat fryer to 375 F (190 C).

5. Remove fillets from the batter one at a time, allowing excess batter to drip off. Fry two to three fillets at a time in the hot oil until golden brown, about three to five minutes. (Overcrowding will result in reduced temperature of the oil, causing the fish to absorb the oil and become greasy.)

Drain on paper towels. Serve hot. Serves six to eight.