Eggroll Challenge

Last night we held an eggroll challenge to see who makes the best eggrolls in Ottawa. The idea came from a conversation with several people on twitter. Three names kept coming up in the conversation: Golden Palace, Dragon Fortune Delight, and Ruby Inn. We decided the best way to settle the argument was to hold a blind taste testing of the contenders. Dave Hicks and Shawna Tregunna were kind enough to host our challenge.

In Ottawa, the general opinion is Golden Palace has the best eggrolls in the city. In my case, I grew up on Ruby Inn eggrolls, and more recently, Dragon Fortune Delight. All three have one thing in common, they are all open ended eggrolls. We decided to add Wong's Palace for the contest since they are also open ended, and we'd heard good things about them.

One of the big surprises for me was how much attention the challenge attracted. I knew it would get some attention amongst my friends online, but it went much further than that. CBC's afternoon radio program, All In a Day, got in touch, and had me on their "D is For Dinner" segment last week (you can find the audio of the segment over on their site). I was on with Dave Niel from athe Piggy Market to talk about the challenge, and eggrolls in general. Dave brought some of his eggrolls along to try out. They were spicier than most eggrolls, and more like a spring roll with extra greens in the filling. Not to my liking, but I know some people are devotees. Anyway, the radio attention attracted a few extra people to the event, and got people in the city talking.

The event itself was a great success. Everyone took the judging seriously. There were four criteria to judge on: overall, filling, shell, and sauce. The sauce was the big surprise at first. I don't think any of us realized just how different they were from each other until they were all laid out side by side. This was a blind test. The samples were all laid out by someone not participating in the test. After a few instructions everyone dug into the food. It didn't take very long before all score cards were completed, and they could be tallied.

The big upset of the evening was for Golden Palace. There is a lot of press about how they are the best eggrolls in the city (The Citizen recently did a story on them claiming people order them for their last meal in the hospital). But during our blind test they were overwhelmingly the least favoured of the four. Their sauce was disliked by nearly everyone as well. The general consensus was their eggrolls and sauce were very bland, and the filling had a strong pork taste. The Golden Palace eggrolls are the only ones I would turn down if offered in the future.

The other three were very close in the final tally. All had excellent sauce and eggrolls. Personally I would be happy to eat at any of the three. So here are the final results: 1. Dragon Fortune Delight: 14.33 2. Ruby Inn: 14.31 3. Wong's Palace: 14.22 4. Golden Palace: 11.83

Thanks to everyone who was involved. This may be something we do again in the future. It certainly was a lot of fun.


All of the contenders laid out.


Some of our judges hard at work.

How to make perfect popcorn

Popcorn may just be the perfect snack. In fact it probably deserves to be a food group on its own. No matter what your preference, salty or sweet, there is some way to prepare popcorn which will satisfy anyone.

I've been a popcorn fan as long as I can remember. It was a great snack after school while watching Doctor Who, and mandatory while watching a movie. I've had popcorn of all kinds, and they are not created equal. Here are my recommendations on how to make the perfect batch of popcorn.

First off, let's talk about the corn. There are two primary types of popping corn, yellow and white. Yellow is what you'll find in movies theatres and commercial popcorn products. It's cheap, and pops to a large volume. White corn is more difficult to find, and doesn't pop to the same volume as yellow. However, white corn is sweeter, more tender, and produces fewer of the husks which get caught in your teeth. If you're making this for yourself at home, don't bother with the yellow. Here in Ontario it is easy to find white popcorn at the Bulk Barn. I've tried some of the "premium" brands, and the bulk white is just as good.

Next comes your popping method. I don't think it's possible to make good popcorn without oil. Air popping just isn't an option for good popcorn. The best popper I've found on the market is the Whirley-Pop. It allows you to make up to 1/2 cup of white popcorn easily on a stove. I've used a few other stove top poppers, but I think this one has the best features, and is a reasonable price (as a bonus, it works well over a camp stove, so you can bring it along when you go camping).

Now for your popping technique. Use whatever oil you prefer. I know some people like coconut oil, I prefer canola. You need an appropriate amount of oil for the amount of popcorn you're making, but not too much. Put your Whirley-Pop on the stove at medium heat. Do not use high heat! If you use high heat you will get tough popcorn, and damage your popper. The heat should be just high enough to get the oil to popping temperature.

You are going to pre-heat the oil. Put a few kernels in the oil while its heating. Once they have all popped, wait another 30 seconds before adding the rest of the popcorn. If you like salt on your popcorn, add it to the oil while its heating. You should use a fine ground salt. I add 1/8 teaspoon for 1/3 cup of popcorn. Adding the salt to the oil will evenly salt the popcorn, and allow easy control over how much salt you use. The popcorn needs to be constantly stirred while heating to get tender popcorn. A gentle stirring is fine, no need to go crazy.

Once the popcorn is nearly finished popping, give the popper a few shakes to settle any unpopped kernels to the bottom. Put it back on the heat and let the rest pop. Remember to keep stirring. Once its finished, dump out into an appropriate bowl, and apply whatever butter or seasoning you prefer.

A few years ago we started making a sweet kettle corn on occasion. It's a cinnamon flavour, and is always a hit at parties. It does take more time to clean up the popper after, but it's worth it. Follow the same instructions as above, but add the following to your oil while pre-heating: 2 tablespoon sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon

It is critical you don't overheat this. The amounts are appropriate for 1/3 cup of popcorn. Once it has finished popping, empty the popcorn onto a cooking sheet and allow it to cool. It will want to stick together, so break it apart before putting it in a container.

Now, enough talk about popcorn. Go off and make some of this perfect snack.