Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin carving

My son and his 1st pumpkin 2012

Winnie the Pooh pumpkin lit up

Halloween is once again upon us!

In St. John's this year, pumpkins have sold out early, and are quite in demand.  In the past few days, radio stations have offered pumpkins as prizes in contests.  Hopefully you have your pumpkins.  Here are some little facts about pumpkins.

1) Pumpkins are considered botanically to be fruit because the pumpkin itself is the only seed bearing part of the plant, which comes from the flower.

2) Pumpkins belong to the squash family.

3) Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, copper, magnesium and protein.

4) Pumpkin is full of fibre and can be eaten to help alleviate digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhea.

5) If you carve a pumpkin, it can be preserved for a few days longer by rubbing petroleum jelly over the exposed flesh.

6) Carving a pumpkin is similar to watermelon carving; you can trace any pattern or image onto a pumpkin and etch it out using Thai carving knives or an exacto knife.  You do not have to cut all the way through in order to have light shine through from the inside.  For step by step instructions on how to carve watermelon (or use the same technique for pumpkin) please see my blog entry on watermelon carving. 

Happy Halloween!!

Doraemon pumpkin carved, 2013

Doraemon pumpkin lit up

My wife is a huge fan of the Japanese cartoon Doraemon!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Kalakand (milk burfi)

I have a recent request to make an Asian dessert, and so I decided to make Kalakand, an Indian sweet which is similar to burfi.  Burfi is one of my mother in law's favorite desserts, introduced to her by close friends from Delhi years ago and so I decided to try it out and give some to her as a treat.

 Kalakand, like burfi is made from mostly from milk solids and sugar.  The difference is in the way the milk solids are taken from the milk.  In Kalakand, the fats in whole milk are solidified using lemon or lime juice, making a basic cheese (paneer).  In burfi, the fats in whole milk are solidified by boiling the milk for a long time, reducing the liquid until only the solids are left (khoya).

I thought for trying it out the first time, the best method to get milk solids was through curdling the milk, since it was less time consuming and easier to achieve.  It is so similar, that in many recipes online, it is used interchangeably with burfi, so why not make kalakand?



1 litre of whole milk

3-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 tbsp whole milk powder

6 tbsp powdered sugar

1/4 tsp cardamom powder

2-3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter is fine)

1 tbsp chopped pistachios *optional*


*this recipe yields very little (about 3"X3"  and about 3/4" thick), so if you want a 9" pan of Kalakand, it is best to quadruple the recipe, to make sure there is enough.



In a heavy bottom pan, stirring constantly, simmer 1 litre of whole milk.

As the milk is coming to a simmer, slowly add the lemon juice to curdle the milk.

When the milk is separated, strain the solids through a mesh sieve.  Let drain for 3 hrs.  The solids are now called paneer.


Put the paneer into a bowl and add the powdered whole milk and sugar and knead into a dough.

In a pan heat the ghee and add the paneer mixture.

Stir fry on low heat until ghee separates, remove from heat.

Add cardamom powder, mix and allow to cool a bit.

When cooled a bit, press into pan.

Press chopped pistachios onto the top of the kalakand *optional*

Wait 1-2 hrs to allow to cool completely.
Cut into squares and enjoy


This is a very rich and tasty dessert often served at Indian celebrations.  It comes in many colors, flavours and styles, including being decorated with real edible silver foil.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Chinese Hot Pot 火鍋

Happy autumn!

In my neck of the woods, autumn brings beautiful fall colors of the changing leaves, an abundance of delicous harvest vegetables and goodies and cooler crisp weather.  As the weather cools, I like to warm up by enjoying one if my favorite Chinese meals;   (foh wo; literally meaning fire pot) also known as hot pot, dah bin low, Chinese fondue, or steamboat.

Hot Pot is very popular in China, HK and other places where there are Asian people.  In bigger cities in Canada, like Toronto or Vancouver, there are many hot pot restaurants with burners built into the dinner tables.  Customers pick the ingredients they want and the waiters bring them the ingredients, the pot with broth and hot water to top up the pots.
A hot pot meal prepared by my godmother
photo credit: Leo and Mel

This type of Chinese meal has been around for over a thousand years.  My father once told me that hot pot came from an ancient village in Northern China where the peasants were very poor and had little food, but wanted to have a gathering.  The villagers brought what little they had.  Somebody brought a pot, another brought a fish they had caught, cut up to share, another brought a few vegetables from their meager garden, and so on.  When combined, the villagers had plenty of food and from then on hot pot became popular.

