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Category: Moroccan

The Vancouver Foodster Soup Festival

You have heard of a beer crawl, but how about a soup crawl? Well you have now, as in this post, I embarked on such a journey. A tour to try a few of the soups participating in the first ever Vancouver Foodster Soup Festival.

“Vancouver Foodster” brings food to the lower mainland by hosting various food tours and “tasting plates”. Curated food journeys that help you try new things and learn about new places. A stress free way to explore the city through your mouth. And he has created this event to offer those restaurants not participating in “Dine Out Vancouver”, a chance to increase traffic to their restaurants too.

The “Vancouver Soup Festival” is running for 3 weeks from January 10th to the 31st. And each week a different selection of soups will be featured by each of the 5 participating restaurants. Thus giving you the initial reason to visit and all subsequent reasons to return.
Some are soups that are off their regular menu and others are made for this event. And each week you are invited to try each soup fest participant and vote for your favourite for that week. With first, second, and third place winners each week being declared the “People’s favourite”.

Today we would be trying soups from only 3 of the 5 participating restaurants, and each of their 3 soups in one go. All to give you an overview of what you can expect from the Soup Fest’s inaugural run!

Our first stop was “Rhinofish” in Chinatown. They have been open for just over a year now and since their launch a lot has changed. They still offer the same menu items that they have gained notoriety for, but better with new suppliers and distributors.

Here, we started with a drink that paired well with their soups. This was their signature “Rhinofish” cocktail, a great beverage to sip, even despite its lack of spirits. Apple soda, tomato juice, and salted plum. The latter not only bobbed amongst the ice and mint, but it was made into a dust that rimmed the glass. The result a terrific salty and sweet, yet savoury drink, like I have never had before.

For the first week “Rhinofish” is offering a delicious “Wonton noodle soup”. A broth brewing for 8 to 12 hours for a clear liquid full of flavour. Served with pork dumplings, shredded seaweed, egg “skins” (scrambled egg omelette cut into strands), dehydrated tomato, and chewy noodles. For those who want more punch and a little heat, they offer housemade chilli oil to fragrance the soup. There was nothing that I did not like about this, the wontons were delightful, and the toppings added a great texture to the mix. So it is a shame this was the first soup we tried, as it was hard to live up to and/or surpass.

Week two, “Rhinofish” features their “vegetable noodle soup”. 12 different vegetables cooking for over 12 hours gives this broth its snap. And like its broth base, there is plenty of vegetables in the actual soup as well. Steamed vegetables, fried vegetables, and vegetables wrapped in tofu skin. Bok choy, king oyster mushroom, asparagus, tomato, and broccolini. I advise eating the tempura battered ones first as they get soggy quick in the warm soup. The tofu skin was the highlight, like eating a tasty low carb wrap that is a topping a bowl of noodles that is also good.

I liked the “Taiwanese beef noodles” the least, and that says a lot about the other two before. This broth is boiled for 18 hours giving it a very deep beef flavour. Here the noodles are thicker, better to sop up the soup with and better to balance out the beef with. Braised beef shank, pan fried short rib, carrot, and home made sauerkraut also make it into the bowl. I liked the tender shank meat, but had to gnaw over the short rib. I liked the char of the rib and its crispier skin, but not how it was made soggy in the soup that it sat in and soaked up. But the rest of it was tasty with the carrot and the thickness of the brew, giving the serving the richness of a stew.

Rhinofish Noodle Bar
550 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-428-3389
rhinofishnoodlebar.com

 

Our next stop was the “Moltaqa”, the Moroccan restaurant in Gastown. I have been before, and continue to adore their decor. I enjoy the bold colours and the wonderful patterns that cover seats and topped tables.

Here, all their soups for the festival are vegan friend and gluten free. And with each we enjoyed traditional Moroccan tea in traditional Moroccan serve ware. It didn’t necessarily pair with the soup. But it offered a break from it with its own refreshing palate cleansing mint and sugar.

For the first week “Moltaqa” is offering a “Chickpea and lentil soup” with tomatoes, garlic, and Moroccan spices. It was a hearty soup, much like the other two to come. There were lots of chunks to chewy through, and grainy chickpeas to fill up on, but you also get a whole wheat round of bread to dip into it with. And as is custom, the whole is severed with sweet dates on the side. They are helpful in rejuvenating the soup by allowing you to take breaks from it. This is also achieved through the side of olives for sharing.

I liked the creamy “Traditional pea soup” with green peas, cumin, garlic, and Moroccan spices. It is finished with a topping of cumin, salt, and olive oil. You stir them in to the velvety soup for an extra pop. This has a consistency you’d want to dunk your sandwich into.

And for the last week of the soup festival their “Traditional white bean soup” will be up for voting. White bean, ginger, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, and Moroccan spices. This was my favourite of the three. It has a tomatoey base like a vegetable soup and would be great on the side with some sharp grilled cheese.

Moltaqa Restaurant
51 W Hastings Street, Vancouver
604-696-4055
moltaqarestaurant.com.

 

From here we ended at our last stop: “Las Tortas”, located in the Cambie Village area. Going in we had the people in the neighbourhood tell us how great the food, and that we were in for a treat. The owner in himself is a treat. He has cooked and operated the shop for 10 years now and doesn’t look like he is slowing down.

The soup he offered for the first week is the “Pozole Verde”, a traditional Mexican soupy stew featuring hominy corn (big white meaty corn that is chewy. It reminded me of barley but nutty). All in a clear broth loaded fully with squash blossoms, radish slices, chicken chunks, and shreds of lettuce. It had a clean look and finish to it. Comforting like the bowl of soup you would ask for when you are sick: a home style chicken soup.

