So, this is the last weekend for the current US and UK coupon books. I posted on Friday about the upcoming Costco UK coupon book that starts on Monday, but I don’t yet have a copy of the next Costco US coupon book to post about (don’t forget there’s a $25.00 Costco card for the first person to send me a decent PDF of the whole book). This is the last weekend for the big Lunar New Year festivities here in Sydney, so I thought I should write about some Asian foods that we picked up at Costco. I’m impressed with the extent of activities and celebration here in Sydney for Lunar New Year; there was never this much fanfare in London. It’s quite fun!
Chan’s Yum Cha at Home Prawn Hargow – So, Yum Cha or Dim Sum seems to be the perfect way to celebrate the Lunar New Year, right? There are lots and lots of restaurants around our flat that offer all kind of Yum Cha options since we live very near to Chinatown, but sometimes you just want to be lazy and watch a movie while enjoying some tasty dumpling goodness. And these are perfect for that! There are 40 plump little handmade (according to the package) prawn dumplings in the box at Costco and luckily they are nicely, and separately packaged into two trays of 20 dumplings each. But even better for those of us that are partaking in lazy Yum Cha, they are easy to make. We don’t have anything fancy like a steamer here, so we had to use the alternative cooking method suggested on the package of just placing the dumplings into boiling water for 8 minutes, though normally you would steam them for 15 minutes. I was a bit worried that the boiling instead of steaming would leave the dumplings either soggy or sticky and gummy. But they didn’t seem to have any of those problems and were just really nicely done. The prawns inside the dumpling pastry are flavourful and tender, not the slightest bit of rubberiness, with a nice flavour. They were really delicious served with a bit of soy sauce and some cucumber! Surely they are not up to the standards of a decent Yum Cha restaurant, but they are better than dumplings that I’ve had at some places (clearly, not places falling into the ‘decent’ category). These would be perfect if you were having a party because they are so easy to prepare and involve almost no effort. Unfortunately, these are the only dumplings that Costco carries from Chan’s, but they do have the Prawn Toast as well. It would be great if Costco also stocked the Steam Selection or Shiitake Dumplings as well, because they all sound fabulous. The prawn toast has a coupon for $3.00 off through March 3, so you know I will have to try it the next time we go to Costco. 1 kilogram package, 40 dumplings, for A$13.79 (UK: £9.31, US: $14.20). Item #: 14763.
Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce – Usually we only have Yamasa’s Japanese style soy sauce in our house because it works best with the sushi that we eat a lot and also works with stir fry. However, at Costco the Lee Kum Kee was pretty much the only option. They might have had Kikkoman, but we really aren’t fans of that at all and avoid it. However, the Lee Kum Kee went perfectly with our prawn dumplings! I have to say that this is a really nice soy sauce. I was a little skeptical at first, but it has a nice flavour and strangely doesn’t seem just overwhelmingly salty like some soy sauces we’ve had (yeah, Kikkoman, I’m talking about you). It has a much more flavourful taste, so you don’t just get salt salt salt but other flavour notes as well like the actual soy that it is named for. I just never really thought much about all of the variation in soy sauces. I think I’m safe in assuming that this is a light soy sauce, because they also make a Premium Dark Soy Sauce, which is much more viscous. I’m certainly no soy sauce expert, but I do know what tastes good to me and what doesn’t, and I find this very nicely flavoured. Another thing I wasn’t aware of is that there is wheat flour in soy sauce. You learn something new everyday. In any case, I think this has a good flavour that works well with foods and doesn’t just over power them. This has also worked well when we’ve done stir fry too. I’ve not tried marinating my meat in it, but since it isn’t just all salty tasting, I might have to give it a go. However, this does have MSG in it, so if you’ve got a problem with MSG, you definitely want to avoid this particular soy sauce. Even though it has nothing to do with how it tastes, I have to say the bottle is really nice because it has a very comfortable handle and easy open and close cap on top that doesn’t dribble when you pour the soy sauce out. The handle is a key since this is a pretty good sized bottle for a lot of liquid, so this just makes it much easier to handle and pour. 1.75 litres for A$4.79 (UK: £3.24, US: $4.93). Item #: 10668.
