I adore theme parties. Since I also love to travel and do it quite a bit, one of my recurrent themes is the cuisine and culture of foreign lands.
What can you anticipate from one of these events? On a night of Southeast Asian delights there will be loads of fresh produce including mango, papaya, pineapple, coconut, ginger, lemongrass, mint and lotus root. You can count on an interplay between spicy and sweet with coconut milk partnering with chili peppers and ginger with pineapple. You can also expect some salt with your heat as soy and fish sauces are commonplace condiments in Southeast Asia.
Since seafood and poultry are the primary animal proteins in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, India and Malaysia shrimp and chicken show up on the buffet table. I feature the two in steamed dumplings, fried egg rolls, curries and spicy sautes.
A staple of Southeast Asian cuisine, rice also plays a prominent role on SEA night. It may accompany 12 quarts of curry chicken. Dressed with soy sauce or the hot chili sauce sriracha, it may also be a vegetarian option for the non-meat eaters in the bunch.
Along with food there’s Southeast Asian-inspired music courtesy of Dengue Fever, the Clash and a variety of Vietnam War-era bands. Then there’s the decor, featuring statuettes of elephants, Ganesha, Shiva and Buddha, block-print tablecloths and hand painted vases picked up on our travels as well as Chinese-style lanterns from the East Village. For entertainment a friend provides origami lessons. Granted, not everything is strictly Southeast Asian but it is fun.
And now for a few recipes from the night.
From Stephen Kittredge Cunningham’s The Bartender’s Black Book (The Wine Appreciation Guild, 2004)
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce ginger liqueur
Fill a glass with ice. Add the vodka and ginger liqueur. Fill the rest of the glass with cranberry juice. Stir and serve.
SESAME-SCALLION SOBA NOODLES
No, they’re not from Southeast Asia but they are delicious and easy to make. This tastes just as good with or without the scallions.
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 to 2 scallions, white and 1-inch of green part minced
1 individual package of soba noodles (found in Asian section of larger grocery stores)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons lite soy sauce
Boil the soba noodles for about 6 minutes (or according to instructions on package), until they are tender. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop from further cooking.
In a small bowl mix together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey and oil.
Drain the noodles. Place the noodles, sesame seeds and scallions in a serving bowl, pour the sauce over the top and toss to combine.