Showing posts with label cha siu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cha siu. Show all posts

East Court & Mike's BBQ (Toronto) 怡東燒臘 for takeout


When one thinks of barbeque, images of burgers and hot dogs may come to a North American mind. Across the world, it means so much more. Such as, fragrant jerk chicken or spit-fired whole hogs. Since a young age, I’ve associated barbeque with siu mei, which translates from Cantonese as ‘roasted ends’, an odd description as in reality the animals are prepared and presented in it’s whole form.

Walk inside an establishment like East Court and Mike’s BBQ and you’ll see glistening roasted carcasses hanging from a stainless-steel wall. It’s a sobering moment that reminds you of what you’re eating. If you’re a vegetarian, wait in the car.

Chinese barbeque pork or cha shiu ($8.99 per lb) is probably the most widely known form of siu mei and is the dish I loved as a child. The easiest to eat, since there are no bones, it’s flavoured with a youth-friendly slightly sweet glaze, it’s the dish I must try at every shop.

Requesting a "half fat half lean" piece, the cut is a little oily when eaten on its own, but once mixed with hot rice, is oh so delicious as the fat melts into the grains. Plus, the roasted pork is much moister. I enjoyed East Court’s thicker cuts – when you place a slice in your mouth, you get a lovely meaty bite that's a bit like steak. Their glaze has a balanced sweetness and was applied generously but not so thick that it tastes like it's dipped in corn syrup.

The roasted duck ($11 for half) was cut nicely, each piece roughly the same thickness and so deftly prepared that it easily reforms the animal’s shape in the container. This was also nicely marinated, so it didn’t require plum sauce, the duck juices enough to satisfy providing a wonderful savoury star anise taste.

For a smaller portion of fowl, their barbeque chicken legs ($3 each; two shown in the picture) is a great add on. These are glazed with a thinner version of the cha shiu sauce giving it a little bit of sweetness. Of course, the ginger and green onion oil will completely change the flavours of the dish and is such a great condiment with chicken.  

East Court and Mike’s BBQ is an example of why you should purchase siu mei from a professional roaster and not just some Asian supermarket: the flavours are well-rounded so the meats can be enjoyed solo without any condiments, never too sweet or salty so that it overpowers the protein; and items are cut with a uniform thickness so that each piece is the perfect bite-sized morsel.

Next time you’re in the mood for “barbeque” expand the definition and look beyond burgers and ribs. Check out a siu mei restaurant for a different spin. Plus, professional roasters are set-up as take-out only shops, which bodes well with our current COVID dining restrictions.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4400 Sheppard Avenue East


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Santouka Ramen (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 91 Dundas Street East
Website: http://www.santouka.co.jp/en/index.html
Type of Meal: Dinner

The Santouka in Toronto is part of a large Japanese franchise with locations throughout Japan, Asia and North America. When my friend told me about the place, I was excited to try this "authentic" ramen restaurant. But, we were unsuccessful in the fall as the line was too long.  Luckily, during our second attempt we were finally got in after waiting for approx. 15 minutes.

If you can’t eat pork, you shouldn’t come here.  The broth is pork based and flavoured with a choice of:
  • Shio - salt
  • Shoyu - soy sauce
  • Miso - fermented soybean paste
  • Spicy miso

I opted for their signature dish the Toroniku Ramen ($15.95) in a miso soup base. The star of the dish is not the noodles, but rather the cha siu (roast pork) that accompanies it. Made from the jowl (cheeks) of the pig, the meat is very tender and delicate in flavour.  Some have described it to resemble the texture of seared fatty tuna; I wouldn’t say they are identical, but is the closest description of its consistency.  Unlike pork belly, there's only a thin layer of fat covering the meat so it is also quite lean.



Any healthiness in the meat is negated by the broth where a sheen of oil covers the surface.  The lard has an added benefit of retaining heat in the broth – the soup was wonderfully hot when it arrived and pretty much stayed that way for most of the meal.  But, it really didn’t add much in terms of taste and the oiliness was a bit off-putting.  The menu claims you can customize the amount of lard used in the soup, next time I’m going to get them to skip it.  Santouka’s soup was richer than most.  But, at the end was still just very salty broth.  Perhaps it’s because I ordered the miso version, which is such an over powering ingredient.  Next time, I will opt for the shio form and hope the essence of the boiled pork bone and seaweed will stand out more.

The noodles were good – perfect thickness (not too thin or thick), cooked so that it was al dente and still had the “springy” texture I expect.

Overall, each individual component of the dish was good.  But, I only wished there was a contrast of something crispy and bright to offset the heaviness of all the ingredients.  Escorting the dish of cha siu were sticks of bamboo shoots and what could be black fungus.  But, both of these items were well cooked and had the similar soggy texture and salty taste.  The one glimmer of hope was the handful of chopped green onions, which I happily added to my noodles to attempt to balance the greasiness and brighten up the flavours.

If you're feeling hungry, Santouka offers a combination plate, which consists of a regular sized bowl of ramen, small bowl of rice and half a hard-boiled egg. My friend ordered the pork miso and chicken rice combination ($15.50) and I got to sample a few bites of the rice. The texture and taste reminded me of stir-fried glutinous rice that you can get at Chinese dim sum restaurants, except without the bits of chopped mushrooms and sausage.  Maybe it’s because I had the rice after drinking the salty soup, but I found it bland. In the end, it was average, not really something that goes well with ramen.

Like most noodle places, seating consists of a mixture of stools along a counter and small closely laid out tables.  At this visit, we were seated at the counter where we got to peer into the kitchen; but, there really wasn’t that much activity going on.




The view from our table

The service is certainly fast - within five minutes of sitting down our order was taken and as soon as the last person laid down their chopsticks, bowls were whisked away and the bill presented. But, this is what gets turnover happening and the line moving. 

Overall, Santouka’s ramen was good, but not worth the wait.  I will eventually go back and try a different broth combination, but will likely not return until the line disappears.  Luckily, a plethora of ramen shops have sprung up across Toronto over the last year, so the waiting may end soon.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!
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