King of Kings BBQ Pork Buns – I normally like the pork buns and was really looking forward to these. Unfortunately, they didn’t live up to my taste buds’ standards. They had this weird, possibly artificial, over porkiness to them. I know that is just about the worst description ever, but really, just a funny not-quite-right pork taste that really put me off. The bun part is okay but the filling is not that great. Somehow I’m doubting that it is the Australian pigs that are responsible for the flavour. I’m guessing that it is more down to the “secret BBQ sauce” that they use. There’s nothing I can immediately pick out in the ingredients list as the culprit, but when it all goes together I’m not thrilled. And I’m really sad about it because I wanted to love these because they do make a nice quick lunch or snack item. These certainly don’t seem up to the standards of the Prawn Hargow and I think Costco could find a better vendor. Funny enough though, they do come from the same distributor as the dumplings, but clearly aren’t made by the same people. They have two suggested cooking methods: microwave or steamer. As you already know, I am steamerless, so microwave it was. They only take a few minutes to heat up from frozen via the microwave method, so it is super quick and low hassle. If only they had tasted better when they came out. They are a decent size, not really big, but just a couple of inches in diameter. And I have to say, even though I’m not a huge fan of the taste, they don’t seem to be skimpy with the BBQ pork filling either, which is meaty and not just a bunch of sauce with a touch of meat. So, they aren’t totally bad, unless like me, you just aren’t a fan of the taste. But do watch out for the little paper on the bottom of the bun, it blends in perfectly with the bun so it is hard to see, but trust me it is there and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to eat that. They are packaged in two individually sealed packages of six buns each, so you don’t have to have them all getting freezer burned because you wanted to have a few for lunch or whatever. I like it when manufacturers have the sense to break up the big, bulk sized packages into reasonable amounts so that it isn’t all going stale or whatever before you get a chance to eat it; cuts down on food waste. But, yeah, I don’t think I’ll be getting these again. 1.14 kg, 12 buns, for A$11.89 (UK: £8.03, US: $12.25). Item #: 21460.
Alfa One Rice Bran Oil – We stir fry quite a bit, as well as sauté a fair bit, so we like a decent oil that can handle those kinds of tasks. Now, normally, I would have picked up a thing of extra virgin olive oil from Costco, but they didn’t have any decent options, and absolutely none of the Kirkland Signature olive oil! I was shocked. And saddened. But luckily, they did have our favourite stir fry, high smoke point, oil instead. We first tried this in the UK (not from Costco) when we wanted something that was able to handle stir frying but didn’t have a huge intrusive taste like peanut oils can have sometimes. So, after doing a bit of research we came across the rice bran oil from Alfa One and it is really nice. It has a very high smoke point of 250 C/482 F so it is ideal for a wide variety of cooking needs like grilling, stir frying, and even deep frying. Plus, it has a very light taste and smell. Honestly, there is just the smallest hint of flavour to it and that is when I’m sampling it straight from the bottle. They say it is the most versatile oil in the kitchen, and I think they’re right. You could definitely use this in place of any other oil for anything from salad dressing to baking to deep frying and you’d have great results. I usually use olive oil when I make the outstanding Ghirardelli brownies, but next time I’m going to try this instead. The lack of a potent flavour or aroma is what makes it so easy to use for anything, and it’s incredibly high smoke point. The other good thing is that it is pretty healthy for you too since it contains vitamin E as well as plant sterols (oryzanol) and is cholesterol free. And not only does it not have cholesterol but it can help lower yours by reducing total plasma cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing the proportion of HDL cholesterol (Wikipedia). Now that I know that, I will definitely be making all of my salad dressing with this in the future. It seems like rice bran oil is the perfect oil for cooking. The other good thing is that it has a nice long shelf life, which is even more handy since at Costco you have to get 3, 1 litre bottles of it. But the best by date on ours is August 23, 2014. So, this really is a great alternative to olive oil, or other cooking oils that can go off. And yes, we use a lot of oil probably, but not this much so we’l probably be giving 2 litres of this away when we leave. Also, I just did a price comparison with Woolworth’s for this same oil and there, 1 litre of it costs $8.27, which means these three litres would cost you $24.81 or $9.32 more than buying it at Costco. You’re getting a whole bottle (and some) free by buying this at Costco. Coles has a price of $8.24 on the 1 litre bottle, so it’s pretty much the same as Woolworth’s. And in either case, you are saving big time by shopping at Costco instead. 3, 1 litre bottles for A$15.49 (UK: £10.47, US: $15.95). Item #: 12758.