All of us, regardless of nationality, can relate to the concept of a family-style meal – where bountiful bowls of homey food are passed around the table and eating becomes a communal experience. According to Andrew, Irene and Margaret Lei, it’s the best way to eat and, as part of a close-knit Chinese-American family in New England, it played a major role in shaping their values and career choices as adults.
While Andrew Lei developed a background in hospitality management, his two younger sisters ran restaurant pop-ups and wrote a blog called "Family Styles." Eventually the siblings joined forces to open a food truck called Mei Mei Street Kitchen. A brick-and-mortar restaurant and catering company followed, as did several James Beard nominations.
One menu item emblematic of their fun-loving, freewheeling approach to cooking is a sandwich invented on a whim by folding a leftover scallion pancake over fried eggs, cheddar cheese and pesto made with local greens. They named it the Double Awesome, and you’ll find the recipe for it in their new book whose title it inspired.
Enlivened with chatty personal stories and commentary, the recipes in "Double Awesome Chinese Food" seamlessly and deliciously meld the flavors of the authors' Chinese heritage with those of their New England upbringing and up-to-date tastes and sensibilities. Cranberries show up in a sweet and sour dipping sauce for Dim Sum Turnip Cakes and Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings. Maple syrup joins miso to dress up roasted Yukon gold potatoes. Ginger and scallion infuses a lobster roll designed to be served on either a whole wheat steamed bun, or a conventional hot dog bun.
Flexibility is encouraged throughout. The main component of Harvest Moon Curry is a simple coconut milk-based sauce spiked with red curry paste, poblano pepper, ginger, and a few pantry staples, designed to accommodate a medley of roasted vegetables (carrots, parsnips, and potatoes), or pretty much whatever you have on hand. I followed their instructions and threw in some leftover grilled steak from the night before, and the results were glorious — worthy of a tableful of diners, but practical enough to make for just me and my husband, with delicious leftovers for days.
Double awesomeness, indeed.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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