AB World Foods International recently introduced their Blue Dragon line of Asian cooking sauces and pastes to Western Canada. To help launch their products, they came up with a novel idea: invite a group of food writers to The Dirty Apron Cooking School for a charity cooking competition that utilized their products. Having never cooked competitively, I was game.
Leading up to the cook-off, all the competitors were to receive some Blue Dragon samples to test ahead of time. Although most of the products are formulated with a particular dish in mind — e.g. Chow Mein Cooking Sauce, Thai Green Curry Paste — there were points given for creativity. So if I could come up with a novel use, I should get full marks in that area. Unfortunately, I was out of town until just a few days before the competition, leaving me little time to experiment. In fact, I was only able to try two dishes before D-Day.
Participants also had the option to cook with a partner, but I wasn’t able to find someone beforehand. As it turned out, everyone did get a teammate. I had the pleasure of being paired with the lovely Nicole Parton, former consumer columnist for The Vancouver Sun. Nicole warned me that she had collapsed from an undiagnosed brain tumour two years ago. While she had regained most of her former strength, her right hand was still a little weak. Consequently, NIcole was happy to be my sous chef. No pressure!
Without any firm ideas on what to make when the clock started ticking, I quickly suggested something that had worked for me in the past — create a sauce for fish from coconut milk and Thai red curry paste. Nicole agreed. We then opted to keep things simple, plating the pan-fried salmon with a fried rice Nicole had a recipe for, stir-fried carrots and sugar peas. While uncomplicated, the challenge was mostly in the timing of the cooking, making sure that the fish and vegetables were not overdone and reasonably hot when served. Our presentation was enhanced with some pineapple chunks and scallions for garnish.
It was up to Nathan Fong, Barbara-Jo McIntosh, and Stephanie Yuen to decide which of the five teams produced the winning meal. In addition to bragging rights, the victors received $1,000 each to donate to a charity of their choice. The winners? The dynamic duo of Mark Busse and Ben Garfinkel from Foodists.ca who created Cod Brandades in Chilli-Coconut Cream Sauce. Nicole and I were pleasantly surprised to place second.
I enjoyed my ‘Iron Chef’ experience at The Dirty Apron. It certainly gave me a better appreciation for the true culinary samurai. However, with Blue Dragon sauces and pastes, you don’t have to be a wok warrior or cosmopolitan gourmand to cook tasty Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese dishes. They satisfy the needs of busy people looking for flavourful meals without the additives, preservatives, and high sodium found in many processed foods. Blue Dragon products are available online and at Real Canadian Superstores, Walmart, Country Grocers and Fairway Markets.