I have hosted a good number of dinner parties over the years, ranging in many themes from Moroccan, tapas, global pizza to Hawaiian and game night. This past weekend, I decided to have an Asian inspired dinner party. Each couple brought a dish and I prepared a few things to round out our four-course meal.
We started with a cold Sake since it was a warm evening. It was something I had picked up on my last visit to Hong Kong, a light refreshing drink. The first course was Chicken Chow Fun, which is normally had as a main course. It is fresh thick noodles cooked with chicken and vegetables in a spicy black bean sauce.
The second course was a bok choy salad and a green papaya salad. If you have never tasted green papaya before (as I had not until now), I strong encourage you to try it. You must buy a green unripe papaya for this recipe (which I have shared with you).
For the main course, I bought whole tilapias (cleaned) and marinated them with a seasoning of olive oil, cilantro and garlic. I let the fishes absorb the flavors in the refrigerator for couple of hours, before wrapping them in banana leaves and grilling them on an outdoor grill. The banana leaves do two things for the fish. They retain the moisture and juices of the fish and give it a steamy affect without burning the meat. Secondly, they release fragrance to the fish allowing for an extra dimension in flavor. I served each person their own whole fish wrapped in banana leaves along with orange infused sticky rice. We took part in communal fish wrapping which made the party even more fun and my guests actually learned something new.
Banana leaves are available at Asian farmer’s markets for about $2-3 per bundle. The bundle I purchased was more than enough for 8 fishes, plus I had a lot left over that I later used as table mats. The key to grilling banana leaves is that you first need to prep them. Either microwave each leaf on high for 1 minute or grill it on an open fire on both sides. The leaves will contract and becoming more flexible for folding.
Our dessert consisted of a coconut gelato with pineapples that were soaked in rum and gently grilled. We wanted to stay with a Asian theme and incorporated all the fruits from the tropics.