Dinner Party #2

Dinner Party 2. Asian night! Why are we cooking? With any luck we are not just stuffing our faces as quickly as possible without taking time to enjoy what we are eating. My memories of the past that involve food were lively and bold. Fresh ingredients bought from markets where I couldn’t even understand what anyone else was saying. I only knew that the lady behind the counter was smiling and that whatever ingredients my mom just bought were going to end up making me smile. Tonight’s theme was about asian cuisine and trying bring back the flavors of my childhood. It is important to note that I had never made anything on the menu before. I only remember the flavors growing up and knew generally how to make them. With the guidance of my mom, my sister, and a little luck, this dinner was a great success! Any of the ingredients listed below that are not available at your local supermarket should be able to be found at an asian specialty store or online.

Appetizer:
Gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese spring rolls)
-Bún (Vermicelli rice noodles)
-Bánh Tráng (Vietnamese rice paper)
-Pineapple poached shrimp
-Lettuce
-Pickling cucumber
Sauce
-Reduced pineapple juice
-Hoisan sauce
-Sriracha chili sauce
Directions
Follow the directions on the Bún. Typically this involves bringing water to a boil, placing the noodles in the pot, and turning off the heat. Once the noodles are done, quickly cool them off under cold running water. Set the noodles aside in the refrigerator. Place a few cups of pineapple juice in a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil. Using a straining ladle, dip the shrimp into the pineapple juice until cooked. Feel free to practice on a couple of extra shrimp to work out the cooking times. When I made it, the pineapple juice quickly boiled over. Make sure you turn it down to a simmer after it comes to temperature. When the shrimp are cooked, place them into the refrigerator to chill.

While the ingredients are cooling, prepare the vegetables. Wash some lettuce (preferably a softer lettuce like red leaf) and your pickling cucumber. Slice the cucumber in half then cut the halves into 1/4 inch pieces.

Now prepare the sauce. Take a couple cups of pineapple juice and reduce it in a sauce pan. Be cautious that the heat is not too high or it will quickly boil over. When it has reduced to a syrupy consistency, add 2 tablespoons of hoisan sauce per cup of pineapple juice used and continue to heat. Now add the chili sauce to your taste. I added about 1 tablespoon total and it gave the sauce a very nice heat undertone. The consistency that you want while heated is velvety. If it is too thick, add some additional pineapple juice. If it is too thin then simmer for a little longer. When you are happy with the taste and consistency, pour the sauce into a bowl and place into the refridgerator. As it turns out, this was the most amazing dipping sauce for spring rolls that I have ever had. Ever.

Wet a piece of rice paper and lay it in the center of a large plate. Place a small portion of bún near the edge (5″ long x 2″ wide) away from you. Lay a piece of cucumber and a piece of lettuce on the noodles. Place a couple/few pieces of shrimp along the vegetables. Roll the entire mass towards you once keeping the roll somewhat tight. Fold over each side so that each of the ends of the roll are covered and then continue to roll the rice paper towards you. This may take a few tries but the good thing is that the ingredients are recycleable 🙂

Dip and enjoy! This can be somewhat messy so I suggest that everyone has their own dipping sauce!

Soup:
Won Ton Soup Made by our good friend Sherry. The recipe to come!

Salad:
Japanese style ginger salad
-Spring salad mix
-Grated carrots
-Red onion
Dressing
-1/2 cup rice wine vineger
-3/4 cups vegetable oil
-1/4 or less cup sesame oil (depending on taste; sesame oil is strong so less is probably advised for most pallets)
-1/4 or less cup soy sauce (depending on taste)
-1/2 tablespoon sugar
-1/2 to 1 tablespoon finely diced ginger

Directions
Grate some carrots and slice some red onions. Place the spring mix into a mixing bowl and spread the carrots and onions around the top.

Scrap the skin of the ginger off with a turned over spoon. Finely dice the ginger. Put the vineager, oils, soy sauce, sugar, and ginger into a blender and mix well. Pour over the salad and toss lightly. Although mixing in a blender is the best way to mix the dressing, it can also be done in a mixing bowl or a large dressing shaker.

Main
Vietnamese style BBQ

-1/2 lbs (per person) Pork shoulder/butt precut by the butcher into 1/2″ slices
-1 stalk Lemon grass
-1/4 lbs (per lb pork) Brown sugar
-1 (per lb pork) Scallion (green onion)
-Vietnamese fish sauce
-Jasmine rice
Nước mắm (fish sauce)
-2 medium sized cloves of freshly ground garlic
-1/2 juicy lime
-1/2 cup cold water
-1/2 tablespoon sugar
-Fish sauce (to taste)

Trim off the outer layer of the lemon grass, rinse, and finely dice. Place this into a large sealable plastic bag. Clean and roughly chop the scallions and put them in the bag. Dump in the brown sugar. Now here is the tricky part. Fish sauce. For most people, fish sauce smells stinky and does not seem very desirable. I am one of these people. However! By the end of the cooking, the smell will not be there and you will be left with a wonderful flavor! If you’ve never used fish sauce before, you will want to start off with about 1/8 cup per 2 lbs of pork. This is not going to smell good but have faith! Add a cup of water and seal the bag. Mix well. If the mix does not seem thin enough than add a little bit more water. You are looking for a flowing consistency but not runny. Put the pork one piece at a time into the bag. Make sure each of the pieces is well coated and reseal the bag removing as much air as possible. Some times these cuts of pork will have bones. If this is the case, take care when coating the pork and sealing the bag. Put the sealed bag into the refrigerator on a dish that will catch any fluid just in case a hole develops because of the bones. An ideal marinating time is 24 hours but the minimum is 4.

While you have some time, prepare the sauce. If you have a morter and pestel, use it to obliterate the garlic; if you do not have one, finely dice and smash the garlic. Place garlic into a mixing bowl along with 1/2 of a squeezed lime and 1/4 cups of water. Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar. Now mix well the ingredients and taste. This mixture should taste of garlic and lime. If one ingredient seems to be overpowering the other, then balance with whatever ingredient is more masked. If both taste overpowering, add a little more water and a little more sugar. Next add the fish sauce. You are looking for a light chardonnay color. Mix and taste. Here is better to be safe by adding the fish sauce slowly and tasting often. Typically a diced red chili is then added for additional flavor but for this particular meal, one could not be located in time.

Take the pork out of the refrigerator about an hour before you grill so that it is able to come to room temperature. Set the grill to medium-high and watch carefully. Due to the nature of the pork cut there is typically a high fat content and fire is a risk. I lost one of 12 pieces of pork due to flames. You will know that the pork is done when it has a rich reddish brown color on the whole piece. Let sit for a few minutes to cool down enough to handle. Slice into 1/4″ – 1/2″ strips and serve on warm rice drizzled with the nước mắm.

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