There are different stories about the origin of hot pot and there are many different combinations of ingredients that can go into hot pot.  You could even add your own twist on it.  My wife adds tortellini to her hot pot and while it's not traditionally Chinese, it actually tastes pretty good in it.

Here are some common ingredients for hot pot:

shrimp                  thinly sliced beef              udon noodles                    wonton noodles

crab                       thinly sliced lamb             nappa                                   dumplings

fish balls               cubed tofu                          bok choy                              beef balls



If you are using a gas or coal fired stove, make sure to have adequate ventilation, including opening the window as the stove will eat up oxygen.


If you are using ground beef, or thick raw meat ingredients like dumplings, it is best to boil the meatballs/dumplings beforehand to ensure they are properly cooked, and to also reduce cooking time while in the hot pot.  Thinly sliced meats such as beef or lamb are okay to put into the pot raw, as they will cook rapidly.



Saturday, August 3, 2013

Easy watermelon carving

Hey everyone,
In the heat of the summer, nothing beats a nice cool watermelon for a summer treat.  When having a get together, why not have a simple watermelon carving to serve as a centrepiece?  Here is an easy method for carving watermelon, perfect for beginners.

Things you need:
print out design
masking tape
ballpoint pen
cutting tool (preferably a Thai carving knife, but an x-acto knife works well too.)

1) buy watermelon



2) print out design you would like to carve out of the watermelon skin

3) tape design to watermelon using masking tape.  Smooth the edges to conform to the shape of the watermelon, then secure in place by tape.

4) once the design is secure, trace the outline of the design with a ballpoint pen tracing hard enough to make an imprint on the watermelon beneath the paper.
5) remove paper.

6) with the knife, carefully remove the top green layer skin by cutting out small pieces of the green and slicing off the top layer using the knife on a 20-30 degree angle.  Cut out the pieces not part of your design to have the design in green as I have, or conversely, you can cut out your design, leaving your design white and your background green.

once you have become used to this, you may cut deeper to make designs using the three different colors and layers of the watermelon.  Here is one I did for my son's birthday party.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

S'mores brownies

Ask any kid, or anyone who was a kid what their favorite childhood camping memory is, and 9 chances out of 10, they will tell you sitting around a campfire, singing and eating S'mores.  Ah, s'mores.  The ooey gooey confection consisting of chocolate and a roasted marshmallow sandwiched between two graham crackers has been popular since the 1920's and is still going strong.  The US even has a national s'mores day, on Aug 10th.

In our province, there has been a huge forest fire burning for over 3 weeks, so campfires are banned in that region.  In other regions there has been a lot of rain, so campfires would be difficult to enjoy.  So what to do if you can't go camping?  Bring the best part of camping to you, of course.

Here is a recipe for s'mores brownies, for when you can't sit by the fireside.





12 Graham crackers - broken in pieces


½ cup Butter

1 cup Sugar

2 Eggs

1 tsp Vanilla

1/3 cup Cocoa Powder

½ cup Flour

¼ tsp Salt

½ tsp Baking Powder


2 cups Milk chocolate chips or chunks

2 cups Miniature white marshmallows





Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


1)   Line a 9 X 13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil leaving an overhang on both sides. Spray foil with non- stick cooking spray.

2)   Place graham cracker pieces on the bottom of the pan to act as a base, overlapping slightly. Break remaining pieces into ½ inch chunks and set aside.

3)   In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter over graham crackers in the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the brownie starts to set, do not over bake.

4)   Preheat Broiler. Sprinkle remaining graham cracker pieces and marshmallows over warm brownies; broil until marshmallows are toasty and brown.

5)   Remove from oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before slicing into yummy, ooey, gooey, bars.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Canada Day recipes

Happy Canada Day!

Hope you had a wonderful day and enjoyed the celebrations.  In our family we always celebrate Canada Day by having a backyard BBQ with friends and family followed by heading down to the lake to see the fireworks display.  This year, I celebrated the occasion with some Maple BBQ sliders with maple and BBQ flavor infused into the meat, fiesta four bean salad, grilled lemon chili corn and bacon parmesan potato salad. 

Here are the recipes for you to try out at your next BBQ.  Enjoy, ‘eh?

Maple BBQ Sliders


2 lbs       Lean ground beef

4 Tbsp   BBQ sauce

4 Tbsp   Maple Syrup

3 tsp      Garlic, minced

½ cup    Panko crumbs

1              egg

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 bag     Slider buns         




Mix together the ground beef, BBQ sauce, maple syrup, garlic, panko crumbs, egg, salt and pepper in large bowl.

