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Last Meal on Earth: A Bowl of Noodles

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Some time ago, I came across a piece by msnbc, featuring excerpts from a book on the subject of last meals. Entitled “My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals – Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes”, the book lists last meals from famed chefs Eric Ripert, Ferran Adria, Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Nobu, Rick Bayless, and Thomas Keller. Many, working chefs at the time of the book’s publishing.

After tweeting a link to the excerpts, I eventually asked what our predominantly foodie followers would have as their last meals. Here is a compiled list of replies:

@mtkayahara (Jul 23, 12:24 PM)
My last meal would be breakfast: an omelette, bacon, sausage, home fries, and toast with butter and strawberry jam.

@mcogdill (Jul 23, 12:19 PM)
Tempura Udon. I’ve loved it since childhood–it’s my favorite comfort food.

@WayMoreHomemade (Jul 23, 12:13 PM)
Osso Buco I think would be my last dinner if I had a choice.

@hjli (Jul 23, 12:08 PM)
The last-meal Q is always the hardest. But I stick to my daddy’s homemade beef-and-potato Indian curry.

@FriedWontons4u (Jul 23, 12:07 PM)
I think it would consist of my mom’s chicken juk, a plate of mole salami w/ cheese, fresh soft boil egg, & a lot more things!

@joonieb (Jul 23, 07:46 AM)
For my last supper it would be lobster thermidor, ice cold chablis & Russell Brand!! lol

In our coverage of last year’s local Gold Medal Plates culinary competition, part of a national fundraiser for the Canadian Olympic Foundation, we asked invited chefs what would be their last meals. Their responses were similarly varied, many comfort foods, some family favourites, a few somewhat extravagant foods, but nothing altogether complex.

Navarra‘s Chef René Rodriguez chose sea urchin and Bollinger champagne. Harvest in PEC’s Chef Michael Potters chose a piece of seared foie gras. Chef Charles Part of Les Fougères in Chelsea, Quebec chose a pastry covered bowl of potato soup imbued with truffles. Chef Steve Mitton of Murray Street Kitchen and Murray’s Market chose his wife’s lasagna. Chef Marc Lepine of Atelier chose a “big bowl of grapefruit.” Chef Charlotte Langely of Whalesbone Oyster House chose classic French bread with foie gras pate or something made by her father. Chef Caroline Ishii of ZenKitchen chose a bowl of ramen noodles…in Tokyo. The Fraser brothers of Fraser Cafe chose a peanut butter sandwich and a $5 breakfast, respectively. Chef Michael Moffatt of Beckta Dining and Wine and Play Food and Wine chose his grandmother’s grilled cheese.

Later in our interview with him, Chef Moffatt talked about the emotional ties that bind people to food. Accordingly, and rightly so, food is a “social medium.” Such likely explains why last meals vary so much. It depends on the situation and your food-related memories, your personal food history. Chef Moffat likes to leverage memories to create great guest experiences at his restaurants.

Here is my choice:

@foodiePrints (Jul 23, 04:57 PM)
My last meal would more than likely be a bowl of my better half’s rice noodle prawn and ginger wonton soup, w/braised [beef] brisket.

Why? I love Ottawa, but a good bowl of non-pho noodle soup, with either rice (ho-fun) or egg noodles, is so difficult to come by here those of us who crave one have to learn how to make it ourselves.

It is a realization many locals face. Our restaurants specialize in serving usually decent, but not great ethnic foods, unless you are willing to pay a premium. For instance, the best shrimp siu mai dumplings (a Chinese dim sum staple) I’ve had outside of Vancouver (and Toronto for that matter) were served opening night at the Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen and Bar (18 York Street).

Prawn Dumplings with Ginger, served with Black Vinegar on the Side

Prawn Dumplings with Ginger, served with Black Vinegar on the Side

Cost: $13 for a steamer of 4 dumplings. Held together in well-worked wrappers was incredibly fresh and sweet shrimp not processed into a paste. Instead the shrimp was conservatively chopped and loosely shaped together to form each dumpling. Every dumpling was steamed perfectly.

The bowls of Chinese noodle soup served in Ottawa are true to form and leave a little to be desired. It has something to do with small customer-base (though, the crowds on Saturdays at Ottawa’s T&T, a large Chinese grocery store, seem to contest this), little competition, and restauranteurs having to balance authenticity and profitability.

At Chinatown’s Café Orient (808 Somerset Street W.), which serves Hong Kong-style fare, I have had decent bowls of noodle soup.

