Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: Another Cookbook Club Adventure

For this month’s Cookbook Club lunch, we ventured over to Southeast Asia to follow the Mekong River for a taste of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Burma. Our tour guide for the adventure: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, a novel of a cookbook with 175 recipes from the region.

We began the meal with an appetizer of Beef Lettuce Roll-ups. The recipe called for the beef to be simmered in coconut milk for 10 minutes. Against her better chef judgment, Crissy obliged past rare and found her lovely piece of Chateaubriand seized up and became tough. Texture aside, we enjoyed the beef encased in a lettuce leaf and liberally decorated with peppers, mint, peanuts, lime and a host of other traditional toppings.

Next on the agenda, the Simple Cucumber Salad. Cool, crunchy and refreshing the salad packed a bit of sweet tang with its vinegar-based dressing. Christina couldn’t find the smoky-flavored black rice vinegar the recipe called for, so she substituted balsamic vinegar, which the book suggested.

Rosie dared to make a recipe titled The Best Eggplant Dish Ever. She unfortunately realized later that this would shape up to be The Worst Eggplant Dish Ever because of the recipe’s incorporation of dried shrimp – a odorous ingredient that Rosie personally cannot stand. The rest of us loved the subtle stink of the dish and gobbled up the spicy eggplant mixture.

For the main courses, we enjoyed a Spicy Fish Curry with Coconut Milk that Crissy whipped together on the fly substituting shrimp for fish. Michelene had brought in a cone-shaped sticky rice basket steamer which she acquired while living in Thailand. We enjoyed the curry over the chewy and indeed sticky rice that came from the basket. Michelene also made the Tomato Salad, a concoction similar to salsa, also meant to be poured over the sticky rice.

Lauren completed the rice-o-rama with a fried rice dish called Perfume River Rice. The lemongrass-based rice also included dried shrimp, shallots, onions, cilantro and fish sauce. It is a simple yet very fragrant dish served majestically alongside fresh vegetables like tomatoes and cucumber.

Our Lead Chefs Mick and Carolyn joined us for the luncheon. Mick treated us to his rendition of Squid with Ginger-Garlic Sauce. The surprisingly very tender rings and legs of squid were lightly dressed and sprawled over a bed of greens. We could imagine this being a dish that the fishermen make on the beach with their fresh catch.

For dessert, Erin brought the Bananas in Coconut Cream and Bibby brought a very unusual Tapioca and Corn Pudding with Coconut Cream. We decided you really can’t go wrong with any dessert when topped or simmered in coconut cream! Erin switched things up using red Ecuadorian bananas, which are a bright yellow on the inside and sweeter than your typical banana. Bibby found the tapioca dessert to be a bit bland at first, so she incorporated palm sugar and more coconut cream for added sweet, creamy goodness.

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