The “Mexican lamb consommé” is as bold as it is colourful. A strong flavour with plenty of spices and the taste of lamb through out. Slow cooked lamb broth, guajillo chilli, rice, and garbonzo beans; topped with pico de gallo. As a whole, this was another hearty soup that eats like a meal, especially with the rice at the bottom of the bowl.

“Los Tortas’” last soup you could vote for is the “Mexican red lentil”. Red lentils simmered in a vegetable based broth with a mix of tomatoes, spices, lime and cilantro. It was very herbaceous, a flavour you’d want topping some nacho chips.

Las Tortas
3353 Cambie Street, Vancouver
604-569-1402
lastortas.ca

 

Well there you have it, some warming options to enjoy this brisk winter season. So head out, find your favourite and vote. For more details check out the official link to the Vancouver Foodster Soup Festival.

Vancouver Soup Festival January 10-31

#soupfestyvr

Moltaqa Restaurant

Today I was visiting “Moltaqa”, as one of the judges for the Vancouver Foodster sangria challenge. My role, to visit each of the six participating restaurants, to try their sangria creation; then judge it based on taste, originality and presentation. I won’t be revealing my thoughts on the drink here, as the competition is only starting, but be sure to return back to my blog for the results and to see how I voted after October 7th.

I have been to the cafe that this space once was, so appreciated the transformation it has undergone. It was all encompassing and transformative with the richness of colour and pattern. A black and white hexagon printed bar and matching column back splash, crushed velvet seats and upholstery in a raspberry with florals and geometrics. Satin gold and ruby pillows, and lanterns that seemed to drip from the ceiling where they hung. There was a smattering of decorative urns and pots, and embroiled straw hats and fez caps with tassels for photo ops. There was even a full standing hookah in the corner to appreciate, but not to use.

The decor helped to speak to the authenticity of Vancouver’s only full fledged Moroccan restaurant. And thus I could see why it was so popular today. It opened at 11:30am and we made sure to reserve a table right away. And luckily so, because soon after the restaurant quickly filled.

We were seated right up front with the view of the sidewalk before us, and us a living advert for how great the food to come was. However, my guest was a little squeamish when it came time to actually eat, she felt uncomfortable dining in excess, where just across the street and within our view were shanty homes and the stares of the hungry. But I digress… because our secluded booth, gave us the privacy we needed for intimate conversation and the ability to take all the great photographs below.

We were able to taste their menu extensively, starting with a traditional caffeinated beverage. I am not typically a fan of coffee, but how can you miss out on trying a cup of authentic Turkish coffee. So here I was enjoying how deep and aromatic this black pool was. It wasn’t bitter nor was it overwhelming, simply an enjoyable sip that warmed me to my core. I especially loved the presentation with copper kettle, silver tray, and knitted potholder.

Although, as good as it was, I still prefer tea, and their traditional cup of Moroccan tea should not be missed; although I wish they had the proper glassware to pour it in to. Mint and sugar steeping with gunpowder green tea. I would come back just for another cup.

“Zaalouk” is a traditional Moroccan dip made with roasted eggplant, tomato, and red pepper. It offered chunky bites that were hearty with the freshly baked rounds of bread, still steaming when you ripped into it. We would get plenty of their Moroccan flat bread with our other dishes to come. Good thing, as all the sauces were so good that you’d want to wipe the dish clean with the bread provided.

The “Lamb sausage merguez” offered more spice in its gravy and plenty of zest in the sausage itself. But had we known that the two local made, fresh served, halal lamb sausage would also make an appearance in the shakshouka (below), we would have went for the vegetarian shakshouka instead. Although I guess we should have read the title of the dish to figure it out. No regrets though, sharing everything two ways, meant that one sausages was not enough, this way we each had two!

“Lamb merguez shakshouka and eggs”. Here the egg sets it apart and made it reminiscent of a breakfast skillet. Similar in flavour and juices that they sat in (compared to the above), but different and thicker, thanks to the over easy yolks you stir in. I preferred this version better.

The dish that is not to be missed, and certainly the centre piece to any meal is one of their tagines. “Tagine” is a dish named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked in. It is a round casserole dish covered with a cap that resembles a volcano, it includes a stout at the top that allows steam to escape. It is like pressure cooking and steaming in a very unique apparatus. It is served to you sealed shut, the lid is removed at your for table for its big reveal. Smoke climbs and dissipates, and what you get is a collection of succulent meat and tender vegetables.

We ordered the “Lamb shank tagine” wth apricots, ras el hanout, spices, and potatoes, carrots and squash. This was our favourite dish and the only one that we finished, completely. The meat fell of the bone, it was so flavourful. The squash, carrot, and potatoes made great sides adding a different texture to the mix. And the apricots jelly took it to a whole different level for me. It was sweet and stood out, but not enough to distract, in fact I felt it helped to tie all the spices together.

We then ordered the “Cinnamon chicken pastilla”. I thought it would serve as dessert, especially when I saw it topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and finished off with a mint leaf. It tasted festive with the cinnamon and sugar, but with the texture of baklava, given the dryness of the chicken paired with a light and flaky pastry crust. When I made mention of the above and that this was my first experience trying Moroccan cuisine, our server said we had to come back to try their vegetable version. That this one would be a lot tastier, and that it was his favourite dish off the menu.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall a great meal. I tried so many new flavours and I enjoyed them all, as my first full experience with Moroccan seasoning. My guest already declared that she would come back with her family. During our meal she spoke to the authenticity of everything having traveled and and dined in Morocco herself. She was a great resource when writing this post, as she describe what she had there compared to what she enjoyed here. I too would like to come back, especially on one of the nights where they have belly dancers preforming. What great fun that would be. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MOLTAQA
51 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1G4
604-696-4055
moltaqarestaurant.com

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