The Tomato

July 27 2016

the bao wars

“We were making them in house for several months– two people working from 10pm to 6am every night.”

Eric Hanson, the affable exec chef of Prairie Noodle, is talking about the steamed buns called bao, familiar to diners as an integral part of a good dim sum, now trending as the coolest Asian street food. The soft and fluffy, slightly sweet bun is made by steaming yeast instead of baking it. Prairie Noodle fills their bao with a variation on the traditional pork, hoisin, soy, sesame theme (such as the shitake and garden veg version served at Sip n’ Savour) slices the bun in two and calls it a bao’wich.

“We put dozens of hours into developing the recipe, the shape, everything,” says Eric. “One of our cooks even practiced at home. We were making 90 portions a night. We couldn’t keep up. That should be fair to the staff, noone signed up for the nightshift. Morally we couldn’t keep doing this. So we looked around to partner with a bakery to make them for us.

“There is one change – we have lots of pork fat because we order whole pigs from Pinehaven for our ramen. The baker asked, ‘could he use vegetable fat instead?’ We never dreamed it was so they could sell our bao to everybody else.”

Arden Tse and Terry Wong, the owners of Prairie Noodle, started off making ramen at pop-ups around the city, garnering an avid following. The bao’wich is part and parcel of their plan to offer their version of Asian street food to city diners.

“They were a bit better when we made in house,” says Eric. “We made fresh every day and steam to order. The baker makes and flash freezes. We don’t think these other guys are steaming to order.”

Expect the bao wars to heat up with the opening of Bao Bar and other bao-focused eateries.

Prairie Noodle’s daily bao’wich

Prairie Noodle’s daily bao’wich

unwined’s limo de vino

Start with a refreshment at Unwined Fine Wines Spirits and Ales (#2 512 St. Albert Trail). Next up is a stop at Privada, Buco and 12 Acres for a paired glass of wine and signature plate. Then it’s back to the store for a nightcap and a sweet. Enjoy this light-hearted St Albert dine around, their third annual on 7pm, Tuesday, August 9, tix $142.86,


workshop garden party for young cooks

The Workshop Eatery (2003 91 Street SW, 780-705-2205, plans a garden party fundraiser for the Canadian Culinary Fund and the High School Culinary Challenge, Thursday, August 11. Enjoy a welcome reception and a four-course long table dinner with wine. The menu features their garden harvest. The Canadian Culinary Fund helps develop the next generation of young cooks through the High School Culinary Challenge and full scholarships to the NAIT culinary program. Only 60 tickets are available, $100 + GST:

Beef short rib with Alberta barley, Workshop Eatery

Beef short rib with Alberta barley, Workshop Eatery

Xavier Rose

Xavier Rosé

the season of rosé

Xavier Rosé (AOP Côtes-de-Provence, France, under $20.) Who doesn’t want to drink pink this summer? This lovely Côtes-de-Provence rose,́ a blend of classic Mediterranean varieties Grenache and Cinsault with some Syrah, is a breath of fresh air—pale salmon in colour, dry, with elegant crisp acidity and a refreshing whisper of berry fruit. This will be your fridge door rosé all summer long. Drink with a grilled vegetable salad.

grilled vegetable salad

In mid-summer, when the Italian Centre starts to fill with the heady aromas of BC field peppers, it’s time to take advantage of the bounty and grill peppers. When you get bored of peppers on their own (if that’s even possible) add in some other vegetables, herbs, a shake of hot sauce or some maple syrup. There is no real recipe, just a suggestion of what might partner well in a salad – choose what looks good from the market or your garden. Few vegetables don’t benefit from a turn over an open fire, (except maybe peas and beans; shell, then toss in raw for a textural and colour surprise). A few tips: remember to keep the vegetables that take longer to cook, onion and potatoes for example, in bite-sized pieces; small whole tomatoes work better than large sliced tomatoes; and you can freeze grilled vegetables to bring the memory of summer days to the depths of winter.

1-2 sweet red yellow or orange pepper cut in large bite-sized pieces
1-2 small zucchini, sliced
1-3 pattypan squash, halved
1 red onion, sliced, or cut in 1/8 or green onions, trimmed
generous handful whole small tomatoes
1 head garlic, peeled and broken in cloves
generous handful small new potatoes, halved
1 sprig fresh thyme (leaves only, minced)
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 handful fresh mint, chopped
2-3 T canola or extra virgin olive oil
fresh-squeezed lemon juice to taste
sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper
chopped basil and parsley for garnish
hot sauce or maple syrup (optional)

Toss vegetables with herbs, oil and juice in a bowl. Place in a grill pan in a single layer and grill over medium-high heat for 12 to 14 minutes or until tender and slightly blackened. Check seasoning, adding more herbs and lemon juice if needed. Serve hot or cold on salad greens with fresh basil and parsley. Serve 4-6.

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