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Best Weekend Lunch Deal

March 4, 2010

I expect you to have one of three possible reactions to the above pictures:

1) O wow! Two Time James Beard Winning Chef Susanna Foo – showing you HER recipes in HER kitchen, for only $50!!! SQUEAL!

2) Hey, isn’t that the chef that had that run in with that cop?

3) All those dates have already passed, so you must be super selfish and thus we are no longer friends.

Let’s address these possible reactions one at a time, starting with the SQUEAL! When Susanna Foo closed her namesake center city restaurant last year, I’m ashamed to say that I was not moved to tears or in any way inconsolable. In fact, I had never been to her restaurant and therefore didn’t know what I was missing. It was my uneducated palate (so control your anger and redirect it towards politics or some other useful exercise), but I really didn’t understand gourmet Chinese food. Japanese, Asian Fusion, Malaysian, Thai – these were genres I could get behind. But refined Chinese? I had always stupidly assumed that the difference between great Chinese and mediocre Chinese was limited.

If there was ever a cure for that assumption, it would be a four course lunch in the presence of a culinary legend. Her sample menu was all of my (and I’d presume, everybodies) Chinese food stand bys. Sweet & Sour Soup, Tofu Mushroom and Tomato Stir-Fry, Ginger Carrot Salad, Beef Ribs in a sweet sauce… all in the homemade style with recipes that were definite diviasions from what you’d get when ordering at Mrs. Foo’s Radnor restaurant.

Onto possible reaction #2 – the infamous altercation. In 2006. Which was the main reaon that I didn’t go on to visit her Center City mainstay. But even than, I had to wonder about how someone so petite and quiet would get to the point where she would take on a traffic cop. Regardless, I’m over it. And you should be too – I hate to be morbid, but Mrs. Foo has been creating culinary trends for the last 30 years. And only now has she invited us into her kitchen. Am I the only one jealous that I was born too late to state in the presence of Mrs. Child and the other women that revolutionize women’s place in the kitchen?

And the 3rd point – I am totally heart-breakingly selfish, but like the Grinch’s whose heart occassionally grows to accomodate feelings and emotions, I managed to squeek out a single question to Mrs. Foo while gushing over her signing my cookbook, “Will you be hosting any more classes?” (YOU’RE WELCOME) – and her response, “Yes, I think I will. Starting in May.” From Mrs. Foo’s lips to gods ears, right?

In the meantime, here is one of her sample recipes to busy yourself with.

Directly from Mrs. Foo –
Crispy Tuna Spring Rolls With Fresh Herb Salad
Serves 6
1 1/4 pounds sashimi-quality tuna, about 1 inch thick
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 large carrot
8 ounces spinach, stemmed and washed
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
6 Shanghai-style spring roll wrappers (available in the vegetable section of most grocery stores)
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
4 cups soybean oil or corn oil for deep-frying

Wasabi crème Fraiche1
1/2 cup pickled ginger (without added food coloring)Fresh mild herbs or baby greens (any or all of the following: basil, arugula, watercress, cilantro, chives)Honey Soy

Glaze Method:
Cut the tuna into 6 strips, each about 3 1/2 inches long and a 1 inch thick. Mix the salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Rub the mixture evenly over the pieces of tuna.

Peel the carrot and cut into 3-inch lengths. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the carrot into paper-thin slices; you need a total of 12 slices.

In a medium saucepan, cook the carrot in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Immediately remove from the water and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain, dry with paper towels, cover, and refrigerate. Repeat with the spinach and then the cilantro, squeezing out any excess water. Refrigerate, covered.

Lay 1 spring roll wrapper on a flat surface with a point facing you. Place 2 slices of carrot and a little spinach crosswise on the wrapper, about one third of the way from the top. Top with 1 piece of tuna and some cilantro. Fold the point farthest from you down and over to cover the filling, then fold in the left and right sides tightly, brush the bottom edges with a little of the egg yolk, and roll up tightly to seal. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling ingredients.

Heat the oil to 375 degrees. Add the spring rolls and fry until wrappers are firm, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, cut the spring rolls diagonally in half and place in center of six plates. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the crème fraiche around the spring rolls, mound a little of the pickled ginger next to each one, and garnish with the herbs or baby greens. Drizzle some of the glaze around the rolls and serve.

Wasabi Crème Fraiche
Makes about 3/4 cup
2 tablespoons wasabi powder
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup crème fraiche

In a small bowl, combine the wasabi powder with 2 tablespoons cold water and slowly mix until it becomes a smooth, thick paste. Add the vinegar and salt, and mix well.
Cover and set aside for about 10 minutes, until the flavors blend.
Add the crème fraiche and mix gently until well blended. The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 1 week.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 4, 2010 3:07 pm

    Such cool pictures! I was at her Philadelphia restaurant years ago, and her Atlantic City restaurant is one