Let flavors marinate for a couple of hours. Then form into 2.5 oz little patties and set aside on parchment paper.

Make sure to preheat your BBQ to medium low heat and grill the burgers nice and slow so the burgers don’t burn up.

Continue to flip the sliders until the internal temperature reaches above 165 F.

Serve with your favorite condiments!






Fiesta Four Bean Salad


1 cup                     Black beans, cooked or canned

1 cup                     Chick peas, cooked or canned

1 cup                     Kidney beans, canned

1 cup                     Lima beans, cooked or canned

2 stalks                 Green onions, chopped

1 small can          Corn, drained

1 medium            Red pepper, small diced

1 large                   Shallot, chopped small

2 cloves                                Garlic, minced

½ cup                    Cilantro, chopped

1 tsp                      Chili powder

2 Tbsp                   Extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp                   White wine vinegar

1 Tbsp                   Honey

2 tsp                      Whole grain Dijon mustard

Tabasco sauce to taste

Salt & pepper to tase



Combine all ingredients in a mixing a large bowl and mix well.

Place it in nice salad dish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight for flavors to combine.

Transfer the bean salad into a nice serving dish and enjoy at your next BBQ!


Bacon Parmesan Potato Salad


3 lbs                       Baby Potatoes, washed, chopped

½ lbs                      Bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/3 cup                 Parmesan cheese, shredded

2 stalks                 Green onions, chopped

1/3 cup                 Light Mayonnaise

2 cloves                                Garlic, minced

¼ tsp                     Black pepper, freshly cracked

2 tsp                      Whole grain Dijon mustard

1 tsp                      Apple cider vinegar

1 tsp                      Honey



Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Parboil the potatoes for 8 minutes, set aside and let it finish cooking in the hot water for another 5 minutes. Then strain and let it cool.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a medium frying pan on medium high heat until crispy. Let it cool then crumble into pieces and set aside.

In large bowl, combine the potatoes, bacon and all the other ingredients and mix well.

Wrap the potato salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnite.

Serve it the next day in a decorative salad dish.






Grilled Lemon Chili Corn


6              Corn on the cob, chopped in half

2 tsp      Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp      Chili powder

1 Tbsp   Lemon juice

Salt & pepper to taste



Parboil the corn in boiling water for 10 minutes and strain into a large mixing bowl.

Add the extra virgin olive oil, chili powder, lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper to the corn and mix until all the corn is well seasoned.

Grill on the BBQ on medium high heat until the corn starts to caramelize and sweeten.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Just Goody Mart

Just Goody Mart on the corner of Churchill Square and Elizabeth Ave
Recently, a friend told me about a new Chinese grocery store in St. John’s.  I was pretty excited because there are not many Chinese grocery stores in town.  There is Magic Wok Grocery on Duckworth Street and Oriental Snow Mart in the University Centre at MUN.  Asian Variety used to be on Water Street, but has since been sold and rebranded as the Newfoundland style Water Street Variety.  The addition of a new store in Churchill Square called Just Goody Mart is refreshing and brings more choice to the St. John’s consumer.
View of main aisle from the entrance

The store has been open for just over a month now is one of St. John’s newest best kept secrets.

Just Goody Mart is a little bit larger than Magic Wok Grocery and Oriental Snow Mart, about the size of a medium Convenience store.  The store has an open feel to it and is clean and well maintained.  They have three aisles, which contain common items, such as noodles, rice snacks, Asian candy, Asian drinks, hot pot sauces and seasonings, an area of Lee Kum Kee products (soya sauces, broths, sesame oils, etc) and several freezers with frozen dim sum (buns, dumplings), frozen seafood and meats for hot pot.  There are many other items, but it would be difficult to list them all off.  The staff members are friendly and helpful and there are pull carts to help carry your groceries as you shop. 

I have passed by the store unnoticed until my friend told me about the location, because the area is under the Churchill Square apartments, on the side accessible by sidewalk facing Elizabeth Avenue.  Parking is close, with the Churchill Square parking lot about 20 ft from the door.  Being father away from the main Churchill Square building, there is free parking in unmetered spaces close by.

So if you’re looking for something fun to do this week, why not check out Just Goody Mart? 


P.S:  They have a weekly special flyer which can be seen on the store’s webpage:



Friday, June 7, 2013

Jongs (zongzi)

June 13th marks the Dragon Boat Festival, a Chinese holiday celebrated by Chinese people around the world.  Also known as the Double Fifth, because it falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese Calendar, the Chinese celebrate by making and eating jongs (zongzi) and watching dragon boat races.

