My favorite thing about a weekend at home is Eric’s cooking. Whether it’s dinner for two or a house full of guests, Eric masters the kitchen domain and I obsess over the presentation, pomp and circumstance. Each of us fusses over our respective area of expertise until every detail is perfect. When I know my responsibilities are fulfilled, I pour myself a glass of wine and take my place at the bar to watch the magic happen.
Whenever I challenge Eric to prepare a particular meal, he has a meticulous way of researching, learning, and perfecting the style of cooking it involves within a matter of days. No type of food is off limits, but Asian food is by far his favorite to master. Eric first began his love affair with Asian cuisine in his early 20’s when he began visiting close friends in Thailand multiple times a year. He was awed and inspired by the delicious and exciting new flavors of Thai cuisine, whether it was “pig-on-a-stick” or a giant plate of freshly fried Pad Kee Mao, his taste buds were tantalized and hooked for life.
After a couple trips to Thailand, Eric realized that his chances of indulging in the same caliber of authentic Thai cuisine state-side was slim to none, thus, his quest to recreate the amazing dishes he so much enjoyed in Southeast Asia began. He would spend hours and hours when visiting our friends in Bangkok simply observing the house cooks as they concocted slowly simmered curries and soups, stir fried noodle dishes or whatever happened to be on the menu for that day. Very few words were exchanged as this English-speaking white guy from America sat quietly and observed the group of older Thai-speaking women cook up some amazing culinary treats. They would patiently demonstrate their basic techniques to Eric, silently sharing with him the power of layering flavors, and he just soaked it up.
Eric’s quest to learn the art of cooking authentic Thai food slowly began to morph into a much larger beast. As his trips to Thailand evolved into trips to Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, China and beyond, his obsession with recreating the wonderful dishes of these countries at home in Washington grew stronger.
This weekend I put in a request for authentic Chinese food. Of course I know better than to spring it on him last minute, so I gave him a few days notice so he could mentally prepare. After a few visits to the Asian market in Seattle for inspiration, and an evening or two of reviewing some of his favorite recipes, a feast was born.
Dish after delectable dish came rolling off the wok. We had Kung Pao Chicken, a surprisingly light yet fiery stir-fried chicken dish with dried red chiles and crunchy peanuts.
Next came stir-fried Ho Fan with beef and wide rice noodles speckled with scallions and fresh mung bean sprouts.
And of course, BBQ Pork Fried Rice and Vegetable Chow Mein–both fantastically light, fresh dishes that rounded out the complete meal.
After stuffing ourselves beyond silly, we made a call or two to see who wanted “Chinese take-out” for dinner and headed out to make a few special deliveries. Sorry, folks, chopsticks not included!
A note about the table setting…
The collection of Jade Dragon dishes we used is a set Eric came across at a garage sale years ago. The dishes were hand-painted in Hong Kong, but we really don’t know much about them beyond that. What I DO know is they add such a great decorative flare to all of Eric’s Asian-inspired meals, so I incorporate them into my table settings as much as possible.
The brightly-colored cotton place setting accents are part of a collection of hand-woven material I acquired from a handicraft market in Thailand. These all-purpose pieces of material come in assorted vibrant colors and can be used for just about anything–table runners, table cloths or even as a wrap or scarf. I especially enjoy using them in my table settings because they add such a unique dynamic to every meal presentation. For more information or to purchase one for your own table setting, visit MISC Root on Etsy.