Monday, July 21, 2008

Circa 1999

When I was younger, straight out of college, it was important to me to connect with other queer Asian folks. Thus I had what I called an Asian queer posse. Now that I'm older, I don't really seek out friends based on sexuality or race but I definitely understand the necessity and the desire to do so. Because not everyone understand it when I say I'm so over being asked if I'm Chinese or not. Or the assumption that I need a man in my life. Anywhoo...

One of the best things to come out of that stage of my life (besides some very important and profound friendships) was the great belief that food is much better shared and the seasons for food are somehow honored. Hot pot parties were held in the winter and summer roll parties were always in the summer.

A lot of my Asian posse is gone now. Many have moved away from Boston and well even though I stayed here, my life is supremely different than even I could have imagined. I'm happy and in love and most days I love what I do for work. But did I ever see myself discussing what fashion styles are "trending" with most people? Did I ever see myself telling someone that their ass looked amazing in a pair of jeans? No. The answer would be an emphatic no.

So a lot of my immediate friend circle in Boston isn't Asian or even gay for that matter. But that hasn't put an end to my longing for summer rolls. My lust for them begins around this time every year and often I find myself satisfying my summer roll needs on my own. Since I wasn't raised with a ton of Asian culture, I never felt quite up to task for hosting such an event. What if I bought the wrong rice roll wrappers or tofu. Would I know which chives to buy? And rolling the suckers???!!!! Omg, don't even get me started.

I am, perhaps, the worst summer roll wrapper on the face of the earth. Sheer greed and laziness take over as I pile more and more things onto my poor little rice wrap. In the end, I'm always left with something resembling a fat burrito from El Pelon (no offense to El Pelon). I say I like to make them big because I don't have to get up for more very often, but the truth is, I'm a complete glutton. And out of shame for my fattie summer roll technique, I've never hosted a party on my own. I mean, what kind of Asian would I be if I showed non-Asians how to roll summer rolls and they all looked like over stuffed burritos. Nevermind that I'm Korean and raised by white folks, still, the shame, the shame!!

Finally, this summer I decided to own my internal summer roll issues and hold a party of my own. I got up early and went to Super 88 in Chinatown. There I found everything I needed. Infact I was so impressed with myself, I knew what tofu to get based on what I remembered the label looked like from years ago. I would like to say that getting all the stuff wasn't a hassle and in a way it wasn't because everything I needed was right there but it was kind of a pain. If you haven't been to the Super 88 in Chinatown on a busy Sunday morning, you might not understand. But it got to the point where I became okay with mowing down old ladies in the aisles. I know, I know, but dude, seriously, they were shoving me and cutting me off first! I'm just sayin'.

I got pretty much everything I needed and everything you see on the table picture above and guess how much it cost? $15 bucks! Woohoo, I was wicked excited. I need to start buying my veggies someplace other than the ghetto Shaws. That place really is expensive and horrible.

Anyway, I got home and prepped the veg. I triple washed everything and trimmed it all up, which took me a good hour to do. I took a cast iron pan and after wrapping the tofu in a tea towel, placed the pan on the tofu and left it there for a couple hours. This ensured that the tofu would be firm and not watery in the rolls. I prepped the shrimp and noodles and made the peanut sauce (1 part peanut butter, 1 part hoisin, 1/2 part soy, water to thin to whatever consistency you like).

It turned out to be an easy, cheap and fun way to entertain. My guests enjoyed the experience and some of them turned out to be summer roll rolling masters (I'm looking at you E) or least better than their host.

I was so happy to share my love of summer rolls with a new batch of friends and in turn realized that sometimes it's not about being "authentic" with the food when you host a dinner party but it's about being "authentic" with your desire to make sure everyone has a great time.


Andra Sue said...

Hey--you have to tell me what wrappers are the right ones to get. Every time I've made summer rolls at home, the wrapper has an odd (plastic-y?) flavor that I just can't get past.

And yeah, talk about feeling overwhelmed at the Asian market... :)

Leah said...

I use a brand with a rose on the front of it. I think even the name of the brand is 'the rose'. But it also has a ton of other Vietnamese writing on it. It's also super duper packaged tightly. I think that rice paper wrappers can get stale if they get old or are exposed to air for too long. So perhaps your wrappers were old? Good luck lady!!!!

Troop Leader said...

Rolling a summer/spring roll is no different than rolling a burrito. You should see me make real sushi rolls... I'm a roll master! ;-)