While origins vary, the most popular origin of the holiday is in memory of ancient poet Qu Yuan who threw himself into the river on the fifth day of the fifth month.  The many locals who loved him paddled their boats to the middle of the river, tossing dumplings made of sticky rice and bamboo leaves into the water to feed the fish so that the fish would not eat his body.  This is also said to be the origin of the dragon boat races.

As a child, I did not know the origin of the festival, but I do have great memories of making jongs with my grandma and my mom.  It was a great opportunity to get together with family, share stories about Chinese culture and make some delicious treats!

So, to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, here is the recipe for jongs that has been enjoyed by my family for years.
Jongs (zongi)
5 lb glutinous rice
2 lb shelled mung beans (the yellow kind)
2 lb sliced pork belly
1 package of bamboo leaves
10-12 salted duck egg yolks
5 chinese sausages (lop cheurng) sliced
10-12 dried Chinese mushrooms (optional)
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1tsp chicken broth powder
1 tsp soya sauce
Also needed:
Stock pot with cover
Cotton twine
The night before:
Slice the pork belly into 1.5 inch long slices and place into a bowl, add oyster sauce, garlic powder, chicken broth powder and soya sauce and mix with the pork.  Cover and refrigerate.
Put the rice into a large bowl, rinse and cover with water.
Put the mung beans into a bowl, rinse and cover with water.
Take the bamboo leaves and soak in boiling water for an hour (make sure leaves are covered by the water, put a bowl or mug on top so that the leaves do not float)  After an hour, drain the water and add fresh water, let sit overnight.
The next day:
Soak the Chinese mushrooms in hot water and cover for 30 mins.  When softened, drain, snip the stems and cut into quarters.
Slice the Chinese sausages into thin diagonal slices and place into a dish.
Drain the rice, mung beans and bamboo leaves and place back into their respective bowls.  Pat dry the leaves.
Place the duck egg yolks into a bowl.
Take the pork out of the refrigerator.
Wrapping the jongs:
Take a bamboo leaf, smooth side in and fold in half, folding the bottom of the loaf up to make a cone-like pocket.  Take a 2nd leaf and place around the first leaf, the bottom half of the new leaf overlapping the top half of the first leaf, making the cone larger. 
Take a spoonful of rice, add a piece of pork, add mung beans, add about ½ of a salted duck egg yolk, some more mung beans and Chinese sausage and top off with more rice.  Press down to pack down the ingredients, but not too hard as it will rip the leaves.

Take a 3rd leaf and place around the 2nd, fold in the top edges, bottom and sides first, then bend the loose leaves on top downward over the folded leaf.  Hold the jong firmly to keep the rice from falling out (but once again not too tight) and wrap cotton twine around the jong to keep the leaves in place.  You can overlap the cotton twine as much as you like, as long as it keeps everything together.  Tie the ends of the twine together to make a little package.
Boiling the jongs:
Fill the stockpot about ½ to 2/3 with water and bring to a boil.  Add the jongs carefully into the water and cover.  Check every 30 mins or so to make sure the jongs are submerged in the water and that there is enough water in the pot.  About half way, stir the jongs so the bottom ones closest to the element move to the top and the ones on the top go towards the bottom.  Cook for 2-2.5 hours.

Remove from water and enjoy!
Makes 24-40 jongs depending on size of jongs.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Q & A #1

Hello everyone, this week on Tamgood, I will be answering your questions.  In my cooking classes I am often asked questions by my students about different things about cooking.  I thought I would have some Q&A entries here with any cooking questions you might have.  Here are some questions I have received so far. 


Q:  Are you better to chill tortilla/pizza/dumplings /etc dough, or use it right away at room temp?

A: It all depends on what kind of dough, for example pizza and touton dough you can use right away as chilling will stiffen up the dough.  You can chill pizza or touton dough, but it doesn’t make that much of a difference.  Butter based dough, like sugar cookie dough or short bread is best chilled because it solidifies the butter, making the dough more malleable and easy to work with, holding its shape during the baking process.

Q:  How about eggs?  Some recipes say to use eggs at room temperature, what is the difference between refrigerated and room temperature eggs?

A:  Some recipes, especially baking recipes call for “room temperature eggs”.  This is most often accompanied with “butter, softened”.   We know that softened butter blends better into a batter or dough than cold, hard butter, and room temperature eggs are also more easily blended in than cold eggs.  Cold eggs also may bring down the temperature of the butter, hardening bits of it and making the dough or batter uneven.

