Monday, August 25, 2014

T&T Cooked Pork and Shrimp Dumplings

My mom had her eye on this T&T product line for a while, but being the frugal person that she is, she waited until it was on sale at Superstore this week and chose the "Cooked Pork & Shrimp Dumplings" to sample. These are basically siu mai. As usual it looks great in ad copy, but how good is it?

For a mere eight dumplings, it is quite over-packaged on the inside, with a plastic tray that looks like an ice cube tray for freezers. Each of the eight dumplings sits in its own cubicle, which separates them and prevents them from clumping if you choose to microwave them -- one of the recommended preparation methods.

My mom went with steaming. They came out extremely firm, almost rubbery -- basically similar to very firm fish balls. If we had read the label more carefully, we might have expected this -- it's COOKED Pork. This also explains why the meat is clay-grey in colour.

If you had ordered siu mai at dim sum, you could expect a much more tender product, and preferably with visible chunks of shrimp. There are the occasional shrimp bits here as well, but instead of ground pork, the processing turned the pork into a paste, hence the extremely rubbery-firm texture after cooking.

Taste wise, there is some shrimp flavour, so if you can block out the rubbery-ness, it's not too bad. However, you would do better getting shrimp balls to start with.

Overall, I would say that if you can handle a shorter "best before" date, look at the deli section for fresher versions in shrink wrap as you are more likely to get actual ground pork instead of paste. You probably couldn't microwave those and expect a good result, however, so be prepared for steaming, or possibly even deep frying if you are into that. Deep frying requires a bit of care to make sure the meat is cooked through, but it can preserve the tenderness of the meat, at least on the inside.

If you do want this frozen product, look carefully for the best before date or ask someone before purchasing. Once my mom got it home, we looked carefully for it, but the closest we could find was a partial stamp of "L014...".

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cheap All You Can Eat at Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut on Urbanspoon AYCE (All You Can Eat) is not available at every Pizza Hut, so you'll have to ask around. One location that has it is the 4775 East Hastings (at Gamma Avenue) Pizza Hut.

This smallish place has booth seating and a small stand for their Monday to Friday 11.30 am to 1.30 pm lunch buffet. Not on holidays. And only $6.99! This kind of cheap is practically a public service!

Not much service to be had here for an AYCE, but that's to be expected. You will probably have to ask for water, maybe a whole pitcher of it if you are a larger party. I think they forgot to turn the heat lamps on high because we got there shortly after Noon and any pizza not clearly fresh from the oven was basically lukewarm.

You may also have to ask for less popular pizzas like Hawaiian and Vegetarian. Service isn't exactly ace as they are probably geared toward take-out and delivery, but it isn't surly either. It's probably just a combination of inexperienced and tired of giving smiling service to people who don't care. I recommend being nice to them anyway, especially if you want to have a particular type of pizza and it's the last half hour before the afternoon buffet closes.

The pizzas are small size and cut into approximately 12 thinner slices. Since it's AYCE, this actually helps you moderate your intake so you don't have too much left over. Even so, there is a lot of evidence that people "cheat" by eating just the toppings off the crust. At a sushi AYCE you might end up being charged for these leftovers, but not here, which is awfully nice of them.

Also part of the AYCE lineup was pasta, chewy breadsticks that my dining partner identified as garlic bread despite it not giving off any aroma of garlic, a simple "salad" of basically chopped lettuce with caesar dressing available, and a dessert pizza which was basically pizza dough topped with sweet syrupy chopped up fruits.

By around 1 pm the place was basically deserted. Lunch rush over, I guess, and no more screaming kids. Lots of parking. One hour is more than enough to make up for missing breakfast earlier in the day and dinner afterwards.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Buitoni the saltiest frozen pizza so far

For years now, you can get very cheap full-sized frozen pizza for about $5 at Superstore. Smaller "gourmet" ones used to come in at around $8, but this week there are some for sale at around $3. I picked up a couple of Buitoni at $3.32 each (limit 2) and one McCain Ultra Thin Crust Roasted Mushroom and Garlic at $3.
I'm feeling veggie conscious so I picked only vegetarian pizzas.

The Buitoni Spinaci Fresca was the first ever Buitoni product I've tried and it was shocking. The Nutrition Facts (which I never read beforehand) confirmed it wasn't a factory fluke -- 500 mg Sodium per 90 gram (quarter pizza) serving.

The McCain Ultra Thin Crust Roasted Mushroom and Garlic wasn't significantly better at 310 mg Sodium per 86 gram (quarter pizza) serving, but the taste was what made the Buitoni pizza so surprising: It was as if someone had sprinkled extra salt on a pizza. It wasn't an experience of savoury-salty ingredients or sauce, but more like a direct taste of salt -- that's how salty it tasted. And it was so dominating that it almost covered up the flavours of the other ingredients.

Luvo isn't available in Canada yet, but they are known for healthy food and keeping sodium levels low. Their Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Flatbread has just 45 mg Sodum per 94 gram (half pizza) serving.


By the way, if you want freshly made pizza at a cheap price, AYCE (all you can eat) pizza deals can still be found if you look around. There's Pizza Hut, for example. Not all stores have the offer, but the one in Burnaby at 4775 Hastings (at Gamma) has it at $10 $6.99, Monday to Friday, 11.30 am to 1.30 pm, NOT on holidays. Included in the buffet is (sad) garlic bread, salad, and dessert pizza. You may have to ask for the type of pizza you want if all they've put out is deluxe and pepperoni.