Thursday, 20 August 2015

Simple Asian Roasted Pork Shoulder Recipe

Ahhh, there's definitely nothing better than the taste of pork! Growing up in Malaysia, pork made its mark as one of the staple ingredients in our meals (for us Chinese mostly? Definitely non-halal lol). I would say that my favourite cut is pork belly *drools*

Since my relocation, my partner decided that instead of bumming around at home all day, he'd ask me to walk all the way to the grocery store (and for the much needed "exercise"). 

Walked over to the meat section, and I was just about to pick up some pork chops, but, I looked over to the other fridge and noticed pork shoulder picnic cuts for cheaper! Me, being greedy and somewhat a cheap-skate at times, want the best value for more meat. So, pork shoulder it was. 

I've prepared large slabs of pork belly in the past, but that chunk of meat is probably one of the thickest (heaviest, largest??) portion I've worked with, besides a whole chicken. 

Since I was walking home, I only bought a few other ingredients wholly unrelated to this pork dish. I realised this as soon as I got home - upon some of my research, if I wanted a tender pork dish, I have to have like either (a) twenty other ingredients which I do not have, (b) slow roast the shit out of the pork overnight, but I don't want an alarming electricity bill, or (c) pop it in a slow-cooker, again, which I do not possess. AHHHHH...

So, I thought to myself, why the heck not. Let's try slow-cooking it at a relatively low temperature and for longer. Turns out, it was a darn heck of a tender roast with awesome, awesome flavours. 

Job well done, Mesha. Job well done. *gloats*

Anyways, decided to keep a record for self-use or for anyone who happens to tumble upon this post. Keep in mind, when I mentioned "simple", its based wholly on a few staple ingredients I have in my pantry. Also, I have a convection oven.

Before I forget as well, I remember that I don't really do measurements either. Mostly a gut feeling.

Simple Asian Roasted Pork Shoulder Recipe
Cooking time: 5 hours

1 pork shoulder (picnic)
4 cloves of garlic (peeled, half-pressed, & halved)
1 Brown Onion (sliced)
1 tsp Sesame Oil
Chinese 5-spice 
Black Pepper
White Pepper (the one I am currently using is a white-pepper salt mixture. If it's plain white pepper, add salt)

For the homemade teriyaki sauce 
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin 
2 tsp white sugar 


1. Leave the pork out on a bench until room temperature (or slightly cold to touch if needed).
2. Preheat oven to 250F / 120C. ("Roast" setting)

3. With the pork, create little garlic "pockets", by making a deep slits in the pork. Depending on how big your piece is, you can try and evenly make slits. (I only made 5 slits, so the remaining garlic halves was stuffed into the slits which I had over cut). Stuff garlic halves into slits.

4. The first layer of dry rub is the 5-spice. Evenly, but thinly coat the meat with this spice. It is a very strong spice, so depending on your preference, use more or less. (I coated mine with more!)

5. The second layer of rub is the white pepper, black pepper (*and salt). The best ratio is 2:1. More white pepper than black. *If you are using salt, evenly season it on the entire meat.

6. Drizzle top of meat with sesame oil

7. Put the well-seasoned meat onto a non-stick baking tray and transfer to the second rack of the oven for 4.5 hours.

8. After time has elapsed, take meat out, transfer to a plate and set aside. Re-set oven to 450F /232C

On the baking tray, take a teaspoon of rendered pork fat and put aside. (I put mine straight onto the frying pan).  You can either keep the rendered pork fat/oil for other recipes or discard.

9. With the onions, layer it on the tray, focusing the amounts mostly on the middle. Take the pork and put it on top of the onions. Pop it back into the oven, middle rack, for another 30 minutes.

10. With the kept rendered pork fat, (if you decided to keep it), transfer to frying pan. Heat stove to medium - medium low. Pour in wet ingredients and mix.

11. Once the sauce is hot enough, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Leave it simmering until reduced, which should take about 30 minutes as well. 

