At home with Molli Voraotsady of So So Fed

Molli Voraotsady, chef-owner of So So Fed pop-up, is pictured at her home in Little Five Points. Pork and cabbage dumplings with chile oil dipping sauce is one of the dishes she enjoys cooking when she's not working. Food styling by Molli Voraotsady. (CHRIS HUNT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)



Molli Voraotsady, chef-owner of So So Fed pop-up, is pictured at her home in Little Five Points. Pork and cabbage dumplings with chile oil dipping sauce is one of the dishes she enjoys cooking when she's not working. Food styling by Molli Voraotsady. (CHRIS HUNT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Molli Voraotsady, chef-owner, So So Fed

Chef Molli Voraotsady, 32, loves the culinary traditions of Laos, the Southeast Asian country her family left as refugees decades ago.

Her weekly So So Fed pop-up restaurant serves what have quickly become some of Atlanta’s more sought-after dishes — from rich red curries to the savory steak dish Crying Tiger served with a spicy, funky dipping sauce highlighting Lao cuisine’s characteristic dried chiles and fermented fish flavors.

“I feel a huge responsibility to spread the word on Lao food,” she says, “especially its relation to Thai food, and how people always get our dishes mixed up.”

But like many professional chefs, Voraotsady — who was born in Atlanta and raised in the city’s southside in Riverdale and Fayetteville — uses her home cooking as an escape from elaborate restaurant preparations. A simple pot of pasta, for instance, makes for an easy meal, as does a steak cooked on her tucked-away Little Five Points grill’s patio. Sometimes, it’s a comforting bowl of dumplings, a recipe she shares with our readers.

What dish do you make when you need a quick dinner?

Spaghetti. That’s easy, with some meat sauce. Nothing too complicated. Or a steak and some veggies on the grill.

If you were going to have some people over for dinner and had all day to prepare, what do you like to make?

I usually just get seafood if we’re going to impress someone. It always changes. Sushi and sashimi is always fun when we have guests over. You can prep it all yourself. And we’ll do it Lao-style with a spicy dipping sauce.

Any dishes you like to make as a midnight snack, or if it’s after service and you’ve had a long day?

It’d be papaya salad, really spicy. That’s my go-to. You need a crunchy green papaya to shred up, then make a sauce of garlic, fish sauce, lime juice and tomato in a mortar and pestle. Mash it all up, throw the papaya in there and eat it with pork rinds on the side. It’s light but also really flavorful.

What is a cookbook do you turn to for inspiration?

“Hawker Fare” (by James Syhabout and John Birdsall) was a good reference when I started cooking. That’s a Lao cookbook that’s definitely my favorite.

Have you had any home cooking disasters?

There was the time my husband’s friend brought his new girlfriend over to introduce her, and I was trying to make salt and pepper tofu because she was vegetarian. In the wok, I had all these sliced jalapenos and it just gassed up the whole house. Nobody could breathe. Everybody was coughing! I think she might have thought it was a dinner-party-gone-wrong prank.

What advice do you have for people who are looking to improve their home cooking?

You’re never going to perfect a dish by just doing it just once. It takes 50-plus times. Even when I’m making a dish for work, it’ll take me multiple tries to feel like I actually understand it. Of course, something can taste good the first few times you make it, but the more you do it, the more you understand the dish and know the ins and outs so you can swap out ingredients or improvise. And you know how people play music by ear? Try cooking by taste as you go, instead of just at the end. Listen to your taste buds.

So So Fed, 5 p.m-midnight, Sundays and Mondays. 714 Moreland Ave. SE, Atlanta (located within OK Yaki).

Dumplings are a go-to dish for So So Fed chef-owner Molli Voraotsady when she wants a home-cooked meal because they are quick, easy, affordable and versatile. Food styling by Molli Voraotsady. (CHRIS HUNT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)


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Pork and Cabbage Dumplings

Dumplings are a go-to for Voraotsady because they’re quick, easy, and affordable, she says. The recipe is traditional and fairly straightforward. “You can also add in or remove any ingredients you like,” she says, “It’s really flexible. A lot of times I chop up whatever vegetables I have left over from service.”

For the dumpling wrappers: “Just use store bought,” says Voraotsady, “and a Chinese brand. You can get frozen dumpling wrappers at Asian markets. And use the circular white kind, not the yellow kind. The white ones are thicker and can stand up to steaming, frying.”

1 pound ground pork

1 cup finely chopped green cabbage

1/4 cup finely chopped chives or scallions

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons water, plus more to wet fingers

25-30 dumpling wrappers

Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the pork, cabbage, chives, soy sauce, cooking wine, sesame oil, salt, sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Using a spoon or your hands, mix well.

Cover the stack of wrappers with a damp cloth or paper towel. Fill a small bowl with water.

Remove one wrapper from the stack and place about 1 tablespoon of the dumpling mixture into the center. Dip your fingers in the bowl of water, wet the outer edge of the wrapper, then fold the wrapper to create a semicircular dumpling. Press the wrapper edge with your fingers to completely seal it, and crimp the edges decoratively. “I like to make three pleats,” says Voraotsady.” Place the dumpling on a sheet pan or cutting board. Repeat until all the filling has been used.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Working in batches to avoid crowding, add the dumplings. Boil for 12 minutes, remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon, and transfer them to a serving dish. Cover the dish to keep the dumplings warm, and repeat with the remaining dumplings.

Serve hot with dipping sauce, either on the side or drizzled over the dumplings.

Serves 4.

Per serving, without dipping sauce: 307 calories (percent of calories from fat, 18), 31 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram total sugars, 2 grams fiber, 6 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 71 milligrams cholesterol, 1,605 milligrams sodium.

Dipping Sauce

Use chili crisp if you desire a spicier sauce. Voraotsady recommends Lao Gan Ma brand.

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

4 tablespoons black vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons chili crisp (optional)

Add all ingredients to a small bowl and whisk vigorously until fully mixed.

Makes 3/4 cup.

Per 3-tablespoon serving: 45 calories (percent of calories from fat, 2), 3 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams total sugars, trace fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 1,022 milligrams sodium.

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