Fragrant Coconut Ginger Fried Rice with Char Siu

This quick, tasty dish can be whipped up in no time on a weekday if you prepare the rice ahead of time. Char siu is that delicious, red, Chinese BBQ pork you see hanging in the windows of Chinatown. I buy mine at Green Fresh in Vanier.


Fragrant Coconut Ginger Fried Rice with Char Siu – adapted from Sassy Radish
Serves 4

2 cups good quality rice
1 can coconut milk, water
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, cut on the diagonal, white and green parts separated
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. sambal oelek*
1 lime, juiced
1 pound char siu (store-bought Chinese bbq pork)


1. Prepare rice and chill. Open the can of coconut milk and remove the solid plug. Save. Pour the liquid coconut milk into the cooker with the rice. Mix the solid milk with enough water to bring the liquid level to the 2 mark in the cooker. Give it a stir and start the cooker. The finished rice will be quite toothsome and seem undercooked. This is fine as it will be cooked further in a wok. Chilled rice is essential to perfect fried rice with separate grains.

2. In a large wok, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add garlic and ginger and cook for one minute until fragrant. Add chilled rice and cook on high for four minutes, stirring constantly. Stopping to take pictures at this point is not advised. 🙂

3. Stir in the white parts of the green onions and half of the cilantro. Cook two minutes, stirring constantly. Add fish sauce and cook one more minute. Add sambal oelek, stir, and add remaining green onion and cilantro. Stir to combine. Add fresh lime juice. Stir and remove from heat. Serve in bowls with sliced bbq pork.

* Sambal oelek is a Chinese chili paste that provides a nice mild background heat. You will find it at your local Chinese grocer and in some grocery stores with a good Asian section.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.


I am notoriously hard to buy presents for. My tastes and interests are pretty specific, and if it’s a gadget or cool thing, I probably already have it. I really am hopeless to buy for. At least that’s what my family tries to convince me of.

There are a couple of by-products of this difficulty. One is that I often tell folks to skip the enterprise all together, unless they happen upon something, but not to wrack their brains looking for something that is apparently so hard to find. The other is that I get some fairly off-beat gifts, including singing Mickey Mouse toasters (ours was haunted, but that’s a story for another day),  office gadgets, and other off-beat, cool items.

In addition to the previous cake post,  I want to cover a couple of the cool items I got for this year, my 50th birthday milestone. Heather and Matt (daughter and SO) gave me a subscription to the “Jerky-of-the-Month” club from Big John’s Beef Jerky. You get a 0ne-pound bag of one of seven flavours of jerky. This month: BBQ!

First impressions: this is really good jerky. Medium-chewy in texture and nicely-layered flavour. After I bit into my first shred of jerky, I was impressed by the initial beefiness and then a sweet undertone from the BBQ sauce that is present in the curing process somewhere and finally, a nice black-pepper finish. Jerky this good overcomes the reservations some may have about what gets sold as jerky in Gas Stations and convenience stores. People are right to not want to eat leathery, dry, dusty meat under any conditions. …and if you need any more convincing, it also turns out that one of our fairly discerning cats, Scout, is a major jerky monster. Go figure.

I am certainly looking forward to next month’s package.

A Truly Rockin’ Cake!

100% edible, down to the last detail — even the masking tape with channel assignments!

Rob celebrated making it to a half century this May. His choice of celebration was to rock into the evening with a fellow band mate also celebrating his 50th, and a music club full of friends. The happy mood was heightened by holding the celebration on Ottawa’s only sunny spring day to-date and the fact that none of our good friends were spirited off in the long-awaited rapture non-event.

As friends and family chatted, got reacquainted, drinks in hand, the party got started as the band, “The Bruised Egos” hit the stage. When the first set ended, the corks started popping and champagne started flowing. One of the highlights of the celebration was a fantastic cake creation by Katherine Castonguay of Cakes So Good. Katherine designed and made a “mixing board” cake that was so authentic looking that some of the pub’s kitchen staff were annoyed that the band would leave a mixing board in the walk in cooler all day. All of the details, from the screen printed graphics, to the sliders and knobs, to all of the jacks for microphones, and other inputs were startlingly realistic.

Ready to open the champagne.
Testing the knobs.
Other edibles: Sheet music, magazine covers, currency and stamps from Rob’s birth year.

The cake was a rich, dense, fudgey chocolate scratch cake of Katherine’s own making, with a Swiss butter cream meringue filling. Decorated with fondant, modeling chocolate and printed edible icing, it was on display for about an hour and a half before it was served. Guests were truly agog over the realistic creation and reluctant to have the cake cut into. Rob cringed as he made the first cut.

It was really hard to cut this cake!

Happily, the cake was just as delicious to eat as it was to look at. The icing and butter creme were perfect with the fudgey chocolate, not overly sweet, just nicely complimentary. I had really expected the cake to be “just cake” and the decoration of the cake to be the hit of the party, but the cake itself was amazing in taste and texture. I even had some for breakfast the next day, something I would never do unless it was really worth the calories. It was. Thanks, Katherine for making our event extra special!

Ready to eat — delicious!

