Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category

4 the road

1 lariatGetting in a car and driving through a chunk of American nothing has always had some huge appeal to me.  I loved American road movies like ‘Convoy’, ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Vanishing point’ – I especially loved the comedy ones like ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ and the ‘Cannonball Run’ – but maybe the biggest influence was Jack Kerouac’s book – On the road.  The book that made me hit the road in the first place.

0 nothingSo with a little bit of courage and a lot of naive romanticism I hit the road heading south from Vancouver to the American border.  My route was simple – First drive through Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah to the gambling and entertainment paradise of Las Vegas, Nevada – Then return back through California to Oregon and Washington.  I’d brought camping equipment, cowboy boots, and a tub of Kimchee given to me by a Korean friend.  The only map I had was an A4 size one that came free with the Lonely Planet which didn’t exactly provide the level of detail needed – In fact I spent quite a bit of time driving while trying to read the inside maps of that massive edition – though I never got lost once.

2 petrolAnyway, driving through northern Washington past Seattle it wasn’t long before the green northwest gave way to an endless landscape of dry grass and rocks.  My first stop was the town of Yakima, home to much of Washington’s wine trade and apparently the Palm springs of the state.  Here I fill up on a massive, tasty pulled pork sandwich at the Lariat before heading on and climbing up onto the central plateau of the rocky mountain states.  I made pretty good time, stopping in Dunkee – where a plump gas station attendant, wearing a t-shirt that says ‘freedom Isn’t free’ fills my car while telling that his cousin speaks seven languages.  I eat again outside Boise, Idaho.  Filling up on a huge club sandwich.

nowhereJust before Utah 1372km in, as the sun is setting, I stop in ‘the middle of nowhere’ to get gas – the attractions here are two alpacas, and being the only fuel in miles.  At this point I’m ready to sleep and decide to stop in the first town over the state line.  The road around here is just one straight line to nothing.  At one point my car begins to shudder and shake. What’s going on?  I realise I’m sitting at 185kmph – I haven’t turned for 45 minutes.  I slow down pretty quickly.

3 alpacaAfter 1559km and 16 hour driving, I stop at some town 160km from Salt Lake City.  A couple of beers in the bar across the street – only 3.2% in Utah!!, and I retire to my motel – car parked outside the room, just like in the movies.

5 salt lake churchThe next day I’m glad to have made a big push the day before.  I only have a seven hour trip today, nothing!  First I stop in at Salt Lake City, visiting the religious centre for the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints.  Its a nice if pretty bland town, but definitely worth checking out if you happen to pass.  The central cathedral is pretty impressive and the people are as nice as you’d ever meet.

6 mormon kidsI roll on, hammering down the road stopping at the eagles landing service area and Beaver, Utah – birthplace of Butch Cassidy no less, just after here I break the 2000km mark and I know I’m close.  Listening to Right wing radio talk shows is great around here – they really love Obama these guys!!

6 mormonJust before I cross the border into Nevada I drop through the Virgin river gorge.  Dropping straight off the edge of mile high Utah is an experience I won’t forget.  Red sandstone walls on either side, foot heavy on the brakes as I’m going down so fast.  The bottom is the desserts of Nevada.  Its pretty flat from here on in.

As soon as you cross the border the casinos begin. Big grassed areas in the middle of arid desert – pretty surreal.  Surreal too is at the moment I’m seeing Vegas in the distance on comes the Who’s ‘Who are you?’ – CSI anybody??beast

I drive straight into my hotel, Circus Circus, and get ready to hit the strip.  What a trip 2320km, two days, five states and a shitload  of fast food…

Next part 2 – The City of Sin


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Well its been a long time since I wrote anything on my blog.  It’s a lot harder to keep up with the little bits of writing and photos when you have a full time job.  but try to keep it up I must – especially with my impending north American adventure just about to start and the opportunities that will bring for random things to write about – well I’m hoping so anyway.  So with this new found verve I’ve decided to tell you about my adventure in Kimchee creation.

