Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"Things in a pot". Doesn't sound very special...A very basic translation by a non-Japanese speaker. "Nabe" = pot. "Mono"= thing/stuff; in this usage, "edible things". Done properly, very delicious, edible things end up simmering together in a big ceramic or metal pot. Japanese hot pots take many forms. Canadians are perhaps most familiar with Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki and Yosenabe.

"Yosenabe" (pictured above) is one of our favourites. Christmas dinner at Sanbiki did not involve turkey, turnip puff or yorkshire pudding as it would have at my Mom's. Instead, we started with a pot of water and a piece of seaweed. "Kombu" is a kind of kelp that is loaded with "umami"(the "fifth taste") due to the presence of glutamic acids. It don't look like much now, but we are just getting started...

We leave the kelp to soften and flavour the stock. Seafood and fish are prepared for cooking. We used B.C. Black Cod (Sablefish), Spot Prawns ("ama ebi" or sweet shrimp) and scallops. The Black Cod is a mild fish with a high fat content. Cooked properly the flesh is light and flaky. Near the skin, bones and cheeks, its even better. Packed with omega-3 fats these bits take a bit of work to eat but melt in your mouth. Definately worth the effort of picking and spitting a few bones. As the skin cooks down it becomes delicious too. Nothing is wasted. We sliced it and blanched it briefly to get it ready to play it's part in our nabe party...

BC Spot Prawns are another local, sustainably sourced seafood. Allowing them to cook in the shell, head on, keeps the shrimp from drying out and adds flavour to the stock. The heads take time to cook but are a crunchy, end of meal treat I look forward too!

What's a hot pot without the veggies and tofu? No hot pot at all! We used daikon (giant white radish), Napa Cabbage (hakusai in Japanese or sui choy in Chinese) and green onion to start. Tofu and "shiritaki" (a chewy noodle) will add more texture than taste to the dish. A balance between textures as well as tastes is important in Japanese cuisine. Not that the tofu and noodles will be tasteless. They wil absorb the flavours of the stock as they cook; this is why they are added to the nabe early on.

Cold beer makes the waiting a little easier... a glass of Sauvignon Blanc tastes even better as the steam and smells drift up out of the simmering pots! You heard right. "Pots", as in plural. While seafood, veggies and tofu boogie away in the big nabe, a private poultry pot party is happening right next door ...

"Tori dango". Sounds exotic huh? Much more exciting than "chicken ball" (which is pretty much what it is). More of a dumpling as the meat is finely minced and mixed with egg, ginger, starch and onion. If it looks or sounds familiar, it probably is. Dumplings can be found on pretty much every part of the planet. Find yourself in France with a serving of "quenelles" and you'll see something similar, albeit differently seasoned and sauced.

"Ponzu" is the primary seasoning/sauce that accompanies our hot pot. The solid ingredients in the nabe are dipped into ponzu and slurped up. Ponzu is made with a nikiri soy sauce. Nikiri soy sauce is prepared with sake and mirin (sweet cooking wine). They are cooked together and reduced to remove the alcohol and concentrate the flavours. The juice from "yuza", a Japanese citrus fruit is added after the nikiri has been cooled and aged for at least a week. Ponzu is served alongside yosenabe and other hotpots.

Itadakimasu="Lets eat!" The yosenabe is ready and we are waiting. Diners pick their favourite morsels from the communal pot. Everyone has their own small bowl of ponzu sauce and nabe bits are dipped into the ponzu before being slurped up by hungry diners. This is key to seasoning the solid nabe ingredients. The individual components of the hot pot have been prepared simply and briefly cooked. A quick bath in the ponzu is a perfect compliment. Like spicy? Shake some shichimi (Japanese seven spice chili powder) into your private ponzu bowl.Leftovers are commonplace. The broth is mixed with yesterdays leftover rice, an egg, and some green onion. An umeboshi (salty, pickled plum) on top adds some sweet and salty to the final stage of our nabemono....

All traces of our Christmas nabemono have vanished...the pots are cleaned and ready for...NEW YEARS NABE!

Happy Holidays everyone! Whatever you eat and whomever you share it with...May you all enjoy!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


No, we're not encouraging you to pack your favourite bottle to Sanbiki, but rather to "Build a Bento". It's a new menu we started a few months back and it's a favourite with dinner guests. Lots of choice starting at $11...

