All posts by Deepi Harish

Deepi Harish is a published storyteller who has written for Bon Appétit, Huffington Post, Post City Magazines, China Daily and more. She’s a Toronto-based writer that covers food, tech, travel and Toronto-themed stories. Deepi spends her spare time testing out baking recipes and claims she makes the world’s best banana bread without a fancy mixer, just an everyday fork.
Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

Meet the World’s First Autonomous Robotic Kitchen Assistant

What if we told you that we know someone — rather something — who can work a grill and fryer perfectly for 100,000 hours straight? Its name is Flippy and it’s an AI assistant chef from Miso Robotics. The cost? $30,000 USD, plus a monthly fee of $1,500 USD/month.

Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

The robot addresses the problem of fulfilling late-night shifts that no one wants in a 24-hour restaurant. Also, due to the pandemic, there’s greater concern for food safety and hygiene. This is able to solution all of that, as the robot works with minimal human contact.

Related: Ways to Continue Supporting Your Favourite Local Restaurants

The robot chef — invented in 2016 — is controlled by AI to do more than just the repetitive task of being a burger flipper. Today it can keep track of cooking times and temperatures. It can place baskets in the fryer to make chicken wings, onion rings, hash browns and much more. As upgrades are made, this robot chef will be able to take on more complex tasks. The company has raised over $20 million, which shows there’s an appetite for this kind of technology.

Flippy robot chef in fast food restaurant

The robot is currently operating in Caliburger in Fort Myers, Florida. The restaurant chain has ordered more for each of their global locations. White Castle, the oldest fast-food chain in America, wanted in on this action as well. “We’re looking at Flippy as a tool that helps us increase speed of service and frees team members up to focus more on other areas we want to concentrate on, whether that’s order accuracy or how we’re handling delivery partner drivers and getting them what they need when they come through the door.” said White Castle’s vice president, Jamie Richardson. No word yet on whether the robot chef will be coming to Canada anytime soon.

Related: What is a Ghost Kitchen? (And Why They’re Thriving During COVID)

While this technology is impressive, there may be some concern that this will impact jobs in the fast-food industry. With so many unfilled restaurant jobs across North America and turnover rates at an all-time high, the introduction of robot chefs may be seen to some as a much-needed service. Also, while the robot is working the back of house, patrons will still have front-facing human customer service.

Photos courtesy of Miso Robotics

Punjabi cha straining in glass

Classic Punjabi Cha (Not Chai) Straight From a Punjabi Mom

Some say chai, others say chai tea, which is completely wrong as it translates to tea-tea. People from Punjab called it cha (not chai). Every Indian family has their own way of making cha, but this is the real deal — an authentic cup made by my mom, which is the backdrop of many childhood memories for me. My mom grew up in a small village in Punjab in the ’60s. Back then, simple spices such as cardamom pods were a bit of a speciality item used in tea when guests came over, as the pods would perfume the house. Note this isn’t masala cha, just an everyday cha that is so flavourful and easy to make.

Punjabi cha straining in glass

Punjabi Cha

Prep Time: 3 ½ minutes
Cook Time: 3 ½ minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 tsp fennel seeds
4 cardamom pods
1 ¼ cup water
1 Tbsp loose leaf black tea
1 Tbsp jaggery
½ cup homogenized milk

Punjabi cha ingredients

Directions:

1. Crush the fennel seeds and cardamom pods together in a mortar and pestle, until pods open up and their aroma is released.

2. Over medium heat, pour water into the pot and simmer, not boil. Add spices to the water. Simmer for about 1–2 minutes. Add tea. Simmer for 30 seconds.

Related: Sweet and Savoury Matcha Recipes to Give Your Plate a Boost of Green

3. Add jaggery. Turn up the heat to boil for 45 seconds. Add milk. Boil for 30 seconds. Watch to make sure the cha doesn’t boil over.

