Ok, Ill admit it right upfront: were a tough bunch to please when it comes to Asian foods. Living here in the Seattle area, perched on the delicious edge of the Pacific Rim, we have easy access to a fabulous array of Asian ingredients and restaurants. Shopping for nam prik pow, five varieties of lop cheung, baby taro root, Chinese black vinegar, or ready-made sake kasu? No problem. You could find any of them in my own kitchen, for a start, but stores in our International District overflow with Asias bounty. Want to go out on the spur of the moment for Bo Bay Mon, hand-shaved Shanghai noodles, or Malaysian Bak Kut Teh? Lets go!
So the September issue of Food and Wine looked like just the ticket for our group, something we could really sink our chopsticks into. With only 17 of us in attendance, we couldnt make every single recipe, but we gave it a good try, each of us taking a dish or two and making it for our friends. We all did as much prep as possible before arriving, and then cooked together at the centrally-located home of our kind host, who not only has an excellent collection of dishes and glassware, but actively enjoys having the hordes descend laden with full stockpots and heaps of julienned vegetables.
First up were the fantastic Icy Lemon-Ginger Cocktails. We drank immoderate amounts of the cool elixir from tiny, delicate grandmother-endowed glasses, which were small enough to encourage numerous refills. To accompany the drinks we started with the Garlic-Brined Pork Banh Mi and the Spinach and Tofu Dumplings. The banh mi were hearty and delicious, especially with homemade Vietnamese pork pate and plenty of Sriracha sauce, which probably outsells catsup in our area. And of course, the more Sriracha one uses, the more lemon-ginger cocktails one drinks. The dumplings were light and ethereal, and perfect for those of us planning a trip to the Korean womens day spa, where they scrub you within an inch of your life, and every bite youve ever eaten is on display to a roomful of steaming, soaking, naked women.