Category: My Thoughts

Spicychopsticks.blog

Yes! I have officially upgraded my WordPress plan to a premium account!

My official website is now http://www.spicychopsticks.blog. The site will be down for a few short days and until I figure out the design layout, I should have something up and running in the near future so until then, I sincerely apologize for my website’s renovations.

I want to thank the WordPress community for providing me with support on the world of blogging. It has taken some time to find my way how I wish to express myself and live the life I see ahead of me but somehow I’m getting there.

Most of all, my inspirations and posts are shared with my wife with whom I spend every happy moment with. I thank her for giving me that extra push to start my small world on blogging.

Eating Out – What I Avoid The Most

hamburger

For the past few months, since my last post, I have been fortunate to have traveled to a few destinations and eat out a few times at many restaurants. After my trip from overseas, I haven’t had much opportunity to cook from home but I did wind up eating out at several restaurants while my in-laws came to visit.

The hard truth is while I was trying to find healthy choices for meals, I wound up eating a little more carbs than I should have, a lot more salt and fatty foods, and a lot less fruit and vegetables. I don’t feel guilty about it, I mean treating my family out to many restaurants around town always gives me the pleasure of knowing that they are having a good time. After all, when we are out of the house, we can’t cook from home so we only had the option to eat out.

What I discovered is that every meal I ordered, whether dining in or even drive-thru at a fast-food joint, I never ordered any soft drinks. Not once.

Yes it did cost more to purchase bottled water.

Yes it has no flavour compared to a sweetened soft drink.

I did a small calculation in my head that for every meal I had a soft drink with in the past 4 months, I probably could have gained an extra 20 pounds (9 kgs). Perhaps had some other health issues associated with drinking all of that sugar and artificial ingredients. I’m happy to say that after all of the eating out, I had none of the above issues.

If I’m dining out at an asian restaurant, I always order a hot pot of green tea. Besides, this definitely adds to the experience if I drink some herbal tea. Now I’m not saying to go ahead and eat out at any fast food restaurant but the smarter, alternative beverage is to drink water.

Avoid soft drinks at all costs.

 

Chinese Food Is Addictive

I don’t know about all of you but Chinese food is very addictive.

Even on the next day after Chinese New Year, I look towards the leftovers knowing that I can fill my plate with what I still had the night before. There are times when I am simply watching television and this overwhelming urge to drive to the nearest Chinese restaurant will fill my mind. It’s the craving for a Yang Chow fried rice, noodles, and a mixed veggie dish.

friedrice

Every spoonful of fried rice is full of small parcels of veggies, meat, and egg. It’s as if it has a small buffet in every bite.

noodles

I like to chew on some noodles every now and then. This plate is the soft noodles but the really good one is the crispy egg noodles otherwise known as Cantonese Chow Mein. That dish you can get stir fried beef or seafood added on top and completely eat it on its own.

veggies

Chinese food wouldn’t be complete without some crispy broccoli with mushrooms. When it’s sautéed with a light corn starch and soya sauce mixture it just makes the entire craving go away.

I can eat it in the morning, day and night. As a light snack or a full meal. It’s so versatile that I can mix it with international foods and use it as a main or side dish. What can I say, I love Chinese food.

A Little Bit Of Time Goes A Long Way

My wife woke up around 2 am this morning. Myself just a couple of hours later.

“This jet lag is getting harder to deal with” I said to her. We laughed a little, shared some posts we saw on Facebook. Talked about what we might do later if we don’t fall asleep.

We decided to grab a little breakfast. As I sat at the table, I watched my wife whip up a cup of coffee for both of us. My favourite beverage of the day. I just sat in my chair watching her, smiling, enjoying the moment. Talking with her, laughing about whatever came across our minds.

It’s the little things that count. A little bit of time with the one I love. Just a little bit of time goes a long way.

My Battle With Stress And Cholesterol

Some of you might relate to how I have been feeling lately.

Just recently I received my blood test results and discovered that my cholesterol level is still high above the upper limit range. Thankfully, the report showed that it is not life threatening. But this is something that I have been working on for some time now. Over the course of many years it’s been a long process to bring it down within an acceptable, medical range.

