Successful Housewarming

18 Feb

It took a full day of recovery to even contemplate using my brain, but I’m there. The housewarming was a success. We were afraid we prepared and purchased too much food, but we had just enough – with the exception of the monster egg rolls Thuan ordered from Eden. Still, our guests were happy to take home plates for other family members or lunch the next day which, always helps with the leftover overflow.

It was interesting to see who liked them and who didn’t – they were more like Chinese egg rolls with the filling and were huge. Like double the circumference and longer. Quite an endeavor to finish. They egg rolls were getting soggy by the time the party got going, so we set the oven to 170 and let them crisp up in the oven while guests arrived.

Anyhow, I was negligent in getting photos of all the food while playing hostess, and my father who is usually a professional paparazzi followed our explicit instructions and simply enjoyed the party (it was difficult for him, no doubt, but he didn’t lift a finger and enjoyed himself).

Canh Kho Qua (Pork Stuffed Bitter melon Soup)

Pronounced like “Kahn Who Wah” (Marines can say it – think Oorah, but without the R).

Remember I made the filling the day before, so the morning of the party all I had to do was blanch, slice and stuff the bitter melon.

For 2 lbs of ground pork mixture, I filled 10 bitter melon. When I make this for the two of us, two bitter melons and about 1/2 pound of pork will do.

Blanch the bitter melon for a few seconds in boiling water – the flesh will turn a vibrant spring green – and remove to ice water to stop the cooking process. Once cool enough to handle, slice the bitter melon in 1 – 1.5″ sections. The inside is pithy with larger seeds that must first be removed. Take a small spoon and pierce the edges where the pith meets outer green flesh all the day around. It is easier if you do this on both sides and then take your thumbs and push through to pop it out. (I’ll take photos next time – I was juggling a few kids and running behind schedule, so no time for photos).

Then, get to stuffing. Take a spoonfull of the meat mixture and fill the center, pressing on both sides to make sure it’s firmly packed. If you don’t have enough stuffing, it will probably fall out while cooking.  If you have any leftover meat, make meatballs to toss in the broth.

Stuffed Bitter Melon ready to cook

Stuffed Bitter Melon ready to cook

Actually, one of his cousins told me that she doesn’t always stuff the bitter melon if she doesn’t have time – instead she slices the bitter melon thinner and makes only meatballs out of the mixture and cooks them together. Sounds good, too!

The soup is made of Chicken Broth, 1 whole Shallot, Mushroom Seasoning, Fish Sauce and Sugar. Chop green onions and cilantro to add towards the end.

For this large of a batch, I used 64 oz low sodium chicken broth + 2 cups of water. As usual, amount of seasoning is all to taste – so start small and add as you go. Before I walked away, I added 4 tbs Mushroom Seasoning, 3 tbs Fish sauce and Sugar. When I came Má was tasting and adding, so I’m not sure what we ended up with.

Ma making some adjustments to the soup.

Just checking in…Ma making some adjustments to the soup.

We also broke in the grill (with new grill grates) the previous owners graciously left for us to use. We marinated Korean BBQ Short Ribs and Chicken Wings for more than a day – these are always a family favorite. Any jar of Korean BBQ marinade will do – look for the one marked for Gal Bi and if you can tell pick one with higher Asian Pear content. If you want to spend a little more time on the marinade, get an Asian Pear and grate before adding to the marinade. The flavor will be richer and sweeter.

For the chicken wings, mix up equal parts Sugar and cloves of minced garlic (so 4 tbs Sugar and 4 cloves minced garlic), Maggi seasoning (or soy sauce if that’s all you have) and a knob or so of ginger. Marinade should be on the thicker side. Mix well dissolving the sugar and add to a big Ziploc bag with the wings. Turn over every 4 hours of so to make sure the sauce gets in all the nooks and crannies.

Then just leave it up to the men to oversee the cooking…

Dad oversees the brothers on the grill.

Finally it was on to the cakes and games. We bought two cakes for Dad and Má, but Ba (Thuan’s father) also bought an ice cream cake and a cousin brought a massive chocolate cake from Cheesecake Factory. Suffice it to say, the kids were operating on a mega sugar high. The mustache cake was a white cake with strawberry filling from Cakes by Long, and the other a fresh creme strawberry cake from Breeze Bakery.

Birthday Cakes for Dad and Ma

Birthday Cakes for Dad and Ma

We finished off the night with poker and Sap Sam (also known as 13 Cards) for the adults, and Rock Band for the kids upstairs. Can you believe that was the first time we used the basement since moving in? We’ll eventually get furniture down there – but the never ending cycle of home updates and furnishing continues.

Food, fun and games

Food, fun and games

Trash and Recycle Day can’t come soon enough. Now who wants to come over and vacuum?

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