Log Cabin Chronicles

greg duncan

© 1998 John Mahoney

The Gallivanting Gourmand

Happy Year of the Dragon


I recently got an early start on celebrating the Chinese New.

Although the official beginning of the year was February 5, I just couldn't wait to indulge myself and enjoy my favorite cuisine -- that is, all things Asian.

Friends tease me that I must have been Chinese in a past life, as I constantly crave noodles, rice, and steaming spicy broths. Soon I will be traveling to lotus land -- Vancouver, B.C. -- where the Chinese New Year will be in full swing and I will be able to satisfy even the most difficult to satisfy craving.

Vancouver is home to one of the largest populations of Asians in North America. All manner of concoctions and rare food items are available there.

The anticipation of my trip left me with a hunger Saturday that just wouldn't quit, so I hurried to a large Asian market on Montreal's south shore in Brossard to purchase a few delicacies.

Marché Kim Phat is as large a market as any major grocery chain and for Townshippers or northern Vermonters willing to make the effort of traveling up Autoroute 55, the rewards are great. Conveniently located just south of the Champlain Bridge, simply exit at Taschereau Boulevard and park at the commuter bus terminal directly in front of the market.

All sorts of sauces, meats, fish, noodles, and hard-to-find very fresh vegetables can be obtained here. Frozen foods such as dim sum make life easy and all kinds of won tons, dumplings, and spring rolls will help you present an authentic meal to the uninitiated.

Stop by the counter where a pleasant but somewhat linguistically challenged Vietnamese women makes fresh Vietnamese submarine sandwiches to order. Although it seems that both official Canadian languages are difficult for her to understand, she nonetheless manages to produce a sandwich with all the ingredients I request.

I simply point at the chopped chilies and mouth the word "lots" and she complies with a nod and a heaping pile of the fiery stuff. The addition of fresh coriander, sliced roast pork, shredded carrots, onions and daikon (radish) to a fresh-baked baguette make for a sublime fusion of classic French and classic Vietnamese, a carry-over from days perhaps best not dealt with here.

Three of these subs can be purchased here for $5, taxes included and are the best deal around. As an added bonus, you can easily eat them en route with one hand on the driving wheel. Hungry yet?

I offer this location and its rarity of food in order to encourage you to enjoy the Chinese New Year to its fullest; tradition says that you must start the year off with a full stomach.

In the event that you are unable to make such a journey, then a trip to your local grocery store will allow you to whip up a Chinese meal in a flash. You will find the ingredients for the following classic Chinese recipe at the Metro in Magog, Quebec, and I mention this only because I have not found the required oyster sauce yet in the Three Villages, if you reside there.

Gung hey fat choy! Happy New Year!

Beef in Oyster Sauce

  • 1 tbs water
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • 3 tbs oyster sauce
  • 2 ts sherry (optional)
  • 1/4 ts salt
  • 1/4 ts ground ginger (or one sliver fresh, chopped)
  • 1 tbs cooking oil
  • 3/4 lb sirloin steak, sliced into thin strips
  • 12 small mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz can bamboo shoots, drained
Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl, add next 5 ingredients, stir and set aside.

Heat wok or large frying pan to medium high, add oil and beef slices, fry till just done.

Add mushrooms and bamboo shoots and stir fry for 5 minutes.

Stir in liquid mixture until boiling and thickened. Serve with rice.

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