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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dinner with friends

dinner party

The biggest thing I love about Asian food is its communal sharing of dishes. An array of dishes are prepared, everything is thrown into the middle of the table and then everyone just digs in.

Cooking at the table adds another dimension to the experience, especially when friends have been gathered together for a catch-up dinner party. Instead of constantly losing the host to the call of the kitchen, the stove (or a portable gas burner) is transported to the dining table, bringing with it hands-on conviviality, up-close sights, sounds and smells, and the only time you'll get to eat straight from the fry-pan with dignity and decorum intact.

Crispy dumpings

M and J were the perfect hosts, commencing proceedings with truly the most delicious pan-fried dumplings I've ever had the pleasure of eating. Pork mince, marinated overnight with soy sauce, green onion and grated ginger, had been enclosed in gow gee wrapped, cooked quickly in boiling water, and then pan-fried for a minute or two in a little peanut oil.

The dumpling skins were as soft and slippery as silk, but for the bubbled edges that were golden, crunchy and crisp. These were dipped in a vinegar and soy sauce mixture, the acid cutting through any notion of fattiness and easily enabling a second helping or two (or three).


Dinner was bo nhung vi, a Vietnamese dish of beef pan-fried in butter and then wrapped in rice paper sheets with noodles, vegetables and herbs. Crunchy beansprouts, spears of cucumber, slices of tomato and wedges of pineapple and laid on top of the cooked beef and mattress of rice noodles. A few baby leeks, sweet and vinegary, are added with lettuce leaves and a generous handful of mint leaves, then tightly wrapped up in rice paper and dipped in nuoc cham dipping sauce.

The sweet slightly acidic pineapple pairs brilliantly with the thin slices of caramelised beef. It's a meal to linger over, relishing each zingy mouthful in between conversation, as you catch up with friends.

beef roll ingredients

beef roll wrapped up

beef roll bitten
8 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 10/18/2006 11:47:00 pm


  • At 10/19/2006 3:04 am, Blogger Yvo Sin said…

    Mm that looks delicious, and, as usual, great pictures! Is there any particular way to wrap the item at the end? I've eaten those in various Vietnamese restaurants but never considered making them myself. Usually mint leaves, vermicelli, shrimp, and then dipped in peanut sauce... so good!

    (Darn blogger/my computer, I've been coming here every day and saw no updates until today I pressed refresh. Oops.)

    I just read your response to my comment on the Burmese restaurant (should I have put this there?)- sorry, I'm actually in NYC, I just love reading your site for the pictures, the descriptions, everything. Sydney/Australia was on the fringe of my list of places to visit but you're pushing it further up the list... :)

  • At 10/19/2006 9:08 am, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    aww i love dinner parties! i wish i was a better cook so I would feel i little more confident about inviting people over. See you tonight!

  • At 10/19/2006 9:22 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    I could do with a few of those bad boys this morning.

  • At 10/19/2006 12:28 pm, Blogger Jen said…

    I have the exact same gas burner!

    I love these types of dinner parties, because as you said they are so communal and foster better conversations than more formal dinners.

  • At 10/19/2006 4:07 pm, Blogger Vintage Wine said…

    Yummy! :-)
    And I agree with you, it`s great when the host doesn`t have to run between the kitchen and where the guests are.

    Those Peach almond muffins looked delicious, I`ll save the recipe & try them sometime :-)

  • At 10/19/2006 11:45 pm, Blogger papa lazarou said…

    delicious ! my fave kind of dinner parties too... i love the steamboat/vietnamese roll wrapping/korean bbq dinners at home all cooked on the dining table... so much fun, just let your guests do their own cooking!.. i've stopped using my portable gas burner and started using my fancy ceramic portable cooktop.. its lovely black and shiny, and lights up like a space ship... cant read the chinese characters, but all i use is the 'instant boil' button...

  • At 10/20/2006 2:30 am, Blogger Tubby said…

    Oh those dumplings look delish! I never made the effort to make them because of the time required (I'm very impatient).

    Oh and I love Vietnamese food too (in fact, I made Bo Kho, which is a Vietnamese beef stew noodle soup recently and have the recipe and pictures on my blog)! I might go ask if I could have that for dinner on the weekend =)

  • At 10/20/2006 11:19 pm, Blogger thanh7580 said…

    Jenjen, I think everyone must have that gas burner, I have one too.

    I use that for steam boat mostly and the occasional grilled beef and wrapping the beef in rice paper roll like what you have done Helen. The communal eating is really a great way to share food.


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