Chicken Souvlaki & Tzatziki

The recipe for this Greek classic adapted from Canadian Living Magazine, is about twenty years old. Today I made the rainy-day version, cooked in a hot pan inside. If the weather is pleasant, soak some wooden skewers, thread the marinated chicken chunks and get out and grill them. Try and find pillowy-soft pita bread for these sandwiches and avoid the thin, chewy, pocket pitas for best results. You could even use naan if you have it. I have to say, this is the BEST EVER tzatziki.

Souvlaki with Tzatziki

makes 8 sandwiches

1 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken breast or lean pork, cut into 2 inch chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 pita breads

Tzatziki Sauce
1 small English cucumber
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups plain GREEK yogurt
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp. chopped fresh coriander
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 of a large green pepper, or 1 whole small, finely diced

1. In a one-cup measure, combine oil, lemon juice, oregano, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes, and garlic. Place chicken in a plastic freezer bag and pour marinade over top. Massage marinade into chicken and refrigerate for at least one hour.

2. To make the tzatziki sauce: Halve the cucumber lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the seeds and discard. Cut the two cucumber halves in half lengthwise once again and then dice. Place the cucumber in a strainer over a bowl and toss with salt. Let drain for 30 minutes. Discard liquid. Combine Greek yogurt (regular yogurt can be substituted but it will need to be drained over a sieve and pressed for 15 minutes, but will not be as thick and rich as the Greek), mint, coriander, garlic, hot pepper sauce, green pepper and cucumber.

3. Thread the chicken cubes on wooden skewers (soak for 30 minutes to prevent them burning on the grill) and broil or BBQ. You can also cook the cubes in a very hot pan on the stove. Drain the marinade off first. Cook through until no longer pink.

4. Serve chicken in warmed pita bread, topped with fresh tzatziki and hot sauce to taste.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

Rites of Spring: BBQ Ribs

Along with the greening trees and putting away the parkas and boots for the season, there’s nothing that makes me happier for change in seasons than getting to work with the BBQ. Don’t get me wrong, we use the BBQ year-round (heck, the only thing I shovel in Winter is the path to the BBQ out back), but that’s usually for grilling. I’m talking about BBQ (you know, as a noun) — low and slow over smoke.

This year on Mother’s Day, Maureen requested BBQ ribs and I was very happy to oblige. I was looking forward to trying out a new gadget: an iGrill. A temperature probe that works with an accompanying app that gets real-time temperature info transmitted to your iPhone or iPad. This enables less direct fussing over consistent heat as you can tell the heat at all times wherever you are and an alarm will sound if temperature gets to high or low. It certainly reduces the babysitting that real BBQ sometimes demands. I really only tended the BBQ all day for adding wood chips to my smoker drawer and spritzing the ribs with a mop mixture to keep them from drying out.
















For this recipe, I used trimmed baby back ribs and a clean-out-the-cupboard rub composed mostly of Renee’s Desert Rub (a southwestern favourite of ours made with ancho chiles, spices and brown sugar).  Also used was a clean-out-the-fridge-BBQ sauce with two main components, Piggy Market‘s Happy Goat Pig Slathering Sauce, made with Happy Goat coffee which added an earthy quality and Renee’s Desert Glaze, made with their rub mixture suspended in a thick prickly pear syrup.

While the rub is important and so is the sauce, neither come close to the technique in influencing the outcome: Tender, BBQ ribs that have sweetened with smoke and heat. This time around I used a mixture of cherry wood and alder wood smoke.

There’s no recipe here, but this is the basic technique:

  • Trim the ribs to clean up any loose flesh or fat.
  • Apply rub liberally and yes, RUB IT IN. it’s this action that helps to break down the tissue of the meat to soak in the flavour and smoke. I like to let the meat sit after applying rub for at least 30-60 minutes. It helps it to soak into the meat and ensures that there’s not a powdery coating on the meat.
  • I set the BBQ for approximately 275 degrees F and start the smoking process. I soak about 2/3 of the chips in water  and mix them with dry chips in the smoker drawer of the BBQ. This ensures that they just don’t catch fire and burn up. It also lets them provide smoke for a longer period of time. I replenish the chips about once every 40 minutes or so, as they reduce to ash.
  • I place the ribs, bone side down on the grill, on the opposite side of the heat source to ensure indirect heat only. I make sure to put my temperature probe on the side of the meat for accurate readings.
  • Whenever I replace wood chips I lift the BBQ lid and spray it with the mop liquid, made from cider vinegar, a little ketchup, some rub spices and some bread and butter pickle juice (yes, really!).
  • There’s no hard and fast rule here. The longer you do this, the more tender the meat will be, as long as the heat is maintained and kept from drying out. This time I let them smoke for about 4 hours, which is about an hour more than what I would consider the minimum.
  • Just when they are about ready, I use the sauce I prepared, and brush it on. I avoid the overly thick, strong and smoky BBQ sauces as the flavour should come from the meat and the sauce only embellishes it. I always favour a light glaze-style sauce.
  • I turn up the BBQ to high and get some grill marks on the racks and then bring them inside. I always cut them and serve individual ribs. They’re messy enough to eat without having the diners wrangle sharp knives with saucy fingers.

This time I served them with a red cabbage coleslaw and a fresh corn salad, made with scallions, red pepper and pickled jalapeno with an agave nectar and lime vinaigrette.