Egg Noodle Soup with Braised Brisket, Shrimp Soup Dumplings, and Napa - $7.00

Egg Noodle Soup with Braised Brisket, Shrimp Soup Dumplings, and Napa – $7.00

Egg Noodle Soup with Braised Tripe and Brisket - $6.50

Egg Noodle Soup with Braised Tripe and Brisket – $6.50

But, I found the beef soup a tad thick, sometimes oily, and oftentimes over-seasoned with soy (at least to my taste). The beef brisket and tripe however are always braised soft and portioned generously. The napa cabbage tends to be overcooked.

At So-Go Asian Takeout (258 Bank Street), I was served a bowl of salty yet flavourless instant chicken soup, from dry pho noodles, shanghai bok choy, and overcooked shrimp wontons.

Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup

Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup

Essentially, this is a quick meal at many oriental households. Though, Jenn and I keep cartons of low sodium beef and chicken broth in the pantry and containers of chicken stock in the freezer for quick bowls of noodles.

For some perspective, here are what bowls of noodle soup looked like from authentic Chinese noodle houses in Vancouver and Toronto:

Hons Wun-Tun House
I’ve yet to understand CBC writing a piece, profiling Vancouver’s Hon’s “Wuntun” Houses one past Chinese New Year and not spending any time on the bowl of “Wuntun” noodle soup that had a taxi driver start up the successful chain.

At the 339 Robson Street location (Downtown Vancouver), I was dumbfounded how a simple bowl of noodle soup could satisfy.

Chinese Barbecue Pork Char-Siu Rice Noodle Soup - $7.50

Chinese Barbecue Pork Char-Siu Rice Noodle Soup – $7.50

Pork Wonton Rice Noodle Soup with Braised Beef Brisket - $7.50

Pork Wonton Rice Noodle Soup with Braised Beef Brisket – $7.50

Everything, including the ho fun rice noodles were, made in-house (Now $7.65)

At the former 4600 No. 3 Rd location (Richmond), the trend continued.

Braised Beef Brisket Rice Noodle Soup - $7.50

Braised Beef Brisket Rice Noodle Soup – $7.50

Chinese Soy Sauce poached Chicken Rice Noodle Soup - $7.50

Chinese Soy Sauce poached Chicken Rice Noodle Soup – $7.50

Again, everything, including the ho fun rice noodles, were made in-house (Now $7.65)

Au Wing Kee Restaurant
In Burnaby, I had noodles from the 5226 Kingsway location of Au Wing Kee, another noodle house chain.

Beef Sinews and Tripe Egg Noodle Soup with Shrimp Wontons - $4.35

Beef Sinews and Tripe Egg Noodle Soup with Shrimp Wontons – $4.35

Also, house-made beef soup and shrimp wontons with fresh egg noodles.

Keung’s Delight
Markham, Ontario’s Keung’s Delight (7020 Warden Av) is a must visit when Jenn and I stay in Scarborough. There, an order of noodle soup produces fresh egg noodles, house-made soup, and a generous amount of “stuff” be they house-made shrimp dumplings, braised beef brisket, or “beef internal delicacies.”

Beef Internal Delicacies Noodle Soup - $4.50

Beef Internal Delicacies Noodle Soup – $4.50

Here is what I would like my last meal to look like.

Beef Omasum Rice Noodle Soup with Shrimp Wontons and Braised Beef

Beef Omasum Rice Noodle Soup with Shrimp Wontons and Braised Beef

In this bowl, beef stock made from scratch (made using a combination of French and Chinese techniques), hand-made shrimp wontons, stove-braised beef, stir fried beef omasum with ginger, fresh rice noodles, and lots of cilantro.

A bowl of noodle soup like this represents an investment of time and care. It is made by my Jenn’s hands. It makes me feel loved.

It seems we skirt with the apocalypse now more often than ever. Just this past May an Evangelical Christian radio broadcaster predicted Judgement Day would come on the 21st. The broadcaster, Harold Camping, left followers somewhat disappointed, admitting he miscalculated when hell did not descend on the Earth. Feeling “awful” he re-predicted the end will come October 21st.

So with under 4 months left, have you considered your last meal?

Mild-mannered IT professional by day and food blogger by night, I founded foodiePrints with a single intention, to share my love of all things food. My first post shared a recipe. Many followed. Eventually, I learned Ottawa prepares and serves great food. Thereafter, I started meeting restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, farmers, and other local producers, all good people. Ideas for food-related content swirled in my head. foodiePrints grew into a place to put them. From exploring foreign and domestic cuisines to shopping for exotic ingredients and cobbling together my takes on dishes in my meager kitchen, there are stories to tell. Welcome to foodiePrints. Here, you will find stories about food and drink, cooking, and eating in Canada’s capital. Be it food-related or just food-for-thought, I hope you find something tasty here.