Picture an empty bento box. Now consider what you want to eat. Fill your bento with pretty much whatever you want. Like raw? Load it up with wild salmon sashimi and spicy BC Albacore tuna rolls. Craving cooked? California, and dynamite rolls are probably still the most popular. But Sanbiki's smoked salmon roll is made with Riverfresh's BC wild salmon. Local, sustainable and it tastes good too! Cool weather means more hot food. Teriyaki chicken or salmon, stirfried noodles or gyoza are good choices.

Vegetarians, and those with restricted diets (wheat free etc) have no trouble finding lots to suit their needs. We have a gluten free teriyaki sauce, wheat free Tamari soy sauce and low sodium options as well. Save room for dessert. Its just $3 more for homemade creme caramel, green tea ice cream or mochi ice. That's a soft sweet Japanese rice cake filled with ice cream.

We have a special bento menu now available for holiday parties and large groups as well. Call or come down and talk to us for more details. Perhaps the biggest news of all is that our NEW dinner menu has been sent to the printers! With the help of new Chefs Hiro and Yama we've added some great new dishes. "Yudofu" is a Japanese hot pot traditionally served in winter in a metal pot with a fire to keep it warm. Tofu and veggies are simmered in a light stock. Diners pick their favourite morsels from the pot and dip them into ponzu sauce before eating. Ponzu is an aromatic citrus soy sauce made with yuzu (a Japanese lemon/lime)

We've added more spicy favourites like Ma Po Tofu. Its a Chinese dish to which our Japanese Chefs have given their own tasty twist. Spicy pork, silky tofu and a homemade sauce warm your belly (and your tongue!). A new spicy super-sized roll can be ordered as fiery (or as mild) as you like.

We'll have more details about our new menu in our email and facebook page (Sanbiki Japanese Kitchen) Follow us on twitter too! sanbikikamloops. We are going to try and arrange for one more Red Cross fundraiser in December...our last one sold out and we have raised well over $1000 for the Red Cross. Thank to all our Kamloops customers! We couldn't do it without you!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Red Cross Fundraising

MONDAY OCTOBER 24 5:30....East Africa Fundraiser! $20...FREE BEER IF you get the "password" by watching the youtube video..Sanbiki skydives for Red Cross!

Red Cross fundraising is not going well. Red Cross crispies and cookies sit on Sanbiki and Mori Mori's counters going stale. Our goal was to donate $1000 to the Red Cross. We found ourselves seriously stalled at just $700.

While the situation in Japan is better than it was a few months back, the opposite is true in the Horn Of Africa. Somalia and Ethiopia are among the worst hit areas. Everyone's attention seems focused on that part of the world. Perhaps our fundraising efforts needed to shift as well?

So we decided that all money raised until September 1st would go towards the Red Cross work in Japan and all new money would be earmarked for East Africa. Another fundraising dinner has been scheduled for Monday October 24th at 5:30. The 2-tier Bento Boxes we used at our last fundraising dinner were a hit, so we thought we'd bring them back.

We had recently discovered youtube and we've set up Sanbiki accounts on facebook and twitter. We have been dragged kicking and screaming into high tech socially networked 2011! I rediscovered the manual from a digital camera we purchased almost 2 years ago and actually took the time to read it. Turns out that teeny tiny little camera thing can make movies! Who would have thought?

Sanbiki is not above staging a blatant publicity stunt if it helps us achieve our goals. Hell, there's not much we won't do! We decided to take it one step further. We would do anything to raise $1000 for the Red Cross. Even throw someone out of an airplane....

With lots of help from everyone at Kamloops Skydivers, Barry from Camera House and Adam from Sugar Coded Designs, a silly video was produced. In the video you'll get clues to the "password" which will get you a free beer or dessert at the dinner. You can watch it on youtube at kamloops333.

Look for a future blog about the amazing rush that skydiving is! Or if you're feeling brave this weekend , call Dean at Kamloops Skydivers 250 376 1213. He'll arrange for a day you'll never forget! Or visit kamloopsskydive.com More later...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Street Meat!

They've got mini menus, no fixed address and are compact quick-serve kitchens on wheels. More than 15 new food trucks rolled out on to Vancouver streets after getting the green light from City Council on January 20th.

They are part of a plan to encourage healthier, more diverse offerings from mobile food operators in one of Canada's biggest cities. Food carts have traditionally sold hot dogs, snacks or prepackaged food. Not anymore...

