Asian cuisine is one of our favourites to eat and as we rediscovered last night, the flavours and cooking techniques between the countries within the region can be so vastly different. It was this variety that inspired us to host the second edition of The Supper Club with an Asian kitchen flair to it.
We accidentally ended up making another series of plates to share this time around, we promise this won't be the theme for all SCs but it just so happened to work really well for what we were trying to put on show.
All in all eleven dishes were served which we chose based on our own experiences both in New Zealand and overseas. Thank you to our friends who so graciously lent us their mouths and their model worthy hands for the evening.
Edamame beans & spicy kimchi
Edamame beans are an essential bar snack in any Japanese establishment. Dylan has a particular soft spot for Japanese food and culture so having warm whole beans with a sprinkling of salt on the table only seemed right. Kimchi for me reminds me of our Korean neighbours growing up who would frequently invite my brother and I over for a traditional lunch where kimchi of course always made an appearance. Spicy, garlicky fermented cabbage isn't the sort of food you want to eat on a romantic dinner for two but boy did it go down a treat with the group. Alas we cannot claim it as our own creation, the local Asian supermarket sold mighty big tubs of the stuff. I wish we had bought two (I type as I fork it straight from the tub).
Pork, prawn & chive dumplings with spicy cucumber salad
On our first date I took Dylan to this small dumpling restaurant that was out of the way from the usual trendy dumpling hot spots. I discovered this place by chance whilst eves dropping on a conversation at my old workplace. It is small and has that bare decor typical of a family run Chinese restaurant and only the young son who works there from time to time speaks English. Having taken many friends and family members there over the last few years I now walk in the door and the owner's face lights up and we great each other like we are best of friends. Dylan was sceptical at first but once the big bamboo baskets of pork and cabbage dumplings came out along with my favourite spicy cucumber salad he was converted. Order two is an ode to that fateful first date of ours.
Indonesian satae chicken skewers & Thai inspired peanut slaw
Around six weeks ago I visited Bali, Indonesia, with my family. Indonesian food is beautiful with all of its flavours and textures and traditions surrounding it. The house we stayed at from time to time made us dinner and I was hooked on the satay (spelt satae over there) chicken skewers. I told the chefs how wonderful it was and asked for the recipe. They laughed and showed me the box in which the sauce came. It came in a solid brick of peanutty stuff about the size of a bar of soap and you literally just boil it up with some water to create a delicious thick sauce. The next day I went to the supermarket and bought seven packets to give to my foodie friends and it is the same sauce that we used tonight. The skewers of chicken were lightly marinated in garlic and ginger before being barbecued then served with a bowl of the sauce on the side. Unfortunately no matter how hard you try, satay will never look attractive when served up. Our Thai inspired slaw was a fresh mix of cabbages, carrot, coriander, vermicelli noodles with a fresh lime and ginger based dressing. I made up way too much but even then it still got demolished. The fresh flavours were a nice contrast for the dumplings prior and good prep for the fried nature of the course to follow.
Karaage chicken bao & miso roasted aubergine
We love Taiwanese bao and in the past we have experimented making it ourselves to great success. Karaage chicken, another nod to Dylan's love of Japanese cuisine provided the perfect filling. It turns out you can buy bags of 20 frozen bao buns from good Asian supermarkets for around $14. They are perfectly formed and so sweet and fluffy it seemed like the perfect excuse to bao out of making them ourselves. The crunchy texture of the karaage, the sour quickle of cucumber and carrot and the essential kewpie and sriracha squirts all enveloped in the soft lush bao bun made this my favourite dish of the night. You can't have anything Japanese inspired without a cameo by miso also. The aubergine was sliced up into chunks then roasted until just tender then coated in a miso containing paste and roasted again.
Red braised pork belly & steamed pak choi
This was a debacle and a half to make. Trying to keep a calm face in the presence of guests when caramel keeps burning and the spitting from the pan was a challenge. The skin was first placed downwards into a pan of hot spitting caramel then a pile of other delicious ingredients like soy sauce, rice wine and star anise was added and the whole thing braised for an hour and a half until melt in your mouth tender. It was rich, sticky and delicious. The leftover pork made great banh mi sandwiches the next day too. To balance out the belly fat we served this plate up with some freshly steamed pak choi with garlic, ginger and soy sauce.
Vietnamese coffee ice cream with extra condensed milk
In the last couple of years we have both independently visited Vietnam. One of the stand out culinary features of our trips is the drip coffee served on the streets with condensed milk. I remember sitting on tiny chairs at 6am with a friend under an awning in the pouring rain sipping our sweet coffee with the locals. This ice cream was infused with coffee grinds and sweetened using condensed milk rather than white sugar. Whilst it wasn't as strong as the coffee in Vietnam it still had that lovely creamy condensed milk flavour about it. If that wasn't enough to convince guests I served it up with another drizzle of condensed milk for good measure. Whilst out shopping for ingredients we also purchased a packet of Pocky on a whim to serve with our ice cream because why not?
After the final plate was demolished and our guests went home to nurse their food babies and we were left to deal with the monsoon of mess in the kitchen. The dish washing was more than worth the excellent time we all had though.