Magazine article Sunset

Life of the Party

Magazine article Sunset

Life of the Party

Article excerpt

A food-blogging couple make entertaining easy--and a lot more fun--by letting their guests pitch in.

By day, Hong Pham is a radiologist. His wife, Kim Dao, is a dentist. But at night, they are the Ravenous Couple, bloggers devoted to making and chronicling the Vietnamese food of their childhoods.

Pham and Dao started the as newly-weds, to keep track of recipes handed on from the best cooks in their family. Before that, Pham says, "we'd scribble them down somewhere and lose them, and had to keep bothering our relatives." To their surprise, strangers found their way to the site, and now they have an audience of thousands-- many of them first- and second-generation Vietnamese immigrants like themselves. "We get sweet emails from people who say, 'This reminds me of home,'" Dao says.

Even though work, the blog, and parenting their young daughter, Emi, keep them busy, Pham and Dao find time to entertain. When friends came over recently, the couple served a showstopping yet easy Hanoi-style salmon family-style. Their friends scooped up the fish, along with accompaniments, to build their own noodle bowls and spring rolls. This DIY approach, says Pham, "takes away a lot of last-minute stress for us as hosts." Plus, "there's something nice about guests serving each other and helping each other make spring rolls," he says. "It's not just about the plate in front of them."

Litchi Raspberry Cocktail

Pham came up with this refreshing drink to pair with his rich Firecracker Shrimp (page 104). Pour one 16-oz. can chilled litchis into a colander over a bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup syrup. Slice about one-third of litchis in half. Put 1 cup raspberries in a pitcher and muddle them to release juices. Add all litchis and reserved syrup. Slowly pour in 1 bottle Prosecco and stir to mix. To serve each cocktail, add 1 or 2 raspberries, plus 1 litchi from pitcher, to a sparkling-wine flute, then pour in cocktail, serves 6 to 8 / 10 minutes



Fried until crunchy, these shrimp look a
little like firecrackers, with the tails being
the fuses. See make-ahead details (below)
for ways to prep them before a party.

24  jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per lb.),
    deveined and peeled, tails left on
1/2 tsp. each salt, sugar, pepper,
     and garlic powder
1   bunch green onions
1   tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
15-oz. pkg. square (about 7 in.) thin
   wheat-flour spring-roll wrappers *
Vegetable oil, for frying
Ginger Fish Sauce (recipe follows), thickened

1. To keep shrimp straight, make several
shallow crosswise nicks on their inner
curved sides with a knife, being careful
not to cut through shrimp. Put in a bowl.

2. Mix together salt, sugar, pepper, and
garlic powder. Sprinkle onto shrimp and
toss gently to coat.

3. Cut green onions into lengths roughly
the same length of the shrimp and put in
a small bowl. In another small bowl, mix
cornstarch with 3 tbsp. water to make a
thin paste. Stack 12 spring-roll wrappers,
cut them in half diagonally into triangles,
and cover with a damp kitchen towel to
keep from drying out.

4. Pour enough oil into a 6-qt. pot to come
2 in. up sides and insert a deep-fry thermometer.
Heat over medium-high heat
to 375[degrees].

5. Meanwhile, working with 1 triangular
wrapper at a time, lay 1 piece of green
onion and 1 shrimp on a narrower
comer of wrapper, with tail of shrimp
extending over edge. Brush opposite
comer with cornstarch slurry. Tightly
roll wrapper once over shrimp and
green onion. Fold the middle point of
the triangle over shrimp and green
onion, then finish rolling to seal. Repeat
with remaining wrappers, shrimp, and
green onions.

6. Fry shrimp 5 or 6 at a time until golden
brown, about 5 minutes. With chopsticks
or long tongs, transfer to rack set on
a baking sheet. Let drain briefly, then
serve hot, with Ginger Fish Sauce.

* Spring-roll wrappers made of wheat flour
(rather than rice flour) are thinner and end
up crisper than egg-roll wrappers; find at
Asian grocery stores. … 
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