A tapestry of cultural foods: Asian cuisine

A tapestry of cultural foods: Asian cuisine


By: Virgina Bostock

Image source: Flickr

A tapestry of cultural foods has worked its way into Montreal's reality. We have come to expect pleasant surprises when we choose to dine out. We are rarely disappointed! While there are many "down home" variety of restaurants, dynamic restaurants from these many cultures are represented by popular, highly recommended eateries. In a continuation of exploring these many cultures, my investigations will, once again, be separated by regions.

This article concentrates on East Asia consisting of China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia and Tibet. Not every country has dedicated its cuisine to one particular restaurant variety, but has, instead, created a fusion of cultures within one ranking. The most represented culture is Chinese. Montreal's Chinatown is small in comparison to those in other Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, but it is a vibrant community nestled in between downtown, the business district and Old Montreal. There are many large and small restaurants, specialty stores and community centres as well as Montreal's Chinese Hospital. The south shore district of Brossard has the largest Chinese population, by district, ranking at 12% of the population. Other East Asian cultures have not taken up residence in any specific borough in Montreal.

While the Japanese population is very small in Montreal, its foods, extremely popular worldwide, are very well represented with in excess of 175 listed restaurants. Sushi, generally attributed to the Japanese, has infiltrated every Asian community's repertoire.


Korean is the second largest East Asian community in Montreal with a vibrant community centre located in N.D.G. as is a very well stocked Korean market. Korean food is noted for its powerful spicing and flavour. There are a number of excellent Korean restaurants scattered around Montreal, in particular downtown and the N.D.G. area.


The Taiwanese, Mongolian and Tibetan populations are quite small and tend to fall under the umbrella of the Montreal Chinese Community. Unlike in other Canadian cities, finding restaurants specializing in these cuisines is limited. There are no dedicated Taiwanese restaurants, just one Mongolian and three Tibetan. The flavours from these cultures can be found intertwined in the menus of most Asian restaurants that boast extensive choices.


China           Chicken Stir-Fry with Angel Hair Pasta Noodles

Japan           Faux Seafood Sushi Wrap

Korea           Short Ribs (Galbi Jim)

Taiwan         Fengli Su (Pineapple Cake)

Mongolia     Beef Hâche

Chicken Stir-Fry with Angel Hair Pasta Noodles

  • 1 (8 ounce) package angel hair pasta (225 g)
  • 1½ teaspoon canola oil (7.5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (5 ml)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half - cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (15 ml)
  • 2 leaves bok choy, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 carrots, sliced thin on the diagonal
  • 1 cup broccoli, sectioned and chopped (250 ml)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (250 ml)
  • ½ cup chicken broth (125 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry (45 ml)
  • 1½ tablespoons soy sauce (22.5 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (30 ml)
  • 2 scallions, minced (spring onions)
  1. In a large pot with boiling salted water cook angel hair pasta until al dente. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet heat canola and sesame oil over medium high heat. Sauté onion and garlic until softened. Stir in chopped chicken, and cook until chicken browns and juices run clear. Stir in ginger, Bok Choy, pepper, carrots, broccoli, bean sprouts, chicken broth, sherry, soy sauce and Hoisin sauce. Reduce heat, and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
  3. Plate angel hair pasta and top with chicken mixture. Serve garnished with minced green onions.


Faux Seafood Sushi Wraps

These faux sushi are designed to assist those without the proper sushi rolling skills to enjoy a tasty sushi-like experience. Great as an hors d'oeuvre at a casual gathering of friends.

  • ¾ cup uncooked, medium-grain sushi rice (175 ml)
  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • 3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (45 ml)
  • 3 large whole wheat flour tortillas - 10" (250mm)
  • 6 tbsp vegetable variety cream cheese spread at room temperature (90 ml)
  • ½  cup finely shredded carrot (125 ml)
  • ½  cup finely minced red bell pepper (125 ml)
  • 6-8 refrigerated imitation crabmeat sticks
  • 3 spring onions, trimmed to 8" (200mm) length, halved lengthwise

Dipping Sauce

  • 2 tbsp finely chopped gingerroot (30 ml)
  • 2       tbsp   red wine vinegar (30 ml)
  • 2 tsp raw sugar (10 ml)
  • ¼-½ tsp roasted red chili paste (1-2 ml)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced    
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce (45 ml + 10 ml)

  1. In a medium non-stick saucepan, cook rice as per instructions on the package. Meanwhile, place 15x10" (250x380mm) pan with sides in freezer to chill.
  2. Drizzle rice vinegar over rice while lifting and fluffing rice; spread rice in chilled pan. Place in freezer for 5 minutes to cool completely.
  3. Trim 1½" (38mm) from top and bottom of tortillas to form rectangles. On work surface, place 1 tortilla rectangle with short sides at top and bottom. Spread 2 tablespoons cream cheese over entire surface of roll-up. Spread ¾ cup cooled rice over cream cheese, leaving 1½" (38mm) of top short edge free of rice.
  4. Starting 1" (25mm) from bottom short edge, arrange narrow row of carrot, row of bell pepper and row of crabmeat crosswise over rice. Above crabmeat, place 2 onion halves, alternating ends so there is one green end and one white end on each side. Press all layers into rice.
  5. Bring bottom edge of tortilla over fillings to top edge of rice; pull bottom edge of tortilla back toward bottom, scraping rice into roll and fillings to make a firm roll (be sure there are no air spaces). Roll up, letting cream cheese seal the roll. Wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining ingredients, making 2 more rolls. Refrigerate rolls 1 hour.
  6. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix dipping sauce ingredients. To serve, trim ends of each roll; cut each roll into 8 slices. Serve with dipping sauce.