12. Remove tray from oven. Let the meat rest. Carve to desired thickness and serve with the homemade teriyaki sauce.

Boyfriend-approved. He even dared to say that it was the best meal I've conjured up in a while @#$%! 

The 5-spice, white & black pepper rub is one that I am very fond of; I've tried this with osso bucco, pork belly, etc., Also, the smell of the spices fills the room. Win-win

In summary, this was a success: the meat was oh-so very tender and moist (dare I say, almost falling apart), whilst still maintaining that thin spiced-crust which had formed, which also provided a lot of flavor. The garlic was so soft, it almost became like a natural garlic butter paste. Additionally, I loved the teriyaki sauce with it as it added sweetness and further flavour depth to this dish. 

Lastly, I find this awesome as I am technically kitchen-ware impaired as I have yet to buy myself a slow-cooker and do not have many other spices or ingredient on hand!

** No photos cause we devoured it for dinner. Leftovers in fridge **

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Air Canada Service Complaint/Rant

***Disclaimer: Rant below from previous personal experience***

It has been almost four months since my arrival in Canada! Hoorah! However, I woke up this morning somewhat stressed out and in need of a good rant. I did not realise how much this incident pissed me off when it occurred and it seems that the issue has been bottling up for the last several months. So, now I need to rant. 

I've been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel since I was just a wee kid. My mother used to work for Malaysia Airlines as a flight attendant, so I was no stranger to travelling with the said airline. Back before the last two unfortunate incidents, it was a 5-star carrier and boy, was the service amazing. 

More recently, as I had been living in Australia for almost a decade, I also had the chance to try other full-service carriers such as Qantas (QF),Virgin Australia, Garuda and of course, the low cost carriers such as Air Asia, Jetstar, and Tiger Airlines. 

Thinking back, I maybe was spoiled with the level of customer service I received on-board full-service airlines. I never really felt hungry on a plane, and if I did get peckish before/after a meal service round, I would ask for a snack from the flight attendants. In all my experience, I received a snack (mostly crackers & cheese, and peanuts), or two (some attendants were nice enough to give me a healthy re-fill). 

Until now. 

I had never been to Canada, so I was pretty excited. I was a travel consultant, and I figured that the best cost for the flight route that did not involve transit via the USA, was a Qantas and Air Canada code-share. The routing seemed fine, and I was a Qantas Frequent Flyer, so win-win right? Plus, on their website, Air Canada is a 4-star international network carrier. 

Well, since I wasn't technically paying for the airfare, another consultant had to book these fares, and they pretty much fucked up what I wanted to do:

I wanted the tickets to technically be a "Qantas" ticket, which means that we would have gotten 2 x 23kg checked luggage each (although the majority of the trip would be on Air Canada (AC), QF rules would have applied). We received the opposite, where it was "Air Canada" tickets. Too late to change that after it had been booked. We sucked it up and paid the extra luggage fee. Sigh.

My partner and I knew that a long journey awaited us: 
Brisbane (BNE) - Sydney (SYD) - Vancouver (YVR) - Montreal (YUL)

From BNE to SYD, we were on Qantas, and from previous travel, I knew that even though it was a short hour and a half flight, we were provided with a small meal. Transit in SYD, waited for another 1 1/2 hours and boarded the 14-hour long, direct flight from SYD to YVR with Air Canada. 

My previous colleagues at Flight Centre had mentioned their unsatisfactory experience with Air Canada, and thought that they meant that the aircraft was older and maybe lacking certain newer features. The aircraft itself, definitely looks older, but so were the QF planes.

After take-off, there was an announcement which informed us that there would be two meal services during the flight, which is normal. I tried my best to fall asleep and kill some time prior to the first meal service. Meal time came, I ate, and went back to self-distraction. However, a couple of hours past the first meal service, my stomach gladly notified me that it was hungry. I did what I had always done: ring the flight attendant service bell.

A few moments later, the attendant appeared and I asked if I could have some snacks. She looked at me in an odd manner (What? Is this the first time someone has asked you for a snack?! Or is it a language/accent barrier?), and responded with a "No", and reminded me that the next meal service wasn't too far away. At that point, I was hungry enough to pull out money to buy a goddamn snack, thinking that maybe AC was like Jetstar, a low-cost carrier who did international flights. So, I asked if they even sold snacks. 

