Despite the gorgeous gift that is summer in the Northwest United States, you’ve been itching to get away. Someplace with beaches, great food and ancient culture to boot. A little Southeast Asian tour sounds more than appealing right now, but sometimes commitments get in the way—work, weddings, the kids’ summer camps.
Maybe a jet-set holiday isn’t on the books this summer, but don’t let that stop you from bringing the world to your table and sharing its bounty with your friends. Southeast Asia is just a trip to the market and a few e-vites away!
TAKE-OFF: Greet your guests with a tasty cocktail to set the mood for a getaway. Pick a drink that is easy to make for your own sanity (unless you’re a bartender extraordinaire!) and can be made ahead of time in large quantities. We love the fusion of global and local flavors in this Thai Basil + Hood River Cherry Cooler.
Thai Basil + Hood River Cherry Cooler
12 oz highball glass
1 Thai basil leaf, 1 pitted cherry
2 T cherry/basil simple syrup (see steps 1+2)
1/2 cup ice
1/8 C rum (light, dark or 151)
4 – 6 oz sparkling water or really good, strong ginger ale
- To create the cherry/basil simple syrup, cook 1 C water, 1 C white sugar, 8 pitted cherries and 8 large Thai basil leaves in a small pot on medium for about 10 minutes.
- Cool, blend and strain through cheese cloth. Set aside.
- Muddle 1 Thai basil leaf and 1 Hood River cherry directly in the highball with a wooden spoon or wooden spoon handle.
- Add simple syrup to taste… you’ll have to be the guinea pig here before the guests arrive.
- Add ice and then 1/8 C rum, and top with ginger ale or sparkling water.
- Garnish with basil or cherries.
Note: It’s nice to make a punch bowl or a pitcher of this so you don’t spend the entire party muddling + mixing.
Cruising Altitude: Once your guests have a drink in hand, set them up with an “in-flight snack.” Salad rolls are very easy to make and can be customized for vegetarians, vegans, meat-eaters, etc. You can put anything you like inside, but this recipe for refreshing Smoked Salmon Salad Rolls with mint and exotic dipping sauces beats airline peanut packs any day of the week.
Smoked Salmon Salad Rolls
Makes 8 Rolls
8 rice paper rounds (Note: Have extra handy though)
1/2 lb Zupan’s house smoked salmon
1 mango, pitted, skinned and sliced 1/8″ thick
1 avocado, pitted, skinned and sliced 1/4″ thick
8 stems cilantro, leave stems on
16 mint leaves, coarsely torn
1/4 lb arugula or mesclun salad mix, washed and thoroughly dried
1 English cucumber, seeded, cut into 5″ pencil size sticks and tossed in rice wine vinegar
1/2 package of rice stick noodles, softened with hot water and thoroughly drained
Prep all of the above and refrigerate while organizing your work surface with:
1 dry towel
1 large, damp – not soaking wet – sackcloth towel folded in half
1 platter with plastic wrap cut and ready to cover the finished rolls
1 frying pan filled with water
- Turn your stove to low and heat your pan full of water. When the water is hot (though not too hot to come in contact with), dip one rice paper wrapper into the water and let it soften for about 15 seconds.
- Carefully pull the softened paper out of the hot water, as it will want to fold up and cling to itself. Gently and quickly tamp the backside of the wet round onto a flat, dry towel to remove excess moisture.
- If you want to work production style, making a few at a time, place the softened wrapper between the folds of a damp sackcloth towel and repeat this step with as many rounds as you can fit within the folds without them touching. Keep in mind that they stick together very easily, so take care not to allow the wrappers to come in contact with each other. If you want to work one roll at a time, omit this sackcloth step.
- Lay the wrapper fully open onto the dry work surface and start building the interior 1″ up from the bottom of the round and 1″ in on both sides. Start with dry arugula leaves and add all other ingredients – 2 torn mint leaves, 1 cilantro stem, 1 oz salmon etc – in whatever order you choose. Stack everything about the same length and height so when you finish rolling, it’s a uniform size end to end. You should have no more than about 30% of the round covered to avoid tearing and bulging.
- Fold both sides in over the ends of the ingredients, with as straight an edge as you can manage. Then fold the exposed bottom edge over the top of the stack, gently compressing, and start to roll. As soon as the rice paper touches itself, it will stick nicely, so getting the bottom to touch just over the stack is ideal. If you have too many ingredients or the bottom bit isn’t as exposed as you meant it to be, don’t fret. The two most important things to remember are 1) You want to make a tight, uniform bundle (like a cigar, if you will) and 2) You need to know when to throw in the towel and start again – if there’s either a huge rip in the round or your filling is escaping from a badly sealed side, just remove the filling and start fresh.
- Place the finished roll onto a platter under plastic wrap and proceed with the rest. Refrigerate the filled platter until service time. When you’re ready to serve, unwrap the little beauties, cut them across the middle for presentation.
Note: Sometimes dry rounds have cracks and holes in them. Luckily, they’re cheap and plentiful, but you can avoid most rips by visually checking the wrapper before you dip it into the hot water. If there’s a flaw in the round, toss it.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
1/2 C smooth, high-quality peanut butter
2 1” long hot chilies or equivalent – anything but Scotch-bonnet – finely sliced
2 t freshly grated ginger (a micro plane grater works best here)
4 large cloves of garlic, mashed
1/2 C canned coconut milk (don’t bother to make your own, it’s way too much work)
2 T Asian fish sauce
1 T brown sugar
2 T fresh lime juice
2 T soy sauce
1/4 C peanut oil
Water to blend
- Blend all ingredients together in a food processor, slowly adding peanut oil and/or water to achieve a consistency you like.