Yield: 24


Korean Short Ribs (Galbi Jim)

  • 5 tbsp sugar (75 ml)
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce 90 ml)
  • 2 tbsp Japanese rice wine (Mirin) * (30 ml)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ onion, grated
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped (spring onions)
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, crushed or whole (15 ml)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (15 ml)
  • ½ Asian pear, peeled and finely chopped **
  • 3 lbs English-cut short ribs (thick-cut), rinsed in cold water (1.36 kg)
  • 2 small potatoes, cut up into large chunks
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths or ½ cup baby carrots

  1. Score the ribs so that they absorb more of the braising liquid.
  2. Mix all the marinade ingredients (spices and liquids) together.
  3. In a large pot over high heat, put in the ribs and pour the braising liquid over them. Mix well, making sure all the ribs are covered. The liquid should come to about half the 1/3 to ½ the level of the ribs in the pot.
  4. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid. When it begins to boil, turn to a low simmer. Cook for at least 1 hour (90 minutes - 2 hours is better), adding in potatoes and carrots 30 minutes before end of cooking time.

*       substitute with 1 tbsp (15 ml) honey

**      if Asian apple not available substitute with Gala apple

***    if you are adding in brisket or stew meat for more quantity, then it's

         best to braise for at least 2 hours. The goal is for meltingly tender

         meat that is falling off the bone.

Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes

slightly adapted from Zester Daily

2½ cups all-purpose flour (590 ml)
1/8 tsp baking powder (0.6 ml)
1/8 tsp baking soda (0.6 ml)
¼ cup + 2 tbsp non-fat milk powder (60 ml + 30 ml)
¾ cup butter (175 ml)
¼ cup shortening (60 ml)
½ cup confectioner's sugar (125 ml)
2 egg yolks

1) In a mixer, whip up the butter, shortening, and confectioner's sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and continue to mix until fully incorporated. Sift your dry ingredients into your wet: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and milk powder. Mix very well, until a thick wet dough is formed. Split the dough in half, roll each half into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

While it's resting, make the filling:

Pineapple Jam
1½ cup pineapple chunks (350 ml)
½ cup water (125 ml)
¼ cup sugar (60 ml)
2  tbsps cornstarch (30 ml)
a dash or two of cayenne pepper

Take your water and mix in the cornstarch. Put your pineapple chunks, water mixture, cayenne pepper and sugar in your saucepan and boil down for about five minutes. Blend well in your food processor, then return the pan and reduce down more, about ten minutes. Let cool before using.

Preheat oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Split each dough log into twelve pieces. Roll the pieces into balls. Press out the center with a finger tip so that you have a hole traveling down each center of the ball. Fill with pineapple jam. Sacrifice a couple of your dough balls and use about 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of extra dough to close off tops. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of your cakes are golden. Cool and serve with extra pineapple jam.

Mongolian Beef Hâche

  • ¼ cup butter or margarine (62.5 ml)
  • 2 lbs beef (trimmed blade, sirloin, Spencer), cut into ½" x 1" (1.25x2.5cm) pieces (900 g)
  • 4 large        onions, chopped into ½" (1.25cm) cubes
  • 3 med bay leaves 
  • ½ cup flour (125 ml)
  • 1½ tsp         ground cloves        (7.5 ml)
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar        (30 ml)
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (30 ml)
  • 2 envelopes beef Bovril  
  • 3 cups water (750 ml)
  • pepper and Maggi to taste (salt is not required)
  1. In large skillet, melt butter until just light brown. Sear meat until all sides are brown. Remove from skillet.
  2. Brown onions and bay leaves until onions are light brown.
  3. Sprinkle flour on browned onions/bay leaves; brown.
  4. When well browned, gradually add water, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Adjust water according to your preferred thickness of sauce.
  5. Add spices. Adjust to taste.
  6. Add browned meat.
  7. Either keep in skillet with lid on or transfer to slow cooker, stewing on low for +/- 2 hrs.
  8. Serve with boiled, fluffed potatoes or Basmati rice.
  9. Optional:     Add 1 package fresh mushrooms. Sauté in butter until lightly browned and remove from butter. Add to stew in the half hour before serving to prevent thinning out the sauce.
  10. Add sweet pickled onions along with browned meat. Adjust amount of vinegar used accordingly.

Serves 6


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