This weekend, some friends of ours invited us over, along with another couple we’re all buddies with, for a late afternoon playdate / early dinner. I’ve always liked this type of playdate arrangement, and it’s just amazing how much easier it’s gotten over the past year. It used to be that the grownups had to have conversations in two-minute stretches, between dealing with diapers or tantrums or toy disputes. And if it got past seven, the kids all started melting down. But now, the kids actually go off and play together by themselves for long stretches of time, and the grownups can actually relax.
Anyway, the get-together was planned. And then my friend Megan reminded Polly (the hostess) that it was the Chinese New Year. Megan does holidays like nobody’s business. That’s her in the photo above, in her celebratory garb, and a copy of the “Learn Chinese Language and Culture” booklets she brought for everyone. (I now know how to say absolutely nothing in Mandarin.)
Then, last Wednesday, I saw these kid-friendly Chinese New Year recipes here on Babble and sent the link along to Polly. She was excited to try some of them out — which I find incredibly impressive, given that she has a full-time job, a three-and-a-half-year-old and a seven-month-old. But then, I like to surround myself with extraordinary women. (See Megan, above.)
In any case, I thought I’d report back. I love trying new recipes, and always find it kind of fun / funny to compare the inspiring beauty of the carefully dressed and designed recipe photos with reality.
First off, I’m happy to report that the food tasted great. As for the “kid-friendly” part…well. The food didn’t curse at, punch or insult the children. So I guess in that sense it was kid-friendly. But most of it didn’t go over terribly well, as is the case with most unfamiliar foods and flavors. Now the white rice on the other hand…
As my contribution to the meal, I made sesame noodles. This is what they looked like in the beauty shot. And this is what they looked like in reality:
Not terribly inspiring. They were, however, quite yummy, although the consistency was very sticky and clumpy. I followed the recipe to the letter, so I’m not sure why. If make them again, I migh try making the noodles a lot more al dente, and/or toss them with a bit more sesame oil before I put the sauce on. (Any culinary geniuses out there have other ideas?)
The orange chicken was fantastic. And I think the orange chicken in the Babble photo must have had some work done, if you know what I mean. I think some Photoshop hanky panky might also have been involvedd. Here’s some genuine, natural orange chicken beauty (note that much of it has already been eaten — a testament to its deliciousness):
The real standout of the evening were the egg rolls. Really tasty, and for the most part absolutely gorgeous. By far the closest in appearance to the Babble egg roll glamor shots. So we got excited, and did a little embellishment. We chose not to go the cut-them-in-half-and-put-them-in-vaguely-pornographic-positions route, but instead just, you know, put some chopsticks on the plate. And my friend Megan’s Chinese-ish hair tie thing. (Note kung pao chicken — also delicious — in upper right of frame.)
Guess we should have moved the plastic cutlery out of the shot. And there is one egg roll there up at the top that is slightly exploded. But in person (in egg roll?) they were really, really good-looking. And had great personalities, too.
So…a thousand compliments to the chef, and many thanks to the Babble food editors for assembling an inspiring lineup of deliciousness.
And to all of you, happy year of the Rabbit! (Although as far as I’m concerned — and I think Tiger Mother Amy Chua ought to be, too — it’s the year of the Goat.)
Photos: My craptastic Blackberry