Note: Let the sauce sit for a couple of hours at room temperature if you can, to allow the flavors to marry. Adjust seasonings before serving. Chilies and garlic will intensify with time, fish sauce will disappear and lime juice acidity will soften. Get creative by adding more garlic, soy, coconut milk, Galangal, lemongrass, Thai red curry paste or Hoisin sauce. All of those ingredients will give your personal house peanut sauce a flavor your guests and family will remember and crave. Garnish with chopped peanuts and a sprinkle of torn cilantro.
Soy Dipping Sauce
1/2 C soy sauce
3 T toasted sesame oil, slightly warmed
2 T sugar, melted in the warm sesame oil
1 T Asian fish sauce
1 2″ long hot chili, very finely sliced
1 lime, juiced and zested
15 cilantro leaves, ripped or chopped
2 medium cloves of garlic, smashed with a little salt
2 T toasted sesame seeds
- Blend all ingredients with a whisk and let sit at room temperature before service.
MID-FLIGHT: It’s time for the good stuff. Your guests won’t leave hungry when you set a plate of Grilled Lemongrass Beef and Noodle Salad, locked and loaded with classic Vietnamese flavors, in front of them. You’ll be lucky if they leave you any extra for leftovers. This dish can also easily be made for vegetarians by substituting tofu for beef.
Grilled Lemongrass Beef and Noodle Salad
(From Gourmet Magazine, June, 1995/via www.epicurious.com)
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and root end trimmed
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 T Asian fish sauce (preferably nuoc mam)
1 T soy sauce
4 t sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 t Asian sesame oil
1 lb skirt steak or flank steak
1/2 lb dried rice vermicelli stick noodles
1/2 C fresh basil leaves (preferably Thai basil)
1/2 C fresh mint leaves
1/2 C fresh coriander leaves
1 C Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese lime sauce)
1 seedless English cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 T Toasted Rice Powder
2 to 4 small thin fresh red or green Asian chilies (1 to 2 inches long) or Serrano chilies, seeded and sliced very thin (wear rubber gloves)
Garnish: Thai basil, mint, or coriander sprigs
- Thinly slice lower 6 inches of lemongrass stalks, discarding remainder of stalks. In a food processor or blender finely grind together sliced lemongrass and garlic.
- Add remaining marinade ingredients and blend well.
- In a large resealable plastic bag combine marinade and steak and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate steak, chilled, turning bag once or twice, at least 4 hours or overnight.
- In a large bowl soak noodles in hot water for 15 minutes, or until softened and pliable.
- Prepare grill (or preheat broiler). Bring a kettle of salted water to a boil for noodles.
- Discard marinade and grill steak on an oiled rack, set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals, for 3 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Alternatively, steak may be broiled on rack of a broiler pan about 3 inches from heat about same amount of time. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes.
- While steak is cooking, drain noodles in a colander and cook in boiling water 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until just tender. In a colander drain noodles and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain noodles well.
- In a large bowl toss noodles with herbs and half of nuoc cham.
- Divide cucumber among 4 bowls or plates and top with noodles. Sprinkle each serving with 1 to 1 1/2 t rice powder.
- Thinly slice steak on the diagonal and divide among noodles, mounding it. Sprinkle chilies over each serving and garnish with herb sprigs.
TOUCHDOWN: Before their departure, wow your guests with a sweetly decadent dessert. Coconuts and Mangoes are Southeast Asian favorites and boy do they know how to meld their creamy, rich textures with refreshing fruits. This recipe for Thai Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Cayenne-Spiced Mango will leave your guests scrambling to plan their next vacation for Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia.
Thai Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Cayenne-Spiced Mango
(From Bon Appétit Magazine, July 2006/via www.epicurious.com)
1 2×1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, sliced
1 1×1-inch piece fresh galangal, peeled, sliced
10 Thai basil or regular basil leaves
6 fresh cilantro sprigs
2 kaffir lime leaves or 2 t grated lime peel
1 T sliced lemongrass
2 C water
2 C whole milk
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C small pearl tapioca (not quick-cooking)
1 13.5- to 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 large mango, peeled, cut into cubes
1 T fresh lime juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Thai basil sprigs or regular basil sprigs
- Combine first 6 ingredients in food processor; blend 20 seconds. Transfer to a medium saucepan.
- Add 2 C water and bring to boil. Remove pan from heat and let steep uncovered 20 minutes.
- Pour mixture into strainer set over heavy large saucepan; press on solids to release flavored liquid. Discard solids in strainer.
- Add milk and sugar to flavored liquid in pan; bring to boil. Stir in tapioca; return to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until pudding thickens and is reduced to 2 1/4 C, stirring frequently, about 35 minutes.
- Stir in coconut milk (pudding will be runny). Transfer to bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Toss mango cubes, lime juice, and cayenne in medium bowl.
- Divide tapioca among 6 stemmed glasses or bowls. Top with mango mixture; garnish with basil sprigs.