Archive for May, 2010

BLOOD! STEEL!

Posted in Rants, Thoughts on May 24, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

I generally consider myself to be quite aware of kitchen safety-I always hold knives carefully, and never leave them in the sink, I always take care that pot handles aren’t hot before grabbing them, and so opn in this vein (i dunno, pick another handful of SOPs in the kitchen, and we’ll all just assume I follow those). So, a couple weeks back, I suffered my first ‘serious’ kitchen injury since the few times I burned myself on the oven as a kid/teen (generally, making those fries you heat in the oven, and catching the top of my hand on the roof of the oven as I reached in or somesuch-made me very leery of the oven for quite some time). Needless to say, I was shocked, since it was a simple, easily preventable mistake.

A month or so back (again, timeframes, not my strong point), I purchased a brand-new chef’s knife (wow, can you see where this is going? I’d love to pretend this is an unrelated tangent, but…) from the wonderfully weird Tap Phong. It’s this bizarre restaurant supply/knickknack store in downtown TO, where you can find restaurant grade stand mixers and deep fryers, and five dollar Buddhas and sparkly cats statues. I’ve been down there a few times, as I was eyeing a 10” Shun chef’s knife. They had it for a much better price than anywhere else in the city, and I really wanted one.

Now, Jess does have a Henckels 9.5” chef’s knife (confusingly, they list 9″ and 10″ blades, but I’ve measured both it and the Shun, and the Shun is 10″, and the Henckels is 9.5. Tres bizarre), but it’s kinda clunky, and not as sharp as I’d like.


[ In a nutshell, knives made with a single piece of German steel are really heavy, durable beasts that maintain an edge quite well. Due to the profile of the blade, that edge isn’t incredibly sharp. Japanese knives are much lighter, thinner, and possess a keen, wickedly sharp edge. Some/Most are crafted in jacketing layers of steel, with the blade being the first/inner layer, out to the back.]

It’s also not my knife, and I like being able to get all fussy and protective when someone throws my knife in a sink, or uses it without cleaning it after, and it’s a lot easier to ride that high horse when you own a saddle, so to speak. Plus, I have a weakness for potentially lethal objects that are aesthetically pleaseing

(honestly, as much as I love shiny pointies, there are many better founts of knowledge on the ‘net about knife construction and differing countries of production, so I shan’t go into excessive detail about it. I’m also not well versed with the various levels of carbon steel, and don’t feel like leading anyone astray)]

So basically, my new knife is shiny (which will go away in time, but is an important factor when buying one >_>…), and surgically sharp. It’s got a D-shaped handle, so it contours for righties (though a С]-shaped model is available for all those people I know who have a dyslexic dominant hand. It’s cool, I understand your plight), and is light and deadly. I’ve put it through its paces, and it is incredibly adept at any kitchen chore requiring a chef’s knife (though I’ve yet to stave off a ninja home invasion with it yet, so we’ll see…), though adequate cutting board room is required-the blade is longer, and the shape of the grip puts your hand slightly farther back than a traditional design. This is generally irksome if the prep counter isn’t clear, which in my kitchen, is a frequent concern.

CHOP!CHOP!CHOP!

Now, after a few weeks with my new tool/toy/weapon/whatnot, I had felt our bond was pretty close-I’d respect the tool, and it’d respect not killing me. Well, one night, I was going to make stew again (as it’s now feeling like a staple dish I can pull off pretty easily, with decent results), and had beef cubes defrosting on the counter, in a little baggie. I was taking the cubes out of the bag with my left hand, positioning and steadying it on the cutting board, and then cutting them down to a smaller size.

Knife in hand, I reached in the bag for another cube, only to find the beef sticking together somewhat, having not thawed entirely. Still, just using my left hand, I started pulling on the cube…and as it suddenly gave way, my right hand slipped. As it had been holding the knife, it made for a very unpleasant meeting with the middle finger of my left hand. Almost as soon as I realized what had happened, my finger was already doing its level best to generously donate my entire blood supply (maybe it had seen those “It’s in you to give” ads, rather than more correctly assuming “It’s in you to live”) to the floor of the kitchen. It wasn’t particularly painful; the blade was exceptionally sharp, so it left a remarkably clean cut. Still, hurling every epithet I could think of at myself (actually, I wear out my NSFW language ingenuity after a while, and pretty much just string SHITFUCKINGSHITFUCKINGFUCKFUCKSHIT etc until I’ve fully vented, as it requires less brain power, and I can actually focus on solving whatever catastrophe is currently enveloping me), cursing my carelessness, I went to staunch the blood flow, until Jess came home, and got me bandaids. Even then, my bathroom looked like a set from CSI. It was kind of freaky, to put it mildly, and took quite some time before I could actually get the bandaid on.

