Hey, do you guys remember my Secret-Secret Geography Club posts? You know how there were three of us couples who loved to try new foods, so we'd pick a country and then have an entirely International themed dinner party? Those were so much fun and it's been aaaaaaaaaaa-ages since I've blogged about one of our dinners. I have so many back-logged posts that were never unearthed and no new recipes to share with you since I've been sick with these dang kidney stones, so I thought maybe I'd share a dinner party with you. This one's called: THE RETURN of the Secret-Secret Geography Club.
It's been more than six months since we've gathered together as a group to make International cuisine, and two and a half years since I last blogged about one of our meals. We started with excitement, but after three years as a group and sampling over 20 different countries and cuisines I think we lost steam. It also didn't help that one third of our group moved away.
But Lisa had the brilliant idea to plan a SECRET Secret-Secret Reunion for Dan's 35th birthday. Joel and Lindsey drove two hours to surprise him and be here with us.
Dan was blindfolded and the smells wafted from my kitchen as he walked in the door and we all yelled "Surprise!" We were all together again and in the business of making and eating incredible International food. Our theme: The Best of Asian Cuisine. We took all the best dishes from the Asian countries we visited and recreated them. It was a perfect theme since Dan's favourite countries were always the Asian ones, and we had so many mouth-watering recipes to revisit and walk us down memory lane.
I made a Korean vegetable and rice dish that Lindsey originally made called Bipimbap (beep-im-bap). The veggies are all sauteed individually with soy sauce, sesame oil and a bit of fish sauce and then arranged beautifully on top of a bowl of rice with a heaping spoonful of gochujang (a Korean red pepper paste). My husband is a hot sauce addict so I just happened to have some of this stuff in my fridge.
Dan and Steve have been bugging me for months to make this Beef Rendang from our Malaysian night again. The depth of flavours in this dish are insane, with warm hits of star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and rich coconut milk. The dish is spicy and sweet, warm and rich. It takes over three hours to make, but both Steve and I decided it's utterly worth it. This dish needs to be made in this house over and over again. Waiting two years to eat it again is unacceptable.
While adding my star anise and cinnamon sticks, I smiled as I reminisced the very beginning of this group when we forged ahead in the unfamiliar territory of Moroccan cuisine and I hated it because of the cinnamon and licorice flavours in my savoury foods. Every country we'd visit, I would turn up my nose when someone put cinnamon or licorice in the food and yet I'd always be pleasantly surprised. My taste buds have really changed and expanded since starting this group and I owe it to my fellow Geography Club members and their amazing cooking skills.
Lindsey brought her scrumptious Chinese Pork Buns again and I was in heaven. This time she brushed the tops of them with honey before baking, giving them a lovely sweetness. Fresh bread dough wrapped around spiced pork is a wonderful thing.
Lindsey also brought us a lovely Thai salad made of pomello's, cucumber, carrots, mint, peanuts and a dressing of fish sauce, chili's, lime and sugar. Pomello's are an Asian cousin to a grapefruit but are much sweeter. Lindsey got hers nice and fresh at the Asian Supermarket in her new city, which is much MUCH bigger than our little Asian market.
The first time Lindsey made this salad it also had shrimp in it, which sounds weird but was oh so good.
We also got to indulge in a beautiful little Asian fruit I had never tried before called mangosteen. The outside flesh was a gorgeous purple colour. Lindsey found some beautiful mangosteens at her Asian Supermarket and brought them for us to try after our meal.
She also showed us the proper way to open a mangosteen. Place the green top in the palm of your hand and the bottom in the palm of your other hand.
Push the palms of your hands together until the aubergine rind splits to reveal brilliant fuschia innards.
The part of the mangosteen you actually eat is the white bulbs inside that look like garlic.
I can assure you it tastes nothing like garlic, but a sweet mix of strawberry and kiwi flavours wrapped up with warm vanilla tones.
It was a wonderful treat to break open our own mangosteens and each try one.
Lisa brought us some Asian inspired Lime and Mangosteen coolers to enjoy with our meal and later we sipped on some Japanese Plum wine and ate some salted dark chocolate that had chilies and pop rocks in it that they found in the States. The chocolate had nothing to do with our Asian theme, but was delicious and so fun to try nonetheless.
We couldn't have a best of Asian food meal and not have Lisa make hotteok (ho-duck) for dessert. Freshly fried yeast dough with brown sugar, peanuts and black sesame seeds sandwiched in the middle. All of us love to talk about this delicious morsel and reminisce. They were just as incredible as we remembered.