Punjabi cha boiling on stovetop

4. Using a mesh strainer, strain cha directly into two teacups evenly.

5. With the back of a spoon, squeeze out the extra spices and tea flavour from the strainer directly into the individual cups.
Enjoy!

Punjabi cha in two glasses

Like Deepi’s cha recipe? She tried a $45 takeout meal that comes in a jewellery box.

Duck salad inside red box

Meet the $45 Takeout Meal That Comes in a Jewellery Box

The pandemic is changing habits — and we’re all embracing takeout like never before. While fast-food chains were always set up for takeout, other restaurants had to quickly adapt their business model to pay the bills. Fine-dining restaurants that previously relied on dine-in patrons are forced to now reimagine their food to offer an upscale dining experience to-go.

Hana in Toronto’s ritzy Yorkville neighbourhood offers one the best modern Kyō-kaiseki (Kyoto-style cuisine) dining experiences in the city. Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa’s food does a dance between modern and traditional — and pre-COVID, his preparation and presentation of each dish was so meticulous. Clearly, I had to see if the takeout experience shared the same sentiment. I opted for the duck salad, which costs $45. Expensive compared to fast-food takeout, but quite on par in terms of fine-dining prices.

Duck salad inside red box

First Looks

Let’s start with the packaging. The duck salad comes in a glistening, cherry-coloured, faux mahogany keepsake box from Japan, which adds an instant sophistication to the experience. From afar, you wouldn’t believe it’s not real wood. Once the lid is removed, your eyes are drawn to the variety. The dish is made with over a dozen ingredients that are all visible and vibrant. The star of the show is the ribbons of duck which Hana is not frugal about in this salad.

Red box on white counter

Digging In

Where do I even start? In a dish with so many ingredients, I like to try each one individually to get a sense of taste and texture separately. Essentially, I give each ingredient its own attention. It’s important to note that the duck salad’s veggies vary depending on the season. When I tried this in December 2020, this is what I had.

The duck is marinated in akamiso (red miso) and is slightly charcoal-grilled. It’s soft and buttery. The salad also has delicious carrot kinpira (julienned vegetables that are braised in a sauce made of soy and sugar), shungiku leaves (slightly bitter, yet delicate leafy greens) and maitake mushrooms, blanched and boiled in a dashi-based broth.

Related: Can’t Dine Out? These Toronto Restaurants Are Offering Date Night Meal Delivery

Ingredients that were new to me include: ginkgo (nuts that comes from a ginkgo tree and taste like edamame), golden beets (which are much sweeter than the red ones) and kikka kabura (a flower-shaped turnip). Other characters that make up the salad include daikon, radish sprouts, red cabbage, persimmons (because they’re in season), lotus roots, figs and the most finely sliced limes that complimented every bite.

Duck salad inside red box

The Sour Notes

This salad is made with a variety of vinegars: saffron vinegar, tosa vinegar, sweet vinegar and more. I can say with confidence, I never once made a dramatic sour face the way babies do when trying a lemon for the first time.

The Verdict

This dish could have gone terribly wrong given the amount of acidity in it. Ninety per cent of the vegetables were marinated with acidic notes, yet the duck stood up to it all.

I think one of the ways the chef was able to control the acidity is by his masterful knife skills, which Japanese chefs are known for. You’ll notice the dish is full of vegetable that are sliced, diced, julienned, fine-julienned and chiffonade cut. The cutting technique affects flavour. The more finely cut a vegetable, the more marinade it can absorb, which mean the chef is able to maintain a balanced flavour.

Although the shiso flower buds make a very pretty garnish, next time I would politely put them to the side. They have a very strong, lingering herb flavour that I could easily do without. I see why it would work well in a cocktail.

Overall, if you like duck, this is a must-have. You won’t be disappointed with the portion, presentation or palatableness.

Closeup of takeout duck salad in red box with wood chopsticks

Interested in more takeout reviews? We tried the KFC Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits and Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich.

Photos courtesy of Deepi Harish