New Thing #358: Eat Durian

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The last time I tried to procure a durian I couldn’t find a single one on the streets of Toronto. The notoriously stinky South Asian fruit, is pretty much confined to the stalls of Chinatown, or the T&T Supermarket. Unlike the summer, I had not trouble finding scores of them downtown today.

And I had no idea that they were so damned expensive. After having a few bites, I don’t understand why anyone would pay $3.00 for one, let alone ten times that. And I even haggled my way down to thirty dollars!

What was most surprising about eating durian, apart from it not being as odorous as I thought, is that I still can’t pin down what it tastes like. It’s certainly not akin to any fruit I’ve had before and it reminded me more of something meaty than anything else; I just can’t put my finger on it. 

That being said, it’s pretty damn gross, and I don’t think I’ll be trying it again. The man who first managed to open up one of these monstrosities must have been pretty damned desperate to do so.

I’m also pretty sure that old Chinese man who emphatically sold me on its sweetness is laughing his ass off right now.

 

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New Thing #18: Sugar Apple

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I saw these sugar apples at T&T Supermarket and was intrigued; these were completely foreign to me. So I picked up a couple to try.

I’m glad I did, even though there is a lot more work than reward to eating the fruit. The seeds are toxic and it’s the meat housing those seeds that are the yummy bits. I’d liken it to a brazil nut for effort vs food. The taste makes up for it though. 

The meat is very sweet and silky in texture. It almost has a hint of mango underneath but smoother. I decimated an entire fruit and had to keep myself from eating the second one so that I can share it with my family later tonight.

They’re definitely a treat.

[UPDATE] Having eaten the second sugar apple for dessert tonight I heartily endorse the use of a grapefruit spoon if you have one. It makes the whole thing go a lot quicker.

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New Thing #16: Make Hot and Sour Soup

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Ever since I first started washing dishes at Lotus Garden in Grimsby as a teenager I’ve been enamoured with hot and sour soup.

The friendliest, and probably best of the cooks there was named Johnson and I’ve been searching for a hot and sour soup in Toronto that even comes close to his recipe.

Factor in my recent visit to T&T Supermarket and came to the conclusion that I should try and make one myself.

I used this recipe from epicurious.com and you can see the results for yourself in the pictures attached to this post.

It turned out great, as far as soups go, but nothing like Johnson’s version. At least it gave me a chance to add some dried asian ingredients to my pantry and introduced me to lilly pods. I’m almost sad that I didn’t have a cold right now so that it could have been knocked right out of me. As my daughter said “too picey!”.

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New Thing #2: T&T Supermarket

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Growing up in Grimsby, Ontario I had a lot of jobs: paperboy, fruit picker, greenhouse worker, etc. But where I spent most of my employed time was Lotus Gardens, the local Chinese restaurant. Originally from Hong Kong, the owners had spent time in The Netherlands and mastered Indonesian cooking as well. When they moved to Canada they opened a hybrid Chinese Canadian and Indonesian food restaurant that brought in patrons from around the province. It also meant that I got to eat some kickass food every night for free.

I started there as a dishwasher in high school and paid my way through college on a waiter’s salary and tips. After seven years I was more family than employee. 

I delighted in Ma Pao Tofu, Bami Goreng and a host of other dishes nightly. And although I never went near a wok I think my love of cooking started there.

So today I went to the T&T Supermarket off Cherry Street in Toronto. They specialize in Asian products and ingredients, and boy, they don’t disappoint.

I spent an hour wandering the aisles, picking up a few things here and there for a stir fry I plan on making tonight. I also found countless new things to try that I had neglected to put on my list like blue chicken. Others, like marinated shredded pig’s ear will be a definite treat when I run out of things to try.

To top it all off, the shopping baskets can either be carried or pulled along on wheels . A fantastic little touch to a great shopping experience.

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