Barbeque Season!

Barbeque season is almost upon us. It’s true that in our household, barbeque season could be any day that it isn’t actually raining or snowing, but when the temperature starts creeping toward 70 – that’s when we really start dusting off the Weber!

Almost anything tastes better grilled – that’s our credo. We have come a long way from the days when it was considered daring to push the hamburgers to one side and grill some bratwurst. Now we throw all sorts of things on the barbie, from Japanese salt-broiled salmon to Ga Nuong (Vietnamese barbequed chicken) to  barbequed corned beef brisket (okay – it’s not Asian, but it’s sooo delicious).

Today it’s supposed to rain – but just wait until the weekend!

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Fantasy Restaurants

Maybe you’re like me, and dream sometimes of opening a restaurant. I actually realize that it would be the worst thing I could do with my life – I’ve worked in restaurants and know that running one is not unalloyed fun – but it’s nice to fantasize.

And what type of restaurant would it be, you might ask. Well, sometimes it’s a Chinese restaurant. I live in Chicago, which is not a good Chinese restaurant town. There was a brief flare-up of Chinese-dining excitement back in the early ’70’s, when “Mandarin” cuisine was first introduced – but since then, things have not gone well. There are now only a handful of good Chinese restaurants in town (and a few more that are pretty far outside of town) – none of them anything like the old original, The Dragon Inn, which combined new and exciting food with a white-tablecloth ambience.

These days, if we want an outstanding Chinese meal, we have to cook it ourselves. Here’s a favorite dish that I’ve never seen in a restaurant – my adaptation of a recipe from “The Chinese People’s Cookbook, by Mai Leung:

Sliced Beef in Black Bean Sauce on “Two Sides Brown” 

And another favorite:

Mapo Tofu (Pork and Tofu with Hot Bean Sauce)

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Fantasy Restaurant #2

Sometimes my Fantasy restaurant is Lao. Chicago is home to quite a few Lao people, but no Lao restaurants. The closest we get are some Issan dishes in some of our Thai restaurants. So, we have to cook it ourselves – and fortunately we can. In the late 70’s we sponsored a family of Lao refugees, and I learned Lao cooking from them. Naturally, there were some limitations to how authentically they could reproduce their traditional dishes – many herbs and meats routinely used were not available in this country (no dried buffalo skin, for instance). So the Lao food I learned to cook is a bit different than it would be in Laos – it’s the cooking of the Lao diaspora, I guess you could say.

Here’s a recipe for my favorite Lao soup:

Kaopuhn Sai Nam (Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup with Noodles and Cabbage)

Also,

Laab Kai (Chopped Chicken Salad)

These crispy Spring Rolls go nicely with Laab Kai or Kaopuhn:

 Pan Gai Yoh (Fried Spring Rolls)

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