Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friends Come Over for Appetizers

This evening we had a couple friends come over. After this week of cooking, our cupboards are in need of replenishing, so I sat down with some cookbooks and tried to decide what I was going to make for appetizers for 6 people. I waffled for a little while, then waffled some more. Finally, after wasting most of the afternoon, I noticed people were going to be coming over soon. Procrastination feels great until you realize that you've still got stuff to do and now you've only got a few minutes to get it done.

So with friends coming over in less than two hours, and empty cupboards, what did I manage to get together? A couple of things. For starters, I decided to go with something tried and true, and one of my all-time favorites: spring rolls with (and this is the best part) spicy peanut sauce. I think -- or maybe I just hope -- I heard half of you saying "Hell, yeah!"

Now, even in their most basic form, spring rolls are a work of art, but there's a place in town that makes the best spring rolls humanity has ever tried; Jasmine Deli (sorry, they don't appear to have a website). Rather than the predictable combination of rice noodles, bean sprouts, shredded carrots and mock duck in a rice wrapper, they really go all out and add cilantro, garlic, and a whole bunch of other great stuff.

For years, I've tried to emulate what they've got going on in my kitchen. While I don't think I've quite nailed their recipe, I have come up with a couple of my own things. I like my spring rolls with a little sautéd onion. Well, not just sautéd, but sautéd to the point where the edges are just starting to blacken. Also, I like to chop up some mock duck into small pieces, put it in a pan with some of the juices it was packed in, some tamari and minced garlic, and some flour (to thicken the sauce) and bake it for about 30mins, taking some time to stir it about halfway through.

With the spring rolls out of the way, I moved on to the real challenge for the evening, home made steamed dumplings [1]. I've made these one other time in the past (friends coming over is not the time to try something new, go with the tried and true) and I remember them being a lot more difficult that time around. They came together relatively quickly and were well worth the effort.

[1] Grogan, Bryanna. "Potstickers or Savory Steam-Fried Dumplings." Recipe. Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen. Summertown, Tennessee: Book Publishing Company, 2000. 69-71


  1. Everything looks great! I have never tried to do a potsticker/dumpling before.