I have to say I’ve a little passion for this spicy salted cabbage, not quite the three times a day passion that most Koreans do, but a little.  i really like it, and being here in Vancouver with its large Korean population i thought i should give it a go.  So Napa cabbage in hand (Chinese cabbage in the UK), and under the instruction of my Korean friend a co-worker and Kimchee mentor, Issac Ko (or Lee Sakk Ggo!!), I began.

napaAs with cured/pickled/salted things the end product is really influenced by the quality of the ingredients, so hoping that they were going to be the best I popped down to the Korean supermarket to get my ingredients – 2 large Napa cabbage, rock salt, 2 apples, 2 Asian pears, 2 onions, 4 whole garlic bulbs, a Korean daikon and a 1kg bag – a lot of chilli I know.

napa cutFirst step is to cut, wash and salt the cabbage.  its important to really give the cabbage a good clean to get rid of anything that might impair the flavour.  I cut the cabbage into 1/4 pieces and soaked for 10 minutes.  Next i shook it off and gave it a good coating of rock salt, weighted the top of it with some plates, and left it for 4 hours, till it became soft and kind of a bit rubbery.

spicemixWhile the cabbage was salting I made the spice mix. Pears, apples, onion, garlic, I grated together and mixed with loads of chilli, some fish sauce, and a little sesame oil – pretty straight forward really.  I just tasted this and decided when I liked it pretty much.

napa saltedNext I rinsed the salt off the cabbage and began to coat the cabbage leaf by leaf until it was covered.  i placed this in a large cupboard and waited for 2 days for bubbles to appear, the tell tale sign that fermentation has started.

photo (1)photoAfter this its ready to eat.  It needs to be refrigerated to stop the fermentation and keeps for about a month after that.  Eat it as a side, add it to noodle soup, add it to stews – its really handy to have in the fridge, adds a spicy edge to any meal – and its super healthy.  Give it a go – or buy it at an Asian supermarket – but remember no self respecting Korean would ever do that!!

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So i’m at work the other day and we’re doing steak tartare for our monthly Market monday thing, and all of a sudden I get a craving for more raw meat specifically what is problably Ethiopias most famous dish – Kitfo,  not quite like your average steak tartare.

So after a morning looking at cars in second hand yards I head down to commercial drive, Vancouver’s multicultural melting pot, to Harambe.  A local Ethiopian joint with lots of praise.  Inside the whole place is  covered in kitschy, colorfully dyed cotton, and surprisingly catchy Ethiopian Reggae is playing on the radio.  The waitress, the only other whitey there, brings the menu – but I already know what I want.

Kitfo is made from freshly chopped beef mixed with warm butter and an Ethiopian dried chilli powder called mitmita.  A little cardamon and seasoning and its good to go.  The main issue people have with this dish is the warmth of the Raw beef.   It really is a strange feeling in your mouth – I love it.

This is served with the traditional Injera pancake – with its distinct metallic flavour, bit like indian iddly – also a small side of greens and some of the sour/salty Ethiopian cottage cheese.   I washed all this down with a cup of spiced tea – which surprisingly had a sign reminding people to use fresh water.

After barely finishing I’m surprised how filling a plate of (warm) raw meat can be.  I only wonder if it’s as safe to eat in Ethiopia.  Can’t wait to try!

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So here in Vancouver they have the second biggest Chinatown in North America.  Quite a claim to fame.  But this one is a little different.  It’s more functional rather than touristy and the restaurants here are catering pretty much solely to local Asians.  There’s less of the back to back cantonese restos you find elsewhre and more shops selling speciality foods and roast meats.

And being skint, now I’m not living in a tenner a day Thailand, this is where were eating our meals.  And no meal is better – or cheaper – than the $1 BBQ pork bun.  Freshly steamed every morning, and available at one of the many Chinese bakeries, this is my highlight of the day. The sticky,  sweet spiced pork inside gives you a nice warm cosy feeling that makes you forget the never ending rain outside – if only for five minutes.

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So I’m here finally after all that travelling in Asia – And it’s strange.  going from the structured chaos of BKK, to the calm, organised – even slightly sanitised – big city of western Canada.  It’s going to take a bit of getting used to.  But really it’s a nice place, sitting out on a coastline of peninsulas and looking over to Vancouver island.

The only real issue I’ve got is the rain.  It rains all the time.  And when I say all the time, I mean everyday, and most of the day.  And it doesn’t rain hard – just long miserable slow, soaking rain.  You cant hide from it, it gets round corners.  And where’s all the snow?  I was told it snows all the time in Canada, and I look on the TV and it’s all at home.  Nobody mentioned that Vancouver is in the warmest part of Canada.  Somebody told me that they give flights to homeless people to get to Vancouver because they wont die of exposure here – It makes sense, but i’m not sure it really true.

Anyway, apart from the rain it’s awesome – Bring on the snow…or the summer. Once it stops pissing it down I’ll take a few photos

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