Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shea's 50th Birthday

Hard to believe that Shea is 50 !!!!! Especially since most people think I look like her dad these days ....

So she wanted a classy 50th Bday party with our close friends and family. One of her friends Moira lives on this amazing CSA farm in Lincoln, Linden Tree Farms - Luckily, Ari and Moira allowed us to use their barn for the party.

Shea was hot to trot to have Vietnamese finger food at the party and I wasn't sure I was up to cook for a large group.

So I decided to take a field trip to Dorchester, Ma and do a test off between the top Vietnamese places and see if they might cater the party. Off I went to Pho So 1 Boston and Pho Hoa Restaurant to get take out . I brought home Fried Spring rolls , Fresh Summer rolls and Chicken Pho soup.

After tasting both restaurants food, we were disappointed since the food was just ok and not cheap at all if we wanted it catered. So I offered to cook it all with Natasha's help. I don;t think I have ever cooked Vietnamese food but I am always up for a challenge.

With Nicole Routhier's Foods of Vietnam book in hand , I ventured back to Dorchester to Truong Thinh II Super Market.

I wish I had a translator since all the signs and labels were in Vietnamese. Luckily I found a younger man who spoke perfect english with a dorchester accent. he guided me through the aisles , told me which were the best brands and even suggested a great dipping sauce. The prices are amazing . I got lemon grass for 2.99 a lb which sells for 10 bucks at whole foods.

I managed to buy all the materials for the party, except for meat and seafood for under $130. Amazingly cheap. Then I got shrimp, pork and beef at Whole foods.

The Menu included:

Fresh Spring rolls with Chicken, shrimp, noodles.etc

4 ounces thin rice vermicelli
16 raw medium shrimp, shelled and de-veined (optional)
2 large carrots, shredded
2 teaspoons sugar
16 rounds of rice paper (banh trang), each 8 1/2 inches in diameter
8 large red leaf or Boston lettuce leaves, thick stem ends removed and cut in half
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 cup mint leaves, washed and drained
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, washed and drained

2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 small chili pepper, sliced
1 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
¼ cup water

1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup hoisin sauce


Combine garlic, sugar, lime juice, water, vinegar, and fish sauce. Stir to blend. Add chili rounds (to taste). Keep at room temperature for ½ hour before serving.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic, chili and tomato paste and fry about 30 seconds until the garlic is golden brown. Add the water, sugar, peanut butter and hoisin sauce and whisk to dissolve. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve at room temperature.

Combine the carrot with the sugar and let stand for 10 minutes to soften.

In a medium saucepan, bring several cups of water to boil. Add vermicelli and cook until just softened, 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Boil the shrimp for 3 minutes, then refresh in cold water. Cut lengthwise in half, then set aside.

Lay out the spring roll ingredients before beginning to assemble the rolls.

Fill a shallow 9 or 10-inch cake or pie pan with very warm water. Working with 2 sheets of rice paper at a time, immerse the sheets and quickly remove. Spread out flat on a dry towel. The rice paper will become pliable within seconds (too long and they become soggy and tear when rolling).

Lay one piece of lettuce over the bottom of the rice paper. Add 1 tablespoon of noodles, 1 tablespoon carrot, bean sprouts and several mint leaves. Roll the paper halfway. Fold both sides of the paper over the filling. Lay 2 shrimp halves, cut side down, along the crease. Place several cilantro leaves above the shrimp. Keep rolling the paper into a cylinder to seal. Place the rolls, seam side down, on a plate and cover with a damp towel so they will stay moist. Slice each roll in half on a bias.

Serve rolls with the dipping sauces, preferably in individual dipping bowls. The rolls are dipped into the sauce and eaten out of hand.

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