Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Festival Director Eats Beef From Hell

As Megan Morman is my roomie and she is doing a piece about gossip, I feel justified in giving y'all a larger than life (read quasi-fictional) peek at the behind-the-scenes life at the festival. Luckily the performers that have arrived so far are good Eaters and so Todd took us to one of his favourite little gems called Viphalay, a Laos and Thai restaurant in the corner of a tiny unassuming strip mall. Vancouver has been all abuzz about the opening of a Thai restaurant on West 4th called Maenam, but I had a better meal here at this lovely little family-run business. Todd says he's never had a bad dish at Viphalay, and he's a good person to ask because he's probably eaten every dish on the menu.

The table shared an appetizer platter. I loved that the appies were crisp, 2-bite-sized morsels and not monsterous pieces dripping with oil. The prawns in a sticky red-wine sauce stood out. It had an earthiness to it that helped balance out some of the sweetness that can tend to get cloying for my tastes. The same was true of the curries as well--the potatoes and roasted peanuts tended to ground the dishes nicely. Todd ate almost all the platter, but we didn't say anything because he's the director, so one tends to look the other way in these circumstances. We also shared a delicately balanced green curry, a crisp fresh papaya salad and a richly nuanced Massamun curry with hints of cinnamon. Naufus said the latter dish reminded him of food in Guatamala. Again, Todd tended to take more than his fair share of coconut rice, but he has a go go gadget boarderhouse reach that tends to make food disappear faster than you can say Portage La Prairie Popsicles.

Naufus had the dish with the most interesting description. Hell's Beef or Nua Na Lok was described as "Firey strips of marbled beef marinated in our own homemade roasted garlic and chili hot sauce and fire-roasted in Hell's oven."* Only in Alberta you say. Pity. I had a bite of hell's beef and we agreed it was a bit dry and hell was not as hot as we'd imagined. It did have a nice slow burn though. TL Cowan had a boat full of spicy seafood soup (Tom Yum Gai), which she was very pleased with and vowed to come back and have again the next day to clear out her cold. Todd wanted to have the bananas fried in spring roll wrappers, but we all politely escorted him out of the building before he tried to order flaming ouzo for the entire table. Naufus headed to the Wee Book Inn for magazines for his "collage project" and Megan and I gossiped and philosophized into the wee hours.

*Hell's Beef could be a new chapter in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, or look for it in a performance art piece coming to funeral chapel-turned arts space near you.


  1. This is great, but I'm sort of disappointed to see that you kept Megan up so late that she hasn't had a chance to post any juicy news on her own blog!!

    Oh, also, I heard "Some random guy said that a CBC reporter was desperately looking for information about Lori Weidenhammer outside 7-11 ."

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  3. Here is my grandmother's recipe for the Guatemalan dish that reminded me of that sweet cinnamon curry:

    *Pepian Dulce*


    For cooking the Meat:
    1 pound of boneless Pork Loin cut into one-inch cubes
    3 cups of Water
    1 teaspoon of Salt
    1 clove of Garlic
    1 medium Onion

    For “Pepian Dulce” sauce:

    6 Tomatoes
    1 Onion
    1 tablespoon of Squash Seeds
    1 tablespoon of Sesame Seeds
    2 Pasilla chili peppers
    ½ stick of Cinnamon
    1 small Sweet Bread roll (the sort you can find at Latino bakeries)
    1 three-inch slice of Baguette
    2 whole Allspice Berries
    3 whole Black Peppercorns
    3 tablespoons of Olive oil
    ½ a teaspoon of Salt
    3 tablespoons of Brown Sugar
    2 dried chopped Prunes (pit removed)

    To decorate:

    1 tablespoon of slithered Almonds


    1. Cooking the Meat: Put the meat pieces in a pan with the onion, garlic, and salt. Cover with three cups water, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pork is cooked. Drain off, place the pork pieces aside, and reserve the stock.

    2. Cooking the Sauce: Remove the stems and seeds from the Pasilla chili peppers, toast them on a hot skillet and stir until the chiles are fragrant, about 1 minute, being careful not to burn them. Tear them up and soak the pieces in a cup of the hot pork stock for 30 minutes.

    3. Place the tomatoes and onion in the skillet and stir until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and place aside.

    4. Place the squash seeds, sesame seeds, and cinnamon in the skillet until the ingredients are browned. Remove and place aside.

    5. Place the sweet bread, baguette and stir until browned. Remove and place aside.

    6. Working in small batches, puree all the toasted ingredients with the chili peppers, allspice and peppercorns in a blender until smooth, adding about half the amount of the pork broth or until you have a smooth sauce.

    7. Strain sauce in a sieve.

    8. Heat the olive oil in a pot and fry the sauce for three minutes.

    9. Season sauce to taste with salt and sugar. Add the rest of the broth and the pork meat. Let it cook together for 10 minutes and serve. Plate with slithered almonds on top to make it pretty.

  4. Sorry, I guess I could write more - but apparently I also ate my computer.


  5. Naufus, thanks for that great recipe!