Japadog was one of the first food carts to give an ethnic spin on an old favorite. Hot dogs with teriyaki sauce? On a bed of grated daikon (white radish) and topped with strands of toasted seaweed? Yup. And Vancouverites have been lining up at the corner of Burrard and Smithe for these and other delightfully different dogs.

There are now several Japadog carts now and even a sit down restaurant. They have been featured on Food Network and the CBC. Anthony Bourdain and Steven Seagal have sampled their unique brand of "street meat".

Foodies are flocking to street corners and parking lots to take advantage of the expanding food truck phenomena. As the name suggests, Roaming Dragon serves up fast fresh food with an Asian flair. Look for Korean inspired dishes like short rib or beef bulgogi tacos. Banh mi (a Vietnamese style submarine sandwich) is stuffed with meat, pickled veggies and fresh herbs. I haven't tried it myself but the lychee and basil lemonade is rumoured to be refreshing and unique.

Bada Bing (below) can be seen cruising Robson street dishing up Philly Cheesesteaks and (un!?)healthy portions of cheesy poutine.

A few high-end restaurants also run food carts. This is a clever marketing trick, particularly with fine dining restaurants in BC facing very challenging times. Customers can sample a pricy restaurant's food without spending an arm and a leg and an evening out. If they like what they've tried off the cart, chances are they'll consider the restaurant that operates it for their next special night out.

La Brasserie (the restaurant) is located on Davie St in the West End. La Brasserie (The food cart) offers just one signature item, a beer-brined chicken sandwich on homemade buttermilk buns with fried onions. When it's gone, it's gone and the operators let their customers know when they've sold out on twitter. Twitter is a powerful and popular tool for food trucks/carts. Instantly they can inform their customers as to where they are and will be, and what's available and what's not.

Harry Kambolosis owns some of Vancouver's best known restaurants, including "C ", Raincity Grill and the relatively recent Greek spot "NU". "Souvlaki by NU" is a new street cart also operated by Kambolosis offering easy to eat souvlaki (on a stick) or wrapped in a pita with your choice of condiments.

Does the guy working the cart look familiar? Yup, that's Executive Chef Robert Clark of "C" grilling, wrapping and rolling. He's been featured on the Food network and CBC and was a founding member of the vancouver Aquarium's Oceanwise Program. Oceanwise encourages guests, restaurants and suppliers to support sustainable fisheries.

Sustainable, local seafood is always on the menu at "Feastro" Fresh fish tacos, Seared BC Tuna Carpaccio and crab cakes are sold (quite literally) off the back of a truck. They're usually parked in the neighbourood of Cordova and Thurlow, near the Convention Centre.

Kamloops is probably a ways from having a regular street food scene anything like Vancouvers! But fresh and tasty snacks can be found at The Kamloops Farmers Market Wednesday and Saturdays downtown. Vendors can also be found Friday afternoon on the North Shore and Sundays at Sun Peaks. That's all for now...eat and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Times are tough for many Vancouver restaurants. But outside Kintaro Ramen at Denman and Robson, be prepared to line up for your noodles in soup!

10 years ago I felt sophisticated being able to tell my spagetti from my linguine and a Marinara sauce from a Putanesca. Times change. I can file all of that precious knowledge next to my Rolling Stones records in the box with my Sony Walkman. It's being guarded by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I'll always adore Italian, but it don't look much like them there ramen....

Nowadays if I want to appear at all noodly-worldly, I have to know my ramen from my udon and my soba from my somen. Ramen are a Japanese take on Chinese style noodles served in a rich, fatty broth (often pork based) and garnished with sliced meats, boiled eggs, fish cake etc. Popular ramen shops in Japan attract big crowds as elsewhere. Another ramen restaurant (this one in Tokyo)...another line up...

Vietnamese "Pho" is another super-hot noodle dish out there. I have learned to pronounce it like "feu" and not like "dough" to avoid being laughed out of my favourite Richmond Food Courts. )

Yaohan Mall on #3 Road has many stalls offering Vietnamese pho, as well as Chinese, Korean and Japanese noodles dishes. With tea and a side dish you can easily eat fresh, fast noodle food for less than $10(photo c/o chowtimes.com

Masato tried a spicy chicken and coconut version of pho at "Pho Tan" restaurant on Main Street in Vancouver (see below). Rumour has it that the Vietnamese borrowed cooking techniques from the French (think "pot-au-feu") during Colonial times. The preparation methods and pronounciation for "pho" stuck. Rice noodles are served in soup usually made from bones, charred onion and spices, and topped with thinly sliced meats.