Q:  When I try to make rice noodle dishes, the noodles break up in tiny bits.  Why is this and how do I keep this from happening?

A:  This is happening because the noodles are overcooked.  Rice noodles are made from rice flour and are very easily broken down in water.  To remedy this, when you boil the noodles, only put them in long enough to break apart from the bulk and soften a bit.  Then you rinse off the excess starch by running the noodles under cold water in a strainer and leave to dry out a bit.  The longer you dry the noodles out, the less they will break.

Q:  What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda and can you substitute one for the other?

A:  Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents designed to help a baking product rise.  Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate, while baking powder is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, cream of tartar and starch.  The cream of tartar is an acidifying agent which neutralizes the basic sodium bicarbonate, while the starch is a drying agent that forms a web to create suspension and lift in the baked good during the baking process.  You can substitute baking powder for baking soda in a recipe, but you can NOT substitute baking soda for baking powder due to ph, texture and taste.

 Q:  I want to make my own vinaigrette for my summer salads, what is the ratio of oil to vinegar?

A:  The ratio is 3:1:1 for oil to sugar to vinegar.  One of my favorite simple vinaigrettes is honey balsamic vinaigrette which is 3 parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar and honey.

Q: When I make merengue for pies, it turns into a watery mess, how do I avoid this?

A: When making merengue pies (for example lemon merengue pie) you need to make sure the pie filling is hot.  If the filling is cool when you put on the merengue, then the steam from the filling just reaches the surface between the merengue and filling.  When the pie cools, this steam condenses, leaving the sweet watery mess.  If the filling is hot, the steam will more easily pass through the baking merengue.


If you have any cooking questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me through this page or at .  I should respond to you within a few days and will use your question and answer in s future blog entry.  Cheers!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Before we got married, my wife and I used to celebrate our dating anniversary.  We started dating in May of 1999, and this weekend marks our 14th year together.  After we got married, we stopped noticing our dating anniversary and just focused on our actual wedding anniversary.  This year, however, I am going to surprise my wife by celebrating our dating anniversary and so for my blog entry this week, I will show you how to make chocolate dipped strawberries.  This dessert is very simple, quick and easy and looks luxurious!

Chocolate dipped strawberries

100g white chocolate (bars, wafers or chocolate chips)

100g milk or dark chocolate (bars, wafers or chocolate chips)

1lb fresh strawberries

(I found some 2lb strawberry packs on sale, so I doubled up for the recipe)


Wash strawberries and pat dry

Make a double boiler by filling a pot 1/3rd the way with water.  Put a smaller dry pot or metal bowl inside that pot.  Heat on med heat. *note* do NOT heat chocolate in pot directly over stove heat, it will cause the oils in the chocolate to separate unevenly and it will get gritty and difficult to work with.

Break up chocolate and place in double boiler, stir until melted

Take strawberries by the leafy stem and dip into the melted chocolate about ¾ of the way

Place dipped strawberries on wax paper to cool

When the chocolate on the strawberries are cool and hardened, serve


Time to pour the champagne, put on a Marvin Gaye CD and enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013


For Mother’s Day last week, I bought my wife a fruit basket as a gift from our 10 month old son.  I bought the basket custom made at my local grocery store and so the basket had an array of different treats.  It had little chocolates, raisins, kiwis, apples, oranges, bananas, pears and a big juicy pineapple.  It got me thinking about pineapples and how they can be considered a super food given their benefits.

For example, if someone with a sweet tooth is trying to lose weight, pineapple can satisfy the sweet craving without packing in a lot of calories.  100g of fresh pineapple is only 50 calories.
I kinda felt like Fruit Ninja when setting up for this pic

Pineapple is packed with antioxidant Vitamin C, which boosts immunity.  Vitamin C can reduce the severity of colds and shorten the duration.  Vitamin C acts as a natural anti-histamine.  Vitamin C is also necessary for collagen synthesis in the body, which maintains integrity of skin, organs and bones. 

Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which helps break down proteins.  Bromelain has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties. 

Pineapple also contains small amounts of beta-carotene and Vitamin A, known antioxidants.

In addition, this fruit is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like copper,manganese and potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is a helpful cofactor for red blood cell synthesis. Manganese is a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger.

Although pineapple does not contain Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) I find personally that eating pineapple is a mood booster for me during the winter.  I am not sure why this is, whether its physical (the antioxidants and vitamins in the pineapple), psychological (eating tropical fruit reminds me of the tropics, and my trip to Hawaii) or a combination of both.  Either way, Pineapple is great!