Nope. Seriously, WTF?

The attendant left, and since I couldn't be arsed to be a complete bitch and ask for the flight supervisor, I decided to try and nap it out. I was uberly grumpy and frustrated, literally hangry by the time the next meal service. 

Reading this, one will assume that it is a first-world problem, and I'm not denying that it isn't.

It is not just the lack of food that posed a problem: I think that it was a combination of how the situation was handled aka customer service. I do not deem myself as an outrageously demanding and irrational customer, albeit a little spoiled. I know that it was going to be a full flight, and yes, I made the mistake of not prepping up on snacks, but I didn't really want to spend top-dollar for snacks at the airport (like, stupidly expensive prices), and assuming all full-service carriers to provide the same level of service. 


Maybe a little finesse in going the extra-teeny weeny mile could have gotten a long way. Maybe if she had apologized for whatever reason/explanation that they didn't provide snacks (snacks ran out 'cause of the full flight, Air Canada doesn't provide this, etc., etc.,), I'd have probably swallowed the bitter pill of disappointment much easier. Maybe, if she had offered a beverage instead (preferably at the time, an alcoholic beverage), I wouldn't have been this pissed. Instead, she just walked off after a couple of "No"'s.

Are you seriously telling me that on 14+ hour flights, you actually literally serve one snack & one meal service? No extra snacks on board? Not even for purchase? Even worse, their domestic/North America services does not have complimentary snacks/meals. Only available for purchase. Tell me how is this different from being a low-cost carrier? 

Urgh. Even memories about this makes me twitch.

Lastly, from this particular flight, in addition to our despair, the flight was delayed in Vancouver, which meant that we missed the connecting flight to Montreal. So, that costed us an additional 2-hours (which, honestly isn't bad), and $5AUD for a 1-minute phone call to my partner's aunt who was expecting us at Montreal airport at the original arrival time.

**UPDATE** I forgot to mention this whilst initially writing this post. Oh yeah. Remember the saving grace for the short waiting time at Vancouver airport? Yeah, yeah?
I forgot to mention that we received our boarding pass and noted that we were seated separately from each other. And, Oh! Oh! What a surprise I got when I was literally boarding the aircraft. They had managed to over-stuff the plane, so there was no sufficient room in the overhead lockers, so I had to involuntarily give up my carry-on luggage, for the staff to check-in. 

BITCH, PLEASE. Albeit the fact that I'm moving to another country, and needed extra luggage, I also store items which means more to me personally. So that it is accessible, and I know that it is not very far away. No, no.. can't carry it on. No flippin' choice. 

This is probably the longest and most anger-inducing journey to get me from A to B. 

In my personal opinion, I think Skytrax should re-evaluate the 4-star award for Air Canada. If they are to rate them at par with the likes of Qantas, Emirates, Thai and Virgin Australia; it is a disgrace to the other well-performing airlines. 

Air Canada, please, for the love of god, do what Qantas does! From my previous trip to Tasmania:
 Brisbane to Melbourne in-flight brekkie. This is a 2 1/2 hour long flight.

Melbourne to Hobart: Hot Shepherd pie with tomato sauce as a snack. You could actually do beer/wine, as QF offers it to their clients. I was being a good girl at the time.  Oh yeah, did I mention that this flight was just over an hour?

So, what are my final thoughts on Air Canada? 

Well, let's put it this way: If I ever hold a position as a travel consultant again, Air Canada would definitely be one of the airlines that I would choose to ignore as a recommendation candidate, and pretty much suggest them as a last-resort offer if they have great fares. 

Would I travel with them again? If they have stupidly cheap airfares in comparison to other airlines, and flight duration of around 6 hours, maybe. And that's a BIG maybe. Unless they up their game with the level of service. Until then, my travel money is for the other 'full-service' airlines. 
AC gets the low-cost carrier branding in my book.