As with other Vietnamese dishes, a plate of fresh lime, chili, cilantro and other herbs are available for the diners to add as they like. We also tried "banh xeo", a rice flour crepe coloured with tumeric. Ours was stuffed with veggies and seafood. It was bright yellow in colour, but lightly seasoned. Our server told us to put pieces of the crepe into the lettuce leaves provided and garnish it how we liked. I added a few sprigs of Thai basil, cilantro, a chili pepper and then gave it a quick dunk in a sweet&spicy dipping broth. Yum!

A "dry noodle" dish pictured below skipped the soup, but had some spice and lots of tender seafood...

Contrary to popular belief, rice noodles are not commonly used in Japan. Flour noodles are much more popular. Udon are a thick white noodle, and somen are thin white noodles (usually served chilled). Udon in soup with tempura is cold weather comfort food and a customer favourite at Sanbiki. "Shichimi" is a Japanese chili powder served on the side. It's acually a mix of seven (7="shichi") different spices.

Warm weather brings refreshing chilled noodle dishes. Soba (buckwheat) noodles are served with small cups of dipping sauce. The noodles are dunked in the sauce and slurpped up. Green onion, wasabi and ginger are available on the side to kick up the flavour.

Udon can also be enjoyed cold. At Sanbiki, our kitchen team has a new recipe served with a miso-mayo sauce. We garnish it with cucumber, shredded crab stick and tamago ( a sweetened omelette). At only $7, it's gaining popularity with our lunch guests. ..it even looks summery!

The presentation and flavours of noodle dishes differ between East and West. So too, does "noodle etiquette". On our too rare trips back to Japan, I've learned silent noodle sipping is too be avoided. Stop talking; moan softly, and slurp up the slippery threads in the molten broth. Try not to choke on anything solid that is too big (or tasty) to swallow whole. Ignore the searing pain as your tastebuds are vapourized, they'll grow back. If you're female, blink back the tears, and hope that "waterproof"mascara you're wearing really is.

"The Slurp" is said to improve their taste, and also signals the Chef that the noodles are properly seasoned and you are enjoying your meal. It also cools hot noodles. Being served very hot is believed to bring out their full flavour. My Grandma still would have slapped me silly had I dared make so much noise dining at her table!

Got a noodle dish you'd like to see at Sanbiki? Let us know. Now we are rethinking our menu and planning to expand our Grab and Go take out offerings next door at Mori Mori. Look for even more reasonably priced sushi packs, rice bowls, gyoza, spring rolls and much more! Hope to see you soon!

Monday, May 9, 2011

HM: The Fish Head is Good

Her eyes gaze heavenward. The fish lips hang slightly open. Is she trying to tell us a secret? To be honest, the Fish Head looks a little worried. Being a fish that's understandable. Given the state of the world's fisheries, and humanity's continuing love affair with seafood; if I had gills, I'd be worried too. One thing that's no secret is that the source of our seafood is in serious trouble.

Southern Blue Fin Tuna are now listed as "critically endangered" by the IUCN

According to recent studies by International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 90% of the oceans predators have been wiped out. That's all those big, long lived species like sharks, Blue Fin tuna and swordfish . A longer life span often means a species has a slower reproductive rate. So it takes longer for these populations to recover their numbers. In the meantime, prey species' populations can explode with no hunters left to weed out the sick and the weak. The balance in our oceans took millions of years to perfect and we seem to have knocked it out of wack.

Is the situation hopeless? Hardly. Consumers are responding positively to programs that help them make informed, sustainable seafood choices. MSC (The Marine Stewardship Council) is probably the world's leading certification and ecolabelling program. Superstore (and all of the Loblaws companies) along with Walmart have joined with MSC to phase out all unsustainably sourced seafood products. Walmart thinks they can do it by 2015. Loblaws says 2013. Overly optomistic? It depends on us. As consumers we create the demand. Say no to unsustainable seafood and the incentive for companies to supply it will dry up.

Sanbiki is proud to have been the first Japanese restaurant in Canada to partner with the Vancouver Aquarium's Oceawise program back in 2007. Nowadays hundreds of restaurants across Canada have jumped on board. A recent visit to YVR demonstrated just how much momentum the sustainable seafood movement has picked up. Chains like Panago Pizza and Cactus Club are displaying the Fish Head symbol next to seafood items on their menu that are deemed good choices for the environment. Even old school seafood joints are getting onboard.