After taking a fairly literal blood oath that this wouldn’t happen again, I cut myself again, on the same finger.Damn it. This time,  I only nicked the end of my finger when the cutting board slipped. Still bled a fair amount, but it’s nearly healed after a week.

After a couple weeks of healing. Now, the cut has fully healed, but it looks like puffy scar tissue.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Well, at least monthly, I should probably allow my blade to seep in a bowl of pigs blood, or something, as it clearly has a bloodlust that can’t be easily slaked. Or, on the off chance that my knife wasn’t somehow forged by Muramasa, sent forward through time, and branded as a Shun, I should probably just be more careful.

The whole family! (The pink one is produced by the same company as the Shun)

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Ramen. Yep.

Posted in Reviews with tags , on May 13, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

I can’t recall if I’ve professed my ridiculous affinity for sushi previously (let’s just assume yes, or at least assume me bringing it up is professing enough). I adore all the various textures and flavours of fresh sashimi (though FYI, stick to salmon in low-end places-they’re probably not moving as much eel or somesuch), all the various topped rolls, and the staple negiri sushi. I’m also aware this merely a facet of Japanese cuisine, and I like extending my culinary horizons bit by bit, so when I was made aware of a decent Ramen joint near Yonge & Dundas Square (Toronto’s Times Square in the making-give it another decade or two), I needed to hit it up (though from what I’ve read/been told, ramen is based on chinese noodle soups of a similar nature, and these also share a lot in common with Korean soups as well).

So, Kenzo Ramen, my first impression was sheer excitement at seeing the exterior sign (my initial visit was during a downpour, so imminent shelter warmed my soul a tad), but this was tamped down slightly when we went inside; the interior is fairly typical of cheap ethnic restaurants of varying flavours, but the chairs were those awful things you expect to see in a library somewhere-low backed and upholstered in what looks to be old carpet samples, with those horribly lacquered legs that look like they have a half inch of varnish on them. It gave the place somewhat of a hasty, thrown together look. That’s fine. When it’s around $15 for a pop and a half-bucket of soup, I’m not going to be letting the decor affect my opinion too readily.

Taking NOW weekly’s advice, I tried the King of Kings Ramen, and it sure as hell delivered.  It has an array of toppings adorning its crown (5, according to the menu!)-a few slices of pork, nicely cooked, and fairly tender, a kamaboko fishcake (with the naruto swirl. It tastes like pressed ham), a soft-boiled egg (the center is gooey, it was awesome), scallions, and some seaweed.

It's 5am, and this image still makes me want more, right now!

The toppings are merely a little treat to snack on during your trek to the bottom of the bowl (comparable to the ones you get at Thai places-seems like a litre of liquid or more), as the true star of the show is the broth. Spicy, sweet, savoury, the broth has a nice array of flavours too it that mingle and linger on your tongue. It’s one of those piquant dishes though, where the heat seems almost negligible with your first slurp, and slowly builds up until you realize you’re sweating. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it should be kept in mind by Spice Wimps.

You can almost smell it...

Lurking under the toppings in the broth are the noodles, which…are noodles. Sorry, not enough of a pasta fan to really care about elucidating further about them. They were noodley and I ate them. There were also sprouts, which I adore, mushrooms…which I don’t adore, and some sort of strange black rubbery thing that may have been another variety of mushroom, or may have been the hide of some alien creature known only the waters of Japan. Those last two ingredients were avoided (and possibly shared with more willing recipients at the table with me. Well, the black things were just discarded entirely).

Same dish, different visit. Colour difference is do to lighting

Now, given my last post (quite a while back, jeez) was all about the woes of service, what was it like here? Well, the first visit was around 50 minutes before close, and was fairly prompt and pleasant enough, though I was a little miffed when with nearly 20 minutes to go, our bill was handed to us, and we were told to come pay as soon as possible as they closed promptly at 10…so when 2 different couples were sat by the hostess at 9:55…yeah. The waiter was admittedly quite brusque with them, but I still found it slightly at odds with the notion that the door would be locked behind us at 10:00.

My second visit was at lunch a few days later (and where the much better shots of the food come from, thanks, Natural Lighting!), and again, I had the KoK ramen. It was still delicious. The afternoon waiter was a lot more laid back, but still managed to bring our bill when we seemed to have idled for a few minutes, but didn’t really pester us about it, so it was more of a convenience to pay at our leisure.

I need some sort of small baby to sit next to this, to demonstrate the scale of the bowl...

Both times, I actually managed to only make it through around 3/4ths of the soup-whether leaving broth or sprouts and errata veggies behind. This is a thoroughly hearty, filling meal in a small tub, and I don’t begrudge anyone who feels they’ve eaten their fill long before they hit the bottom.

I plan on returning again soon, but I may be daring and try more of the menu, as everything looks tasty.

Until next time.