The doctor prescribed me some medication to help reduce my cholesterol…again. I’m not happy about it. I have made a better effort to eat less process foods, consume more fruits and vegetables, and exercise more often. But it appears that the one problem I am still having trouble escaping from is stress management.

So I have been told many times: An increase in my stress level will increase my cholesterol level. Taking that life lesson seriously a long time ago, I decided to walk more often. I try not to sweat the small stuff and sleep regularly. Heck I even started to zumba my butt off! Even with all that, my cholesterol is still high.

I can’t help but take a few deep breaths and let it sink in. It’s not easy feeling this way helplessly knowing that a simple blood test revealed that a healthier lifestyle does not necessarily mean better results.

Have any of you felt this way?

Do you feel as if you are doing your best but there are those hidden obstacles preventing you from moving forward?

I know I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am now but it just doesn’t feel good knowing that my current stress management process has not been going my way.

Where Does The Time Go?

Just the other day, I decided to take a break from a long day and look through some of my social media and email accounts. While I was quickly swiping through a few posts and messages I noticed that the email account that handles my blog was flooded with unread emails.

spicy-chopsticks-mailOver 300 unread emails to be precise.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could this have happened? I logged into my blog and noticed that the last time I had posted was over 4 months ago. I even checked my online reviews and was surprised with the same result. I looked away from my phone and just stared out the window. I found myself trying to recollect what I have been doing for the past 4 months and piece together why I have neglected my food blog.

It all came down to time. Not enough time (and partly lack of motivation). After a series of family outings and events, holidays, and daily work life pretty much consumed all of my time. It’s hard to say how much of my time was devoted to everything I do on a daily basis, I just know that everything I have done up to now has taken up my time. But I am very happy that my time was spent with family and friends who I care for. At the end of the day, that is what counts the most.

Perhaps I can get to writing one or two reviews/posts per week. For now, I am changing the way how I will post anything into my blog and social media accounts. In the meantime, I’m happy with what I have done and how I will spend my time in the near future.

I hope all of you have spent your time as well as I have.

10 Tips On How To Achieve The Most Value Out Of Any AYCE Sushi Buffet

In the past few weeks, I have been to a few AYCE (All You Can Eat) sushi buffets in the Greater Toronto Area.

Each and every one of these restaurants had their own menu and style that may have included in one way or another different types of asian food such as Chinese, Korean, or Thai. After checking out each restaurant, I found this to be a great opportunity to compare notes on what I look for versus what I am paying for.

1. Sushi vs. Sashimi

What is the difference between the two? Originated from Japan, sushi consists of a special bite-size portion of cooked vinegared rice topped with a slice of raw seafood, vegetables, or even tropical fruits. Makis and Hand Rolls are types of sushi that have the fish and veggies rolled or wrapped inside a layer of rice or seaweed. Sashimi is commonly thin slices of raw seafood.

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Maki Rolls

At many AYCE sushi buffets, I have seen sushi and sashimi served in different sizes, and girth. Yes, GIRTH. My biggest pet peeve is being served with a huge chunk of sushi rice with a small shave of fish. These sort of restaurants overfeed you with rice so they can save more money by holding back on the fish.

The best bang for your buck will always be the sashimis. I always order makis sparingly because I don’t want to fill myself up with rice.

2. Lunch vs. Dinner

At many AYCE buffets, the price is very different during lunch or dinner.

At an AYCE sushi buffet, the standard is having sushi served for lunch while sashimi is served for dinner, but when the price is $10 more per person and you eat the same number of sashimi as you do with sushi, then you might as well eat sushi for lunch.

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Although in some AYCE restaurants, dinner menus may be served during lunch but of course, at a dinner price. Only your wallet and stomach will determine which one to choose.

3. Weekday vs Weekend

This comes down to price. The base price is lowest on weekday lunches (Monday – Thursday) and increases at dinner. Some consider Friday lunch as a weekday but Friday dinners are always at a weekend price. At most places, weekend lunch and dinner will skyrocket to a much higher unexpected price.

Other than serving sashimi for weeknight dinner or on weekends, usually there are no special reasons why they are charging more only that they know families and couples are most available to feast at these times.

Go for the weekday lunch if you can make it. You will get better service, pay less, and it won’t be so crowded.