Joe Fortes has been a Vancouver landmark since 1977. All polished wood, walls of fine wine and super-polite servers in super-starched shirts. As a kid I remember it was reserved exclusively for very special dress-up occasions. A recent visit proved that old dogs can learn new tricks. The Fish Head featured prominently on Joe's menu. Check out the gorgeous seafood platter below. It's (almost) all locally sourced and sustainable. Seafood tastes so much better when you know it'll be around for the next generation to enjoy!

Chefs are challenging their guests minds as well as their palates. C Restaurant's Robert Clark was a founding member of Oceanwise and is recognized as one of Canada's top chefs. He has been experimenting with "non-traditional" ingredients like jellyfish, sardines, and sea urchin roe made into mousse. Definitely more interesting than your average farmed Tiger Prawn cocktail! Shrimps are still delicious and they can be sustainably sourced. Chef Clark shows off some beautiful B.C. Spot Prawns. They are coming into season now and are great raw or cooked!

You will always find lots of good stuff on Sanbiki's menus, both from an environmental and taste perspective! BC Albacore Tuna, wild Sockeye Salmon and crispy panko-breaded oysters are always available. We never buy Blue Fin Tuna, but usually can get Big Eye Tuna. It's similar in taste and texture but is hook and line caught in the Pacific where the fish are plentiful. Next door at Mori Mori Asian Grocery we sell the same sushi quality, sustainably sourced BC Tuna and Sockeye Salmon. We also carry local smoked and fresh frozen trout, octopus and lots of other specialty items!

More blogging to come.... "Street Meat" (food trucks) and noodle restaurants are two more trends that are gaining ground down in Vancouver and elsewhere. More on that next time!

Sanbiki looks forward to seeing you soon!

Monday, April 11, 2011


We hemmed, we hawed, we finally got off our collective Sanbiki butt and started fundraising for Japan! I read somewhere that the human mind can sort of shut down when faced with overwhelming numbers or information. The scale of destruction in Japan is perhaps a situation like this. How can one imagine entire towns being washed away? More than 10,000 dead, many more still missing? The cost of rebuilding more than 25 trillion yen (more than 300 billion dollars) Where to begin...

With bento boxes and very strange, very sweet sushi made from rice crispies and candy...At least that's where Sanbiki decided to start! $2 a piece will get you the strangest sushi ever with $1 going directly to the Red Cross. Our first ever fundraising dinner was organized for Tuesday April 5 at 5:30. Our super-cool, super-creative kitchen team came up with special dinner bentos for only $15.

$5 would be donated to the Red Cross from the sale of each meal. Guests could choose from sushi, chicken or veggie bentos. We didn't know what to expect. But Kamloops blew us away. We had calls from customers offering to forward info to their friends so they could sell "blocks" of tickets. The students and staff from TRU were some of the first to buy tickets. The 5:30 seating sold out. We scheduled a 7:00 seating to accomodate additional guests. Lots of regulars came down....It was Sayaka and her friends second visit in one week!

It was a very busy Tuesday night! And we greatly appreciated everyone's patience as we struggled to incorpoate the newest member of the Sanbiki team...

A brand new high-tech POS System. It means"Point Of Sale"...don't pronounce it "posse"; your installation tech will laugh at you...trust me, I know.... The night was crazy but a success. We have a saying at Sanbiki after nights like this..."Nobody cried, nobody died, and nobody quit" Enough said!! We are looking to the Forest God to smile on our next fundraising adventure...

If you haven't seen Miyazaki's classic Japan-amation "My Neighbour Totoro", you must! It's a wonderful escape from so much recent bad news, and the inspiration for our latest fundraising cookie creation.....

He needs work, I know. but hopefully he will contribute to our Japan/Red Cross fund raising efforts! Stop by Sanbiki and Mori Mori to find out what else is going on. We'll keep doing emails to let everyone know when our next fundraising events will be held. Thanks so much to everyone who has helped support the relief efforts in Japan...we've raised almost $300 and we've only just started!

Another initiative has been started by Chase-based Daizen Joinery. Yup, the same Daizen responsible for creating Sanbiki's beautiful new space! Dai has mobilized local designers and suppliers and will be constructing a series of stunning wooden gates to be sold.

100% of the purchase price from the first 30 gates will be donated to the Red Cross. Check out the website japantsunamirelief.ca for more info . Enjoy the warmer weather and we look forward to seeing you soon!