Indochina

green papaya saladwine with dinner

Another month, another meeting of the Bellingham Supper Club. Our theme was Indochina, which allowed for dishes from Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, with Thailand being an allowable deviation. We had a great selection of white wines of varying sweetness or spiciness, beer, and lots and lots of good food.

snow peas

While we sipped glasses of Grüner Veltliner, Jenise stir-fried some fresh snow peas with sake and we picked them up with toothpicks to nibble on while we talked.

green papaya salad

Our first sit-down course was Roger’s green papaya salad. Very simple and refreshing, with just a hint of heat.

dipping sauce

spring roll toppings

spring rolls and coconut pancakes

Linda and Mike brought spring rolls. There were little coconut pancakes, which Linda claimed hadn’t come out properly, and fried spring rolls cut into sections. These we rolled up in lettuce leaves with herbs and vegetables and dipped into a fresh-tasting dressing of lime juice, garlic, chiles, vinegar, sugar and fish sauce. I particularly loved the texture and taste of the pancakes with the herbs and dressing – I hope to try these myself someday.

satay

Roger made a grilled chicken satay with yet another dipping sauce…

shrimp grapefruit salad

…and Georgiann made a creamy, lightly curry-scented shrimp and grapefruit salad, served in the grapefruit rinds.

dumplings

Jenise threw together some meat-filled dumplings, which were liberally garnished with hot chile peppers. I think it was at this point I went and got a bottle of Tsingtao to wash the food down.

ribs and curry

The last savory course was a lemongrass beef curry from Jenise, and pork ribs cooked in fish sauce and bitter caramel, from us (more about those below), with a bowl of rice.

pandan ice cream

And for dessert, a cup of coffee and a scoop of pandan ice cream.

pandan infusion

This was very successful, I thought, but pandan (the leaf from a type of screwpine – we buy it at Uwajimaya and keep it in the freezer) is an unusual flavor – floral, but also very toasty flavored. We’ve tasted it in drinking water, Indonesian curries use it to flavor broths, and it’s used in sweets of all sorts. Jon made the ice cream, looking up various recipes online and adjusting. It’s noteworthy that every single recipe he found was based on David Lebovitz’s basic vanilla ice cream, which is about as good as ice cream gets.

mixing the custard

into the ice cream maker

The recipe he ended up following was from Use Real Butter, with a few adjustments. He used twice as many pandan leaves, and chopped them up for a more intense infusion instead of knotting them. He didn’t use pandan extract at all, but added two drops of green food coloring to enhance the appearance. The color ended up looking just like classic mint ice cream. The flavor, though, was reminiscent of green tea, particularly the kind with roasted rice in it. And the texture was perfect, smooth and creamy. A little of this goes a long way, but a small portion made a perfect dessert after all the different flavors of the meal.

grilling pork ribs

Then there were our ribs, which were made right out of Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. We’ve made these before, but had used the broiler for the first round of cooking instead of the grill. This time Jon braved the elements and cooked them properly over charcoal.

grillin' in the rain

It was a nasty wet day. But the ribs smelled absolutely incredible on the grill. Warning – don’t attempt this before lunch.

putting ribs on to braise

After grilling the ribs go into a pot with their remaining marinade, more fish sauce, and a lot of bittersweet Vietnamese caramel sauce, which we had made earlier that morning.

feesh sossadding the caramel

braising the ribs

They simmer for an hour, until the meat is falling off the bone. The bitter char and smoke flavors from the grill blend with the bitterness of the caramel sauce, creating a rich deep flavor. So good.

Another successful Supper Club!

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