4. All You Can Eat but not All You Can Drink

Better ask if your soda drink refills are unlimited and/or if it’s included in the AYCE price.  Otherwise you might be paying much more than you think.

chinese-tea

I usually order some Chinese tea or green tea solely because I gave up soft drinks a long time ago and also they refill hot water for free. Besides, carbonated drinks fill up my stomach and I like to consume more of the food than the drink. Most places provide a small pot with loose tea/tea bag steeping in hot water. They either charge one price for the number of pots or the number of people. So if you have a party of 8 and they all want tea, either you will be charged for 2 pots that can serve 8 people or pay the individual price per person even if you are given 2 pots. At one place my wife and I actually paid for our own separate tea bags in separate cups.

If you don’t need anything special, tap water will always be free.

5. AYCE Sushi plus other foods and fusion

Most sushi places are now mixing up their menus by offering Chinese, Korean, and Thai.

With Chinese, I try to stay away or limit my steamed rice or fried rice. I figured if you’re eating sushi, you are already having good portions of rice. Do try their dim sum (steamed dumplings) as they are slowly making their way into the sushi restaurants.

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Stay Away From Rice Dishes At AYCE Restaurants.

Most Japanese AYCE buffets mixes in several Korean dishes. If they offer kalbi (small strips of marinated short ribs) give them a try. Koreans know that it can be difficult and expensive to make kalbi so make it worth your while to have some. It’s delicious!

Tom Yum Soup is my go-to Thai dish. I have always enjoyed a little sour taste in my mouth to warm me up for a sushi fest. Any noodle dish such as Pad Thai should be ordered with caution because it usually tastes either very bland or very sour.

6. Types of Sushi and Sashimi

I used to eat a ton of red tuna. As time passed by red tuna became less available and salmon started to be the norm. Now I’m hooked on white tuna (or butterfish). Just thinking about the butterfish melting in my mouth makes me want to go out for sushi right now. Yum!

I have also started to love octopus and surf clam sashimi. They have a slightly rubbery texture to it but the flavor is starting to grow on me.

Some maki rolls make its way onto my plate. I love dynamite rolls (tempura inside), spicy salmon crisp, and Red Dragon with salmon toppings.

Hand rolls are the biggest flop in my book for AYCE buffets. So much rice and veggies are stuffed into the seaweed wrap that you can barely taste any fish at all.

7. Fresh means everything

Once you bite into any sushi, it should not have a fishy taste. Nor should it smell fishy either. Sushi and sashimi is meant for you to enjoy the moment without having any difficulty of forcing it down.

With any fish sushi, not only should it be chilled but it should also be easy to chew. If you find that you are chewing non-stop, then it is far from being fresh.

8. Price can make it or break it

How much are you willing to pay for an AYCE lunch or dinner buffet?

For lunch, I am willing to go between $15 – $20 and that’s if they are offering sashimi for lunch on the higher end of the price range. I find that even with higher prices, the quality is still the same.

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Some restaurants will give you a 5% discount if you pay the bill cash. It doesn’t hurt to ask your server before you order if a discount is available.

9. Old style/New style menu ordering

Pen and paper menu ordering is slowly being phased out. Most of these places don’t have a picture what each dish looks like. Unless you have eaten at this sort of place several times and ordered everything on their menu, then you really wouldn’t know what to expect. Also, it is so hard to get your server’s attention if they don’t check up on you from time to time.

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iPads now made their way into AYCE sushi buffets. Order the quantities of dishes by tapping away at the pictures on their slide bar menus. Food should arrive within 5 minutes as this system is supposed to increase efficiency. If they don’t serve your food within a good amount of time then either the restaurant is busy or the iPad is broken.

10. Tipping

Most AYCE have credit card machines with preset amounts on how much tip to add onto the bill. I will tip depending if I have to go up to get my own food or if they will deliver it to me. Factor in if they bring my food quickly, take away my empty plates before I return from the tables. I always consider if I am treated like a paying customer.

Most importantly, the food has to meet my expectations.

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So I hope my list helps all of you decide on what you will look for at any AYCE sushi buffet.

If you love sushi as much as I do, it is always satisfying to walk out of a sushi restaurant smiling saying that I ate well and having that ‘Life is Good’ feeling. If you can say that, then you definitely achieved the most value out of your sushi meal.

