بالهنا والشفا – Sudan

Sudan: mahshi, addas, gorraasa, nyaba, mish, basbousa, teas

It’s been an intense few months, and getting back into the swing of couch cuisine was like a balm. I planned my spring 2017 couch cuisine meal lineup in an effort to use food to bring people together to learn more about our global neighbors impacted by the executive order on immigration. First up, Sudan (still to come this spring are Syria and Libya).

Like many countries, Sudanese cuisine is influence by the broader region, so some of the dishes overlap with other countries’ cuisines. I loved planning, cooking and eating and this menu:

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First, mahshi – stuffed peppers and zucchini. I grew up eating stuffed peppers and admittedly was not a fan as a kid (sorry, mom!). However I decided to give mahshi a chance and it was a fun and colorful dish to prepare. I substituted small peppers for some of the larger peppers to make it more of an appetizer size, and I also used a meat substitute for the beef to make the dish vegetarian friendly.

How pretty is this?! I had fun mismatching the colors.

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Several hours later…

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Next up, addas, a red lentil stew. This is the primary recipe I used, though I added some other components from other recipes, namely lime juice, grated ginger, garlic, coriander and turmeric.

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Addas is eaten with bread, of which there are multiple common varieties in Sudan. I made gorraasa, a Sudanese flatbread. I was really pleased with how it turned out! It’s described as a spongy tortilla, and the cookery was similar to making crepes.

I made two side dishes to also serve with the bread. Nyaba, a peanut and greens paste, had me a little skeptical but it was tasty and it was Trevor’s favorite dish of the night. (I substituted vegetable bouillon for the chicken bouillon and used spinach for the greens).

The mish might have been my favorite dish, as yogurt and cheese are my dear friends. I had to adjust this recipe a bit as I didn’t have nigella seeds and I didn’t add jalapeno as there were several guests who are not big spice fans. But I served the dish with harissa on the side to add in for us spice fans. Both the mish and the nyaba were great with the gorraasa.

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For dessert, basbousa. This was fun to make, made my apartment smell great, and was also fun to eat. This recipe offers several variations for the syrup. I used 1 clove and 1 cardamon pod and had rose water to add in for people who are fans.

I also made iced hibiscus tea and served a variety of teas with dessert using my grandmother’s tea set.

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Trevor always gets candid pics of me explaining the meal, and here we are repping the Sudanese flag colors.

There weren’t many leftovers from this meal, which is usually a good sign! Cheers.

 

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慢慢吃 -Taiwan

Taiwan: gua bao, beef noodle soup, vegetable stir fry, shaved ice, bubble tea

(Note: I decided not to include a Taiwanese flag because it’s a debated issue).

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This meal required some research on the perfect bubble tea, and Trevor and I were quite happy to do extensive research in preparation. 🙂 Weeks in advance we scouted out local bubble tea places and took notes as we prepared to make homemade bubble tea. Spoiler alert: it’s easy and awesome.

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First up, gua bao for an appetizer. Gua bao is a pork belly bun so we also made a vegetarian version with braised tofu. Philip made an amazing braised tofu with the same spices used in the pork. Here’s the recipe I used for the buns.  I used the trick I’d previously learned to cover the lid of a steamer with a towel as a substitute for a bamboo steamer.

Here’s the pork belly recipe (I think these are the recipes I used and I think I used a different cut of pork but memory from November is failing me slightly). I made my own mustard greens. 

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Next up: beef noodle soup, and a vegetarian version with vegetable stock and mushrooms. Here’s the beef noodle soup recipe I used, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as I found the broth to be way too sweet.

And some more veggies which I failed to document. I think it was mostly bok choy and garlic.

The real hit of the meal was dessert. Shaved ice and bubble tea. For the shaved ice we used the food processor and had various toppings of sweetened condensed milk, canned and fresh fruits such as lychee and mango and red beans.

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And the favorite, bubble tea! I bought several types of tea but my favorite is Thai milk tea. Trevor rocked the tea prep.

I’m now pretty much obsessed with homemade bubble tea.

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Trevor and Philip helped me prep the whole meal and we had a blast cooking together.

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Trevor always gets fun shots of me.

It was another full house for this meal, and despite the fact that the meal was interrupted by the fire alarm and a visit from the fire department (not my fault!) we had a lovely evening.

 

 

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Bon Appétit – Canada

Canada: poutine, pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, bacon, ginger beef, tourtière with green tomato ketchup, butter tartsflag_of_canada-svg

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This was a super fun meal and record setting in numbers – there were 18 people, including kids. I did a kid-friendly start time, so since I knew there were multiple kids coming I chose some kid-friendly items for the menu.

I’ve been wanting to make poutine since I started this project in Philly, but had trouble finding cheese curds in Philly. In Rochester you can find them in gas stations! Thanks, Canada! I had major help with this meal as Rob did all the frying of the fries, Tracey made the gravies, Lora cut all the potatoes, and Ashley made the dessert.

I need to give a big disclaimer at the beginning of the recipe section that I did a terrible job of keeping records of the recipes I used and since my browser history from November is failing me the links I have to recipes are ones that I think are the recipes I used based on my hazy memory.

Poutine is fries, gravy, and cheese curds and since there were several vegetarians coming to the meal I made two versions of gravy – beef and vegetable. First up, the stocks. I felt like a real cook making two different stocks.

The beef stock involved some new ingredients for me.

Vegetarian gravy recipe. 

Poutine is pretty much all my favorite things.

Pancakes and syrup and bacon kept the kids (and adults) happy.

Speaking of kids, I love this evidence of kids enjoying couch cuisine.

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Adena’s uncle is from Canada and he suggested the dish Ginger Beef, which is very common in Calgary. He kindly shared the recipe.

Ginger Beef

Ingredients:

1 pound beef (rouladen)

1 celery stalk

1 carrot

3 hot chili peppers

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Marinade:

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons ginger juice

1 eggwhite, lightly

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon hot chili oil (optional)

Sauce:

1 tablespoon wine

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon vinegar

4 tablespoons sugar (can substitute brown sugar or honey, if desired)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons water

chili oil or chili powder to taste

4 to 5 cups oil for deep-frying

Directions:

Cut beef into matchstick strips, cutting along the grain. (The meat is easier to cut if it is partially frozen).

To make ginger juice for marinade, peel and grate ginger. Squeeze out juice.

Mix four marinade ingredients. Add to beef and marinate for 30 minutes.

Begin preparing vegetables. Cut carrots, celery, and pepper into thin strips. Mince garlic. For ginger, use the leftover minced ginger from the preparation of ginger juice.

Mix the sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Beat the eggwhite and add water. Add flour and cornstarch. Mix the batter thoroughly. Drop the batter into the marinated meat.

Heat wok. When heated, add 3 – 5 cups of oil. When the oil is ready, add about 1/4 of the meat/batter mixture. Deep-fry the beef until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Let oil come back to original temperature and add more meat.

When meat is cooked, clean the wok. Heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. When oil is ready, add the vegetables and begin stir-frying. Pour in the sauce and let come to a boil. Add the deep-fried beef.

Toss quickly, and remove.

Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve hot.

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This ended up being the only pic I got of this dish as I was making it at the last minute. But it was great!

My favorite dish ended up being the tourtière. I made two: one meat version (traditional) and one vegetarian version. Tourtière is a meat pie and commonly eaten for celebratory meals, including Christmas Eve. The recipe I used had a completely AH-MAZING pie crust recipe that involved 4 (FOUR!) sticks of butter per pie. I made three pies and therefore needed twelve sticks of butter. Just for the pies. I had to borrow butter from Adena. Totally.worth.it. Here’s the meat version recipe (I substituted the beef stock I’d made for the chicken broth). I used the same crust for the vegetarian version and this filling recipe. 

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Tourtière is served with a green tomato ketchup, which cuts the fat in the dish.

Tourtière is one of my favorite dishes I’ve made. It’s so comforting, hearty, tasty and fun. It’s not a simple or quick recipe, but it’s a treat for sure.

Ashley’s delicious butter tarts for dessert (or, actually, for appetizer since nothing was ready when everyone arrived and so Ashley kindly let us dig into the dessert as an appetizer!).

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I didn’t do the best job photographing this meal, but it was such a fun and tasty evening. Next time I may attempt making homemade cheese curds. Cheese for the win.

 

 

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መልካም ምግብ – Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Spiced lentil sambusas, injera and nit’r qibe, key sir alicha, atakilt wat, abesha goman, mesir wat with ayib, doro wat, Ethiopian coffee and cinnamon chickpeas et

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Well, this meal was in October, which is a pretty good estimate of how far behind on life I am these days. I had three really fun meals in the fall and although I’ve been remiss with blogging, I want to remember the meals and the company as best I can at this point – Hi, Dad! I finally blogged 🙂

A common meal in Ethiopian cuisine is a platter of injera and multiple types of wat. So, I ambitiously came up with a menu consisting of lots of components. It was a really fun meal to prepare (and eat), though I had to do a fair amount of substituting and improvising as I had trouble locating all the ingredients. But overall I was pretty happy with how the meal turned out.

The appetizer was spiced lentil sambusas, which were a hit.

They were a good tide-us-over as the meal was, always, running behind schedule!

I was nervous about attempting homemade injera, which is a sourdough flatbread that is an essential component of Ethiopian cuisine. I was thrilled that Wegmans sells the teff flour to make inera and although I was tempted to buy injera from an Ethiopian restaurant as backup I was brave and made it on my own. Although it turned out to look more like pancakes than really flat and thin, the injera worked-ish! I made two different recipes and here is where my memory fails me on which I liked better and I can only find one recipe from oh those many months ago, but here is one of the two recipes I made.

 

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To slather on the injera and to use as a base for some of the other dishes in the platte I made nit’r qibe – Ethiopian spiced butter. It’s essentially ghee with spices.

Next up: key sir alicha, which is beets and potatoes.

My photography of the cooking process of all the components faltered pretty dramatically once my kitchen got dramatic with every single pot and pan I own (and some of my neighbors!) were in use. I had lots of help in the kitchen from guests as the gap between the official start time of the meal and the actual start time of the meal grew.

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Atakilt wat (cabbage and potatoes)

Abesha gomen (collard greens)

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Mesir wat with ayib This one might have been my favorite dish, partially (okay, largely) because it involves homemade cheese! I didn’t use the ayib recipe in the link here but unfortunately I can’t find the recipe I used. But essentially it’s just boiled buttermilk, strained. So good!

The only non-vegetarian dish was doro wat – chicken stew, which was very similar in components to the red lentil stew.

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And the finished platter!

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This is the first cuisine I’ve cooked where there’s essentially no dessert options. I read that some people in Ethiopia would say that dessert would ruin the taste of the meal, and why would you want to do that? So, I couldn’t really find dessert recipes, but I did come across a suggestion of cinnamon sugar chickpeas. I’m sure that’s not so authentic, but they were tasty and we didn’t really have much room for dessert after this spread anyway.

A fun, adventurous meal with a great group of friends.

 

 

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いただきます – Japan

Japan: Nikuman, Ramen, Miso-Glazed Eggplant, Bok Choy and Mochi Green Tea Ice Cream

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My childhood friend, Alison, came to visit me last weekend and we decided to cook together. We figured out that we’ve known each other for about 30 years (!) and when we were young we used to film cooking “shows.” So it was perfect to cook together again for couch cuisine.

We started off by having a lovely breakfast at Rochester’s Public Market and then shopping for our produce there. Alison took some fun pictures of me shopping. img_7405img_7359img_7329

This picture cracks me up because I don’t know what I was looking at or why my face looks like that. img_7336-1

The market is gorgeous in the fall. img_1967

After rounding out our shopping adventure at Mega Weg,where we were happy and surprised to find the rest of what we needed, the cooking began.

First up, the ramen. Below I’ve written out the recipe we used, which was adapted from Williams-Sonoma and Lucky Peach cookbook. Given that we’d had a fun day exploring Rochester, we didn’t start cooking until almost 6pm. So, this recipe is a quick version of ramen. It would be have been ideal to cook it at a lower temp for several more hours. But, we were pretty pleased with how our quick version turned out.

Pork Ramen

Serves 8

Ingredients:

12 cups water

5 sheets Kombu

3 handfuls Bonito flakes

3 lb bone-in pork shoulder, cut into about 8 small pieces (note, this was a ton of meat and I think 2 lbs would have been plenty)

2 Tbs Canola or vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

2 in piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 leek, carefully cleaned and chopped

5 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped

1 1/2 lb fresh ramen noodles (we used fresh noodles that were frozen and available in the  Asian Market section at Pittsford Wegmans)

Soy sauce for seasoning

Sesame oil for seasoning

Sesame seeds

8 eggs

4 green onions, chopped

First, make the Dashi broth. In a large stockpot, bring 12 cups water to a simmer, add the kombu and turn the heat off. Let steep for 10 minutes then remove the kombu and discard. Bring the water back to a simmer and add the bonito flakes. Turn the heat off and steep for 3 minutes. Strain the broth (although my strainer didn’t catch the residue from the bonito flakes, so I just poured the broth slowly into another bowl and discarded the sediment at the bottom). Pour the broth back into the stockpot and set aside.

Season the pork with salt and cut it into smaller pieces (I did about 8, but that was to save time. If you are cooking the soup for more than 2 hours you could cut fewer pieces). In a large saute pan, add oil and once hot add the pork pieces and sear them on both sides until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side (work in batches if it doesn’t all fit nicely in one pan). Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same saute pan with the pork fat, add yellow onion and cook over medium about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger and 1 cup of dashi to deglaze the plan. Scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan and let simmer for 1 minute. Add the chopped leek and cook for 1 minutes.

In the large stockpot of dashi, add the contents of the saute pan as well as the pork and 4 oz of mushrooms (save 1 oz for garnish). Cover and cook over medium heat for 2 hours (here’s where you can reduce the heat and simmer at a lower temp for longer if you have more time. I would probably do low heat for 4 hours next time).

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and break into bite-size chunks, removing fat. Remove the bone and discard. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Return the pork and strained broth to the stockpot and season to taste with soy sauce and sesame oil (if you have more time, cover and cook on low for 30 minutes at this point. We didn’t do this because it was already 9pm and we were hungry!).

Cook the ramen noodles according to the package directions. Cook soft boiled eggs (we did boiling water for 5 minutes) or whatever your preference is for the doneness of the eggs. Cut each in half lengthwise when they’re done and peeled.

To serve, place noodles, broth and meat in individual bowls, sprinkle with green onions, extra mushrooms and sesame seeds, and place two egg halves. Serve immediately. We added sriracha to give it more of a kick. (Also note, I think this would have been good with bok choy in it, so I would add that next time).

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This is what I decided was a “handful” of bonito flakes.img_1984img_1980img_1983img_1985img_1986img_1989img_2013img_2019img_2025img_2030

Voila!img_2066

We were really happy with how the ramen turned out. It was warm and comforting, tasty and complex.

To accompany our ramen we made Nikuman, steamed pork buns, using this recipe, with two major adjustments. I do not have a bamboo steamer, so I used the a regular pot steamer with the towel wrapped on the lid as recommended in this recipe. It worked great. But since I wasn’t sure how well the steaming would work, I was nervous to put raw pork in the dough before steaming. So, we cooked the pork mixture in a saute pan until it was thoroughly cooked before stuffing the dough.

Alison was a rockstar at kneading the dough and making the buns! Hers turned out much better than mine, so she took the lead on making these beauties.

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The big reveal! (yes, it was almost 10pm at this point)img_2045img_2046img_2050

It worked! I whipped up a simple dipping sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to taste. They were delicious. img_2055

We made two vegetable dishes from the Lucky Peach cookbook that Alison generously gave me: miso-glazed eggplant and sauteed bok choy. Both were very simple – the eggplant is just roasted with miso and the bok choy was sauteed in whole garlic and oil.

Here was our gorgeous spread, arranged and photographed by talented Alison! img_2062

We cheated a bit on dessert by buying mochi green tea ice cream, which was a refreshing finish to the meal.

We had so much fun cooking and eating together! Thanks for a great visit, Alison!

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¡Buen Provecho! – Venezuela

Venezuela: Tequeños con guasacaca, Arepas, Pabellón criollo, Besitos de coco

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A few weeks ago I hosted a Venezuelan dinner. I’ve never had Venezuelan food, and, spoiler alert, I’m a fan after this meal. The appetizers ended up being my favorite dishes, which is often the case for me. Some of my favorite meals are just a spread of appetizers.

First up, tequeños, which are essentially Venezuelan cheese sticks. Here’s the recipe I used. These are easy, fun to make, and delicious. In my search for recipes I also came across a version that included jalapeño, almost like a pepper popper, so I added strips of jalapeño to some of the tequeños, which is deliciously spicy. Or spicily delicious. 2016-04-30 16.21.12 2016-04-30 16.27.22 2016-04-30 16.35.39 2016-04-30 17.49.02

I love making dough. I always hold my breath a little bit, but when it ends up working it feels like such an accomplishment! 2016-04-30 17.27.57
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2016-04-30 18.18.10 2016-04-30 18.05.38 2016-04-30 18.45.462016-04-30 18.50.38These were a hit. I also made guasacaca to dip them in using this recipe. Guasacaca is almost like a pureed guacamole with a tangy bite. It’s delicious and also really fun to say 🙂 I doubled the recipe and ended up with a lot of it, and since it was so tasty I sent one of the guests across the street to the corner store to buy some tortilla chips so we could snack on it as I made the rest of the meal (which, par for the course, wasn’t ready on time). 2016-04-30 15.41.51 2016-04-30 15.55.45 2016-04-30 16.07.072016-04-30 18.31.01The second third appetizer was arepas. We put cheese, guasacaca and peppers on top and they were tasty. 2016-04-30 16.30.35 2016-04-30 16.35.392016-04-30 19.13.122016-04-30 19.13.46
The main dish was pabellón criollo, which is a very popular dish in Venezuela. The dish consists of four primary components: shredded beef, black beans, white rice and fried plantains. 2016-04-30 12.50.57 2016-04-30 13.02.19

The beef cooks for over four hours, so this is definitely a plan ahead meal.

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Lots of bell peppers in this cuisine. 2016-04-30 17.11.17 2016-04-30 17.16.47 2016-04-30 17.21.102016-04-30 19.35.24 2016-04-30 19.49.04 2016-04-30 19.42.03 2016-04-30 19.53.40 2016-04-30 20.27.52Here’s the vegetarian version, made with a fried egg.
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Dessert was besitos de coco – coconut kisses. I made these earlier in the day and enjoyed a warm one to taste test with a cup of tea from my personalized couch cuisine mug from Adena. 2016-04-30 13.39.30 2016-04-30 13.55.45 2016-04-30 14.01.54 2016-04-30 14.13.182016-04-30 14.29.15 2016-04-30 14.30.11

Lounging and looking over the rest of my prep list, which makes me feel like I’m on Top Chef I’ve found very helpful.2016-04-30 14.14.552016-04-30 14.33.47

The cookies are simple and coconutty and pretty perfect.

We had a lovely evening together. Trevor snapped this shot of me explaining how to assemble the pabellón criollo, and it cracks me up because it looks like I’m explaining and demonstrating how to use a fork. In other words, how to eat 🙂

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I would make all these dishes again.

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Ăn ngon nhé – Vietnam

Vietnam: Shrimp spring rolls, banh mi, chicken pho, broken rice with pork, Vietnamese iced coffee, bananas and tapioca with coconut milk, assorted pastries

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Just a block from my Philadelphia apartment was a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant that I frequented regularly. As I planned this meal I thought fondly of many meals shared there.

I was happy to find a great Asian market in Rochester where I was able to purchase many of the necessary ingredients for this meal. IMG_0008

I prepped some of the meal the night before – marinating the pork and pickling the vegetables. I was chopping til midnight 🙂 IMG_0014

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This was a fun, fresh, time consuming meal. I probably overdid it a bit and made an overly ambitious menu. On Saturday I spent most of the evening in the kitchen rather than relaxing and eating, but had wonderful guests who helped me prep and clean and made the work fun. The kitchen was a mess and the dessert ended up being an utter failure, but otherwise the food turned out wonderfully and I was really pleased with the meal.

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First up, shrimp spring rolls.

We had a little trouble with the spring roll sheets, but discovered the trick was to use only warm water, not boiling hot. I also bought approximately 17 times the amount of spring roll sheets I needed to, so I’ll be experimenting with turning lots of things into spring rolls over the next several years! These were fresh and tasty and fun to eat. I did MYO spring roll and these were a hit. Next time I’d make more shrimp.

The second appetizer was banh mi. My vegan-loving neighborhood of West Philly adores a tofu banh mi sandwich from a corner store also a block away from my apartment. It is practically legendary. I’m a fan as well. Since all my guests were meat eaters this meal I made the pork version. I partially used this recipe, though I added daikon to my pickled vegetable lineup per another recipe for a tofu version and used elements of the marinade for the pork from this recipe. The pickled vegetables turned out beautifully. IMG_0031

I found these great sliced pork chops at Wegman’s, which I (indoor) grilled, half of which I sliced for the banh mi and half of which I kept whole for the rice entree. IMG_0036

The banh mi sandwiches were also MYO and were fresh and delicious. A filling appetizer course. IMG_7667IMG_0040

I made two entrees, starting with pork and broken rice. I used this recipe, though just did the pork and broken rice, not the meatloaf. I love that the store had super broken rice. Which may mean this wasn’t the true Vietnamese broken rice, but I tried.

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I was busy working on the pho when I served the pork and broken rice, so didn’t sit to enjoy it, but it was gobbled up so I’m assuming it was good!

Pho. A classic Vietnamese dish. I’d never had pho before moving to Philly but was quickly surrounded by people who made eating pho almost an art form. In graduate school one of my roommates used to bring me chicken pho when I was sick and I swear it worked to speed up the healing process. Essentially a chicken noodle soup with all sorts of bonus ingredients. I was nervous to make it and have to say, am quite proud that it turned out well. It’s quite a process. I had a little panic moment when I realized that doubling this recipe meant my stockpot was not nearly big enough to double the amount of water required for a 7 pound chicken. So, I channelled the Italian motto “make do with what you have” and stuffed the chicken into the biggest pot I had and just made it work. I will also confess here that despite my culinary adventuresome spirit, whole poultry makes me nervous.  I think this is the first time I’ve ever single-handedly dealt with a whole bird.

Ta Da! It worked!

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The broth turned out beautifully, with layers of flavor punctuated by spicy toppings of fried shallots, cilantro, lime, bean curd, etc. I was quite relieved.

I sat and enjoyed the pho with my 16 lovely guests. They were all so gracious about the fact that we were eating soup without tables and chairs, given that I don’t have enough seating for everyone. A tricky feat with a hot bowl of soup. Couch cuisine, indeed. IMG_0037

I’m not quite ready to talk about the disaster that was dessert. Or, really, that wasn’t dessert, because it was completely inedible. I tried to make tapioca with coconut milk and bananas. However, the tapioca did not cook even after several hours, but instead turned into a congealed, uncooked mess that ruined the dutch oven that I unthinkingly cooked it in. Major. Fail. Thankfully I’d bought a few pastries at the Asian market and also prepared Vietnamese iced coffee (coffee with sweetened condensed milk) so the sweet tooth folks were at last partially satiated. IMG_7687

It was not the smoothest, most organized of my couch cuisine meals, but most of the dishes turned out really well, and I would make them again. It was a great group of people and the evening reminded me, again, how grateful I am to have a community of friends who can fill my apartment with healthy appetites, laughter, and cheer. Moving to Rochester has had its challenges, and I often miss the friends and amenities of my Philly life. However, this meal and evening made me grateful for this season – for the little things like recreating a favorite dish from West Philly in my own home, and for the new people who’ve come into my life in my new city.

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