So, this is a little unusual for me. As you probably know by now, I’m not really a blogger. I love to use this space to put up recipes and share my videos with you, but rarely do my recipe posts go into general detail.
Lately I’ve been asked for lots of advice regarding throwing a dinner party. I KNOW, prepping a meal for your friends and keeping your place tidy for when they arrive (aka avoiding the cooking tornado) is a difficult task. Which is why I’ve decided that this post is going to be a little bit lengthy, detailed and include multiple recipes.
One of my closest friends, Phi, happens to be an amazing cook. Her family is from Vietnam and her Vietnamese food is some of the very best. Every year she has a giant pho party, and an invitation to her pho fest is highly coveted. So, when I decided that I wanted to make this post a little bit different I figured, let’s also throw in some recipes that are different! This is a longwinded way of saying that these recipes are the brain child of Phi and her family as seen through my eyes. I can’t take credit for making them, but I can take credit for sharing them with you.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MENU. My goal was to put something together that’s relatively easy but will turn out beautifully, while also keeping in mind that you’d prefer to not have to deal with a crazy kitchen mess.
Before going any further I’m just gonna say that a big part of making a dish look beautiful is picking the right platters to serve it on. For this meal everything is served in (or on) a rad piece from Hawkins NY. I’m obsessed with this store and I befriended the people that run the LA location. Oh yes, back to food.
Boozy + Bubbly Ginger Limeade
Goi Ga (crisp cabbage and chicken salad)
Nước Chấm (fish sauce for dressing and spring roll dipping)
Sea Bass Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Spring rolls are a perfect dish for a group because they’re interactive and hands-on for everyone. Not to mention, they make for an amazing looking table, with a whole roasted fish over here, spring roll papers over there, lots of bright crisp vegetables and herbs over yonder, and so on.
Here are all of the ingredients that you’ll need:
about a liter limeade
1 bottle of sparkling water
3 limes, sliced into thin rounds
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
16 ounces of vodka
a few sprigs of fresh mint
1 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1 rotisserie chicken breast, sliced thinly
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
2 tablespoons roasted and salted peanuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
1 cup warm water
1 - 2.5 pound sea bass (or whatever whole fish you can find with flaky white flesh), gutted, cleaned and descaled
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or any high heat neutral oil)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 package of rice noodles
1 package of large spring roll rice paper
1 head of green leaf lettuce, separated and washed
2 Persian cucumbers, cut into thin strips
1 package of bean sprouts
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of basil (or thai basil if you can find it)
1 bunch of green onions, chopped into small rounds
Ok, now here comes the fun part, organizing the meal so it doesn’t stress the heck out of you. Here’s how I did it….
If you want to put out any flowers, cut em and put them in vases first. Get any little detaily stuff out of the way, because you’ll forget about it later. For me, this means picking putting aside the plates/bowls I’m going to have people eat on, silverware, napkins and any candles I might want.
Wash and dry ALL of your herbs, herbs are easier to work with dry and will make your end result look way more impressive. After washing I lie them out on a dishtowel so they can keep drying and are accessible.
Make your Nước Chấm. This could NOT be easier. Simply combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved. Taste, and add extra sugar, lime or fish sauce to taste. Set aside in a serving bowl. And wash out the mixing bowl and whisk now so you can use it again later.
Make the Goi Ga. In your newly rinsed mixing bowl whisk together the salt, sugar and vinegar. Add the cabbage and toss to fully coat the cabbage. Set aside for 10 minutes to marinate. While it’s marinating, cut up your chicken, onion, and chop the mint and cilantro. Then, simply drain the excess liquid out of the cabbage and toss in a few tablespoons of your nước chấm and the herbs. Give it a taste and add more to suit your taste. Put the cabbage into a serving bowl and top with chicken and peanuts. Set in the fridge until it’s time to eat. Don’t forget to rinse that mixing bowl again and wipe off your cutting board.
Boil a large pot of unsalted water, once it boils add in the rice noodles and stir frequently to avoid clumps, cook for about 10 minutes until the noodle is soft, al dente is not the goal with the rice noodles. Once soft strain the noodles and run them under cold water. In order to serve them easily, the best and most efficient way to keep the noodles from clumping is to divide them into spring roll sized portions and set on a baking sheet to firm up. Once they’re holding together you can put them all on a platter, wash the baking sheet, large pot, and put the noodles on the table.
Make the fish! Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grab a baking sheet with a lip. Place the fish on the baking sheet, evenly distribute the oil on both sides of the fish and salt the fish both on the skin AND in the cavity. Fill the cavity with a generous handful of green onions. Bake for 25-35 minutes. You’ll know it’s done if you have a meat thermometer that reaches 145 degrees, OR if flesh feels soft and easily flakes with a fork.
While the fish is cooking arrange your washed lettuce, sprouts, cucumber, cilantro and basil onto a serving platter, and place on the dinner table to get it out of the way.
Take the goi ga out of the fridge and put that on the table.
Put the rice paper on the table and right next to it place a pie pan (or a pyrex) full of warm water to dip the rice papers before making.
Put the nước chấm on the table, set the table with plates, chopsticks, napkins, candles (if you want) and forks.
Get that fish out of the oven and move it onto your final platter. If it’s sticking to the bottom of the pan use a spatula to gently release the bottom of the fish (it’s ok if you lose the skin from the bottom of the fish. Toss the fish with the rest of the herbs (if you’ve got any) and green onions.
Finally: prep the cocktail, but make sure to do this JUST before serving. Put a sprig of mint and a lime wedge into each glass. Then fill the pitcher with the rest of the mint and limes, add the ginger and a lot of ice. Pour in the limeade, vodka and a splash of the soda water. Stir and give it a quick taste. If your limeade is really powerful, you will want more sparkling water, and you might want to add a little extra fresh lime juice.
Hand a drink to each guest, sit down and enjoy!!!!