Today’s post has an eclectic array of closed cafes, football-sized citrus, and the world’s biggest mailbox. C’est vrai. Read on.
My plan was to eat at Chadow’s Cafe, a somewhat hidden lunch spot I’d seen a few times while heading south on Gilbert Road towards Westminster Highway. I’d always made a mental note to check it out, and yesterday I finally did…..
…..only to discover it’s closed. Closed, closed, CLOSED. Unlike the “Will Return” closed-ness of Seaview Café, Chadow’s Café appeared as though it had no intention of re-opening. I grumbled about this a little, told myself the extra walking would do me good, then headed over to Richmond Centre. At first I thought I’d give Shi-Art Chinese Cuisine a try (a recommendation from a reader), but then realized it’s mainly dim sum, and I was alone-some. Not ideal. Also, if I’m honest about it, I’ve been experiencing just as much post-Christmas gut as everyone else, and really just wanted a soup a sandwich – something simple.
I ended up finding exactly that, at VINA Vietnamese in the Dining Terrace. I ordered a small bowl of vegetable pho and a chicken banh mi (Vietnamese sub), which came to about $13 altogether.
The bowl of pho was just the right size. However, upon digging in, I realized there was a ton of meat in it. I most certainly asked for vegetable pho, but I couldn’t be bothered to take it back, so I gave it a-go. The broth was a little greasy, but the flavour was full and rich, and the chicken, ham, and noodles were good.
The sandwich was big, and while I prefer the strips of pickled carrot and daikon to be more finely cut, the flavours were there and the roll was decent quality. I love banh mi more and more every time I have one.
This was actually just the light lunch I was craving.
Afterwards, as I was walking behind the mall on my way to the library, I came across a bin of pomelos at Kin’s Farm Market, a shop that sells almost exclusively fruit and veg. Since I know little about this fruit, I decided to buy one and do some research.
Other than being hilariously large (they are the biggest of all citrus), pomelos are a thick-rinded fruit native to South and Southeast Asia. They taste like a sweet, mild grapefruit, though they’re less juicy and less bitter.
My last mission of the day was to seek out the world’s largest mailbox. Here’s how to find it: go to the library/community centre on Minoru Boulevard, then poke around until you spot a 17 foot 10 inch-high bright red box. It’s hard to miss.
It’s been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest mail receptacle on earth, and kids dropped their letters to Santa in it before Christmas.
There’s a smaller slot around back. Even though it’s completely to scale, it looks adorable in this context.
Now it’s time for the pomelo recipe featuring I promised! In my research, I came across a recipe for Thai pomelo salad from RasaMalaysia.com, and thought it looked and sounded extraordinarily good. Pomelo, I’m so glad we’re now friends! Does anyone have pomelo ideas/recipes of their own they’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.
Pomelo Salad (Yam Som-O): Serves 4
One 1.5- to –lb pomelo, peeled and separated into segments
1 lb 21-26 count shrimp, peeled and deveined (preferably Oceanwise)
¾ cup desiccated coconut flakes (unsweetened)
½ cup coconut milk
Dried red chile flakes, to taste (I use whole Mexican chile pequin as they are very easy to crumble up with your fingertips and taste just like dried bird’s eye chiles. They’re also very, very cute.)
4 tablespoons finely-minced shallots or onion
2 tablespoon finely-minced garlic
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup plain roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
Fresh lime juice, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste
A handful of Fresh cilantro leaves
- In a small saucepan, sauté together the vegetable oil, shallots, garlic, and dried pepper flakes over medium heat until the mixture releases its wonderful aroma and becomes confit-like in consistency. Add the coconut milk into the shallot mixture and heat through; remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a skillet over medium-low heat, dry toast the desiccated coconut flakes until they turn medium brown color. Be careful not to leave the skillet unattended; coconut burns very easily. Set the toasted coconut aside to cool.
- Poach the shrimp, drain, and set it aside.
- Gently break up the pomelo segments into roughly ½-inch pieces and put them in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the poached shrimp, shallot-coconut mixture, toasted coconut flakes, peanuts, and cilantro leaves to the pomelo bowl.
- Add to the mixing bowl 2 tablespoons each of the lime juice and fish sauce and toss everything together as gently as you can with your hands. Adjust the seasoning with more lime juice or fish sauce as needed. (If your pomelo is on the tart side, you may want to add just a tiny bit of sugar to counteract the acidity. But usually the subtle, natural sweetness of the toasted coconut and coconut milk is sufficient.)
- Serve immediately with additional roasted peanuts and toasted coconut on top, if desired.
- Though quite a few recipe authors suggest grapefruit as a substitute for pomelo, I encourage you to seek out pomelo in Hispanic or Asian stores in your area first. Then, if you absolutely cannot find it, use grapefruit segments, blotted dry with a clean kitchen towel to remove as much juice as possible. (Grapefruit releases a lot of juice and I don’t like a salad that swims in juices.) Navel orange segments can also be used. (But then you can’t really call it Yam Som-O since the Som-O is absent.)
- Make sure that the roasted peanuts are fresh. Nothing ruins an otherwise good dish like rancid peanuts.
- The best way to poach shrimp is in simmering, not furiously boiling, water at the temperature of 160° and 180°F (71–82°C). Be sure to not overcook the shrimp.
- Do not substitute lemon juice for lime juice, soy sauce for fish sauce, or sweet coconut flakes for plain desiccated coconut.
- To kick it up a notch, add to the mix 2-3 tablespoons of crispy-fried shallots, commercial or homemade.