Weekend Cookbook Challenge: “A Taste of Asia”
I debated a lot about what to cook for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. Since I was supposed to use a cookbook that doesn’t get used often, my first inkling was my garage sale special – a French cookbook that I bought for 25 cents. I bought it and then never opened it for 8 years. Alas, it was already donated to the Boy Scouts’ garage sale.
We have Mediterranean food often as my parents have lived there since 1991, so that got vetoed. I pulled out my Chinese cookbook from Australian Women’s Weekly (my favorite series of cookbooks) without much inspiration. My choices thus narrowed down, I found a really cool Crate and Barrel cookbook some friends gave us for our wedding. Each page of the “book” is really a flash card with a picture on the front and recipe on the back. It makes me think of ordering at an Asian restaurant – except that I do all of the work. I love eating dim sum, sushi, steamed foods, noodles and rice with the spice flairs for the Orient. Hong Kong remains my favorite trip for the cuisine. If I could go back again, I would hop from one temple restaurant to another – so many good mixes of flavor. If I had a recipe for sweet and sour fried walnuts, I would have made it without question.
Other factors made my choices easy as well – I refuse to pull ink sacks from baby squid. It seems too much like preparing the kind of sushi you could die from.
Being thus inspired, I scheduled several days to prep the food and invited several friends over for a dinner party.
Here was our menu: (I must say the names are very basic – I wish I knew the correct names)
Soybeans with peanut sambal
Make sambal – 1 day ahead
Shell beans – well I forgot this till almost the last minute
Soybeans steamed 2-6 min – aprox start 6:15pm
Herb and Chicken Spring Rolls
Cook chicken – 1 day ahead
Assemble rolls – 3hrs ahead – 3pm
Make dipping sauce – 1 day ahead
Sticky rice with chicken skewers
Marinate chicken night before
Cook rice in the morning
Wrap rice – 12pm
Steam rice 10min – 6:15pm
Broil chicken 12 min – 1pm
Make sweet chili sauce – 1 day ahead or more
Spicy Tuna Roll
Make seasoned rice – 1 day ahead (I probably should have done it about 1 or 2 pm that day)
Make rolls – 2 hrs ahead – 4pm
Black Rice with red fruit
Soak rice overnight
Soak bamboo steam – 1st thing in the morning (I know they say don’t on the care instructions but its fine.)
Steam rice 1hr – 10am
Make syrup 15 min before rice is done – 10:45am
Serve cool – room temp
Keep warm stuff in oven on low till people arrive
The party was a blast. Preparing the food on multiple days kept me from feeling overly stressed, although it was a lot of work. Our guests were amazed that I had never made any of this kind of food before. They loved it and ate almost everything. We had one left over pudding and some spring rolls and sticky rice. I have posted the pictures over at my flicker site
Here is a recipe to wet your appetite. If you want any of the others let me know and I will post them later in other blog entries.
Herb and Chicken Spring Rolls
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 6 oz/150g each
1/4 cup/4 T dark soy sauce
2in/5cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 T Shao Hsing (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry (optional)
24 small rice papper wrappers, 6 1/2 inches/16 cm diameter
a small bunch of cilantro
a small bunch of mint
a small bunch of Thai basil
dipping sauce (optional)
1/2 c/100g sugar
freshly squeezed juice and grated zest of 2 unwaxed limes
2 green chiles, thinly sliced
1/3 c/80 ml white rice vinegar
1. Put the chicken in an oven cooking bag, add the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sherry, if using. Knead the bag so the chicken is throughly coated. Marinate in the refriferator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Transfer the chicken in the bag to a roasting pan and cook in a preheated oven at 350F (180C) Gas 4 for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the bag. Slice each chicken breast diagonally into 12 pieces, transfer to a plate, and pout any juices over it.
3. To assemble, dip a rice papper wrapper in warm water to soften. Put it on a damp work surface and top with 2 pieces of chicken and a few leaves from each herb, then wrap up. Repeat until you are out of wrappers.
4. To make the dipping sauce, if using, put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer fast for 5 min. Transfer to a small bowl and serve with the spring rolls.