Thanks for reading my blog!

The Canadian National Exhibition Experience

1.Front entrance

When I was a kid, my parents used to take my family to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto. It was the “annual fair” that came to town filled with rides, games, food and entertainment. I always had fond memories of our visits to the CNE.

I remember my parents buying strings of small coupon stubs so that I could ride the merry-go-round or brave the kids swing set. It was one of those special days when we could eat whatever candy or junk food we want. My dad would have this obsession to win the big prize by shooting pellets around a red star printed on a small piece of paper hanging at the end of a long wire. He would never win but we would always be happy that he tried his very best.

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Kiddie Ride
3.Popcorn
Candy Stand
4.CandiedApple
Caramel Apples
5.Shootout
My Dad Used To Spend A Lot Of Money On This Game

They still kept some things the same such as the “midway” where all the food and games are just an arm’s length away. The all famous Food Building still has over a hundred food vendors just footsteps away from the GO Train entrance. Of course, the annual Canadian International Air Show is always ready to perform if you are lucky to find a seat.

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The Midway
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Prizes And Games On The Midway

We always like to see what’s new and upcoming at the CNE. Since we’re a lot older now, they added a lot more entertainment. Today, there are rock bands entertaining the beer thirsty and pork-hungry Ribfesters, a casino open to the experienced and amateur poker player, a large shopping building full of international goods available for sale, and several updated shows and current events to entertain people of all ages. Two of those shows we wanted to see was the ice skating and SuperDogs show.

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SuperDogs Show
9.IceSkating
Aerial Acrobatics

The ice skating shows always try to feature a Canadian celebrity skater. In the past they have had Olympians Elvis Stojko and skating duo, Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue.

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Scott Moir And Tessa Virtue During Their 2012 Show At The CNE

This year we had the pleasure of watching Joannie Rochette, Canadian Bronze Medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Canada Winter Olympics.

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Joannie Rochette

After the ice skating show, we decided to take our time doing a lot of shopping inside the Enercare Building. Items for sale ranged from clothes to food, and everything in between. My sister was generous to buy us 1kg of unpasteurized honey. We didn’t realize how heavy it was to carry it around while shopping, we felt like dragging our bag on the ground!

12.IndoorShopping
Indoor Shopping

At one time, we were very thirsty so I decided to buy something a little different than the usual bottle of water. It wasn’t a lot but it helped hydrate ourselves from carrying around the honey and other free samples we picked up along the way.

12.Coconut
Fresh Coconut

The biggest highlight of our day was the long line of food trucks near the Princes’ Gates entrance. One of my favourites is a truck called Fidel Gastro’s. They own a restaurant on Queen Street, Toronto but has extended their express service to a food truck. We ordered the Porknado sandwich with the owner, Matt. Within minutes, out came this huge sandwich filled with Korean pulled pork topped with two crispy pork dumplings, green onions, and crema. The flavours are unreal compared to any sandwich I have ever tasted. With each bite, the pulled pork melted in my mouth and the dumplings added another flavor of pork. The fusion of Asian and Latin spices gave that extra kick while the crema just tied everything in.

13.Porknado
Fidel Gastro’s Porknado Sandwich

Matt was very generous to come back out and give us a free sample of their CNE Specialty called the Cubano. What a treat! This was a deep fried sandwich filled with pork brisket, onions cheese and pickles. Oh boy, the calories! Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Cheese and pickles are my favourite toppings so I could not hold back on having that extra bite. This sandwich did not disappoint and it was an instant hit in my books.

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Fidel Gastro’s CNE Special – Cubano Sandwich

We were so impressed with Fidel Gastro’s that I wanted to take my picture with him. I even asked him to promote his food truck for me to post on my blog.

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Matt From Fidel Gastro’s

Some time later, we had to treat ourselves to something sweet. It just so happens there was a food truck that sold Churros. Nothing better than eating a sweet, deep fried pastry sprinkled with sugar and injected with caramel syrup.

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Snacking On Churros

At the end of the day, we were exhausted from all the shopping and pigging out on food. If you can make the trip to Toronto while the CNE is opened, you must try the experience of walking throughout the entire grounds. Make a second day trip if you can’t finish it all. Even as I get a little older, it makes me feel like a little kid all over again.