There’s no arguing that filling the home with the scents of slow cooking adds to the overall eating experience once you do tuck in. Along with deepening flavours, slow cooking can also help stretch ingredients further, and free up time better spent with loved ones, or doing something just for yourself – just remember to set a timer to check on things when needed!
This month we turn up the heat and pump the brakes to explore flavourful stews, braised meats, and comforting soups with recipes shared by four Alberta chefs. These all come together with ease, delight the senses, and free you up to take care of those things we tend to put on the back burner.
Chef Tu Le of Edmonton’s Jack’s Burger Shack (and its pop-up Charcoal Dragon) calls his style of cooking “a mash-up of Vietnamese cooking with Canadian ingredients and influence.” He owes this to being an immigrant, he adds, and credits his mother for much that he’s learned.
While the menu at Jack’s leans into Western influences – the ‘All Shook Up’ burger is a subtle nod to Elvis, complete with peanut butter – Chef Tu hasn’t forgotten where he comes from.
When we asked for a slow-cooked recipe he was quick to reply with a recipe for Sot Vang, a Vietnamese-style beef stew. “My mom would make traditional Hanoi pho every weekend but once in a while my dad would spend the day and make Sot Vang,” he explains.
A relatively simple dish, it’s all about good seasoning and slow cooking. “Season the meat and brown it well - this adds a deep flavour to the stew. And really, you can’t overcook this dish, it’s like an Italian Sunday gravy in that you can start it in the morning and leave it on until dinner.”
East meets west with creative twists at Calgary’s Clay Pot Asian Kitchen, and Chef Paul Yung says he has his wife, Polly, to thank. “She challenges me every day to make creative and flavourful dishes with her advice and suggestions, and she’s the main motivation behind my obsession with culinary arts.”
Sake-cured salmon and tuna atop shrimp crackers make for a refreshing change to western-style nachos, and Chef Paul takes it even further by tapping into Alberta, and specifically, their love of good beef and pork: think smoked beef brisket on a bao bun, and grilled and braised pork spareribs.
“Albertans love BBQ pork. The recipe I’m sharing adds Asian flavour to a traditional favourite Western dish. The St. Louis style cut spareribs guarantees the meat to be tender and juicy.”
Another straightforward dish, Chef Paul emphasizes the importance of cooking times at different stages. “Adding the different ingredients at the appropriate time helps to bring out the best flavours.”
At Edmonton’s NongBu, owner John Ahn’s goal is to share his knowledge of both the old and new of Korean cuisine. “My mother is a time capsule of old traditions and flavours from a different era of Korea. She produced amazing meals without the aid of flavour enhancers or packaged sauces,” he says. “We want to give our customers a real home-cooked experience with every visit.”
Familiar menu items like Pork Bugolgi and ‘any dish with Kimchi in it’ are Ahn’s faves, but when it comes to slowing things down to produce a comforting dish, Soon Dubu Jjigae (Seafood Soon Tofu Stew) is where it’s at.
“This is a comforting stew perfect for chilly days,” explains Ahn. “Take your time to bring out the natural flavours of your ingredients. The result is a cleaner and more comforting taste.” Adding more elements to the broth like shrimp shells, extra squid, and the ends of green onions makes for more depth of flavour, especially if you cook it longer to further reduce it.
Chef Mayur Kunte calls himself a lifelong foodie. Growing up, occasions both big and small were marked by feasts, and while his mother was a strict vegetarian, Chef Mayur says she made the best lamb, chicken, and fish dishes. “It amazes me to date as she never tasted a single thing, but dishes had perfect taste every time she cooked.”
Inspired by the street food culture in Mumbai, Chef Mayur established Mumbai Bites in Calgary. The menu boasts a wide selection of kebabs, curries, and small plates, and among them Chef Mayur says his favourite is the Ragada Pattice. “I love it for the simplicity and textures this dish offers.”
And he says that simplicity is a major component of comfort food. “The easier the recipe is to execute, more fun it is to make it, and excitement will flow throughout the cooking process. When you keep a recipe simple, it will be consistent every time you make it.”
Chicken Manchurian is easy to prepare at home, says Chef Mayur. “It’s simply delicious, and for me, it brings back memories from my college days when I was a young, aspiring chef.”