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With May being Asian Heritage Month, the Porktacular Dinner was a little more educational than my other dinners. As my dinner guests arrived, I talked a little about where the Hmong came from and how we ended up in the US. There are also pictures on display of us dressed in our cultural costumes – both Hmong and Laotian. So this month, our guests got to experience a little of our culture beyond just the dinner menu.

steamed pork bunsBecause the Hmong have moved around throughout history, we’ve picked up dishes and words from other cultures and have incorporated them into our own. Since steamed buns were pulled from the Laotian, the Hmong retain the use of the Laotian name for this dish. The phonetic spelling is “ka-lam’-pao.” Sometimes, it’s funny to hear children ask for this dish because they don’t always remember all three syllables. At times, I’ve heard children ask for “ka’-pao” which actually means purse in Hmong. 🙂

My daughter loves steamed buns and has now asked me to make these more often exclaiming that mine are wayyyy better than the ones we get at the Chinese restaurants. My guests also very much enjoyed the steamed buns and commented on how the flavors in the filling complemented each other so well. The filling included Chinese sausage, hard-boiled egg pieces, and a seasoned minced pork mixture that included garlic, chives, and straw mushrooms.

seasoned brown riceAs I was putting the final touches on the rest of the meal, my guests were able to get up and take a look around at the photographs of us in our cultural attire and ingredients for the meal.

The seasoned brown rice is one of those recipes where the flavors speak to me almost as if saying, “Yes, put us together and the dish will be extremely tasty!” I cooked the brown rice with a slice of dried galanga, some cumin, whole allspice, and sweet red beans.  When I was ready to serve the rice, some coarsely chopped cilantro was mixed in to add a light and refreshing aroma to the rice. As much as my dinner guests enjoyed every part of the meal, many of them talked about how good the rice was! I’ll have to remember to bring this dish back for a future meal.

leafygreensFor the leafy greens, there are several ways to prepare this dish. I chose to caramelize the sliced whole onions and garlic to bring out that deep nutty flavor into the greens. If you want a slightly lighter taste, then you wouldn’t caramelize the onions and garlic during the cooking process. The greens provided a nice balance to the meal.

Back in the old country where meat was far less plentiful, it’s possible that the sweet pork stew was created to use every last scrap of meat possible. Traditionally, meat scraps such as fatty pieces of pork with the skin on and various pieces of meat with the bone in are used for this dish. When I made the test batch earlier in the week, I had used pork chops with the bone in. However, when I made the dish for my guests, I used a sliced pork loin so it would be easier for them to eat (no bones).

sweet pork stewOne guest complimented me on how perfectly cooked the pork was. He felt it was easy to overcook pork to the point where it becomes dry and hard. And even though the meat was cooked twice for this dish – fried, then boiled – the pork loin retained its tender and juicy goodness. Since this was a new dish for everyone, I explained that the way I would eat this is to put my rice on my plate, then scoop the stew over my rice. My guests wasted no time in digging in. I think the most surprising part of this dish for my guests is the hard-boiled eggs. In some ways, it was like being a child again, “Oh, we get a hard-boiled egg, too!”

For dessert, I served a Laotian iced dessert pronounced “nam’-van.” For this dessert, different sized tapioca pearls, coconut jelly, soy beans, and sweet red beans are drizzled with coconut milk and caramelized sugar and served over crushed ice. Although as noted by my daughter that she will NEVER turn down this yummy goodness, this is one of those desserts where I crave it most on a hot, hot day. One of my guests exclaimed that the dessert reminded her of Asian shaved ice and was her favorite part of the meal. Who can blame her, right? It was sweet, light and refreshing. Delicious!

After dessert was cleared, the conversation was still going strong so I offered to show my dinner guests the Manhattan skyline from my rooftop. They loved that idea so up we went! They spent about 30-45 minutes chatting up there until they got too cold. 

Throughout the evening, there were constant exclamations about how good the food was which I gladly take credit for. But, more importantly, the part that I can’t ever take credit for are the wonderful guests who come to dine at my table. Thank you to my wonderful dinner guests who are always so interesting and willing to share a piece of their world with me and the other dinner guests. The wonderful couple from Germany got lots of tips on places to visit and things to do during the rest of their NYC visit.

For those who have never been and are curious about the supper club experience, I would say that besides the delicious food that is served, a large part of the supper club experience is meeting new and interesting people. I have as many guests come as singles on their own as I do groups of two or more. In addition, my guests are able to observe what I’m doing in the kitchen and ask questions while I’m putting each dish together. This is a great preview into my Cooking Workshops that will be launching on June 1st! More information will be provided on my blog in the next week about this.

With so much good food and great conversation, I invite you to join me for my next Foodie Friends Dinner on June 8th. Also, make sure to subscribe to my blog to stay current with my food happenings and send me a note if you want to be personally invited by email to the next Dinner with Foodie Friends. Hope to see you at my table soon!