Our friends Linda and Peter invited my husband and me, along with another couple for dinner at their home for an Asian dinner. It was perfection from the table setting to dessert!
The table setting was exquisite. It showcased features of an Asian dinner table. Linda and Peter are world travelers and while visiting countries within Asia they frequented local markets, which is why their table had all the accoutrements of an Asian theme. The hand-stitched batik tablecloth was from Chiang- Mai, Thailand, purchased at the night market, along with Batik napkins. The teapot came from the small village of Bat Trang, Vietnam. The red lacquerware soup bowls and small hors d’oeuvre holders were purchased in Kyoto, Japan. The bamboo chopstick cases from a small Fair-Trade store in Hanoi, Vietnam. I was especially fond of the beautiful little chopstick rests – porcelain faces on stone purchased in Takayama, Japan. Along with locally sourced dinnerware, all of the table elements made for a beautiful table!
Here’s the menu:
Skewered Chicken and Sesame Dip
Hot & Sour Soup
Roast Pork Lo Mein
Mandarin Moo Shu Pork w/Pancakes
Peking Port Chops w/Peking Sauce
Lemon Meringue Cheesecake Pie
Linda cooked for days with Peter acting as sous chef at times. They have a good rhythm in the kitchen and are very organized. Linda’s excellent home cooking skills created a harmonious balance of appearance, aromas and tastes through the use of fresh veggies, sauces and seasonings. The dishes were mildly spiced, mostly savory and at times slightly sweet. A real delight to the palate!
Our hosts were relaxed and welcoming. As we took our places at the table, Peter poured the plum wine or sake as requested. Linda placed on the table Ellen’s sushi rolls. The rolls were filled with thinly sliced Asian cucumber, avocado, pork, scallion, egg, and sushi rice. They were delicate and savory and paired well with a side of pickled ginger and Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise. The second appetizer was Skewered Chicken with Sesame Dip. Perfectly grilled chicken was dipped into a homemade sesame sauce that was sweet and creamy. Chinese green tea was poured as requested.
Next, we moved on to the Hot & Sour Soup. Incomparable is all I can say! Deep rich flavors all in one bowl. Each aromatic spoonful had various textures from the golden needles (Tiger Lilly buds) to the fresh wood ear mushrooms. I just had to have this recipe and am happy to share it with you.
The main course was served buffet style and included three different pork dishes that were expertly executed.
Peter’s Roast Pork Lo Mein noodles were delicate and bathed in an almost honey flavored sauce. Fresh Lo Mein noodles were stir-fried in a wok, along with homemade roast pork, bok-choy, fresh peeled water chestnuts, fresh bamboo shoots, and a variety of sauces.
The Mandarin moo shu pork delivered a mix of savory flavors including soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, mixed with shredded cabbage and carrots. Linda’s home- made Mandarin pancakes were texturally strong enough to fill and roll.
And last but not least, Peter lightly fried the boneless pork chops that pared with Linda’s home-made Peking sauce with Its distinct combination of sweet and salty flavors. Its intense umami flavor comes from the fermented soybean paste.
When it came to dessert you will see on the menu a Lemon Meringue Cheesecake Pie. Not Chinese right? But, Linda, the consummate host, deviated from the theme for a very good reason Why? One of her dinner guests, Barbara, had seen a Lemon Meringue Cheesecake pie in Costco and mentioned it to Linda who happens to be an extraordinary baker. Linda surprised Barbara by baking one. She did not disappoint. The taste was twofold in that it was typical of a lemon meringue pie but with an added cream cheese layer cake. The pie was flavorful, light and topped with a fluffy meringue.
We ended the meal with Almond Cookies, a typical Chinese sweet. And sweet and crumbly they were!
Lastly, I will share with you that Linda had not been well for many months. This dinner was her “I’m Back” moment. She outdid herself in all aspects of the theme and dinner. We were all so proud of Linda, and I know she was proud of herself as well. Linda accomplished this endeavor with not only her honed cooking skills, but with her heart. The love of friendship came shining through. It was an evening to remember, for all of us!