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Asian Dinner for Timid Diners

I have a dear group of friends who tend toward the timid end of dining. Some might call it culinary xenophobia; I choose to be more charitable. I have tried to expose them to some of the foods I love but have met mixed success. There is a lot of sniffing and staring when we dine at Asian restaurants, so while I have the kitchen to myself I'd like to introduce them to one of my favorite Asian cuisines in a setting where they have no other option but to eat or risk my feigned disappointment. Yes, I am basically guilt-tripping them into eating Filipino. To that end, anyone have any comments on my proposed menu?

HORS D'OEUVRES
Lechon kawali (deep-fried pork belly with sweet bread sauce and pepper vinegar)
Lumpiang shanghai (pork spring rolls with sweet chili sauce)
Lumpiang gulay (vegetable spring rolls with chili-garlic vinegar)
Lychee martinis, mango smash

MAINS
Arroz a la Valenciana (paella) or Pancit Palabok (rice noodles with shrimp sauce)
Rellenong manok (whole deboned chicken stuffed with mincemeat, chorizo and savories)

SIDES
Lumpiang sariwa (egg crepes with fresh vegetables and peanut sauce)
Ukoy (bean sprout pancakes with shrimp)
Vegetarian kare-kare (native vegetables in a toasted rice-peanut sauce with shrimp paste)
Sinangag (garlic fried rice)

DESSERT
Avocado ice cream

I need to feed at least one vegetarian and am open to any other suggestions for less-intimidating dishes whether they be traditional or fusion. Thanks!

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    1. I wish you were inviting me! Looks great. I think you have a well planned menu. Lumpia are a very safe starter. And for the rest you seem to have one adventurous dish plus two safer ones. One thing is that I think rice with seafood is safer than the noodles in shrimp sauce because anything too marine tasting (I imagine the shrimp sauce has a strong seafood taste) can put off the less adventurous. Avocado icecream sounds dreamy. Good luck and have fun, I am sure that your guests will enjoy.

      1. Looks great! Wish I were coming. A few suggested changes:

        HORS D'OEUVRES
        Lechon kawali
        Lumpiang gulay

        Lychee martinis, mango smash

        MAINS
        Rellenong manok

        SIDES
        Lumpiang sariwa
        Sinigang ng kanduli
        Vegetarian kare-kare
        Plain steamed white rice

        DESSERT
        Mango sorbet

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          I haven't tried making sinigang from kanduli, so that might be an interesting option for the future. For right now, as I have been eating sinigang for the past 3 weeks, I am hesitant to subject myself to another meal of it.

          Do you not think that I should be offering another main option for the pescatarian guest? And is there a reason you prefer plain rice to sinangag in your proposed revisions?

          1. re: JungMann

            Sinigang--any fish will do. Something lighter and very distinctive in flavor, especially with malunggay.

            Plain rice--again lighter. You have quite a bit of seafood already planned.

            Same with the mango sorbet--just some lighter touches to what will be a fantastic meal.

        2. Let me start by saying I have eaten Filipino food, both in friend's homes and in restaurants, but ask me the name of even one of the dishes and not a chance in hell! That said, I think your menu sounds great... for adventurous eaters! For the folks you're entertaining, my instinct would be to reduce the menu variety or risk triggering the "Oh my god, do I have to taste ALL of that!" reflex. But hey, you know your friends and I''ve never met them. I'm impressed you're taking on that much work. Lucky friends!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1

            Can you describe any of the foods you've eaten? You might not remember the names, but there are some pretty distinct dishes that might give me insight on what Westerners like and dislike in Filipino food.

            1. re: JungMann

              Oh gosh, JM, it was so long ago my aging and decrepid memory has turned it all into gray rice pudding! But even if I could, I would not be a good one to guage others by since I will eat about anything. Well, at least more than most. Never found brains in any recipe to have a texture I enjoy, and I can't abide the back flavor of tripe. But I adore snails and kales and puppy dog tails. Well, cow tails anyway.

              I *think* (but could be wrong) one dish had skinless portions of a fairly dense white fish in a tomatoey (or at least red) sauce. And I'm fairly sure one of the dishes was made with cellophane noodles, that I had had many times before but never prepared in that way. And I seem to recall something exotic tasting yet well anchored by garlic. Coconut maybe?

              I'm sure this is no help at all. Unless you're planning on gray rice pudding? Sorry! '-)

          2. It all sounds wonderful. I hope these are very close friends who will not want to disappoint you. In my experience this type of "xenofoodic" deprogramming is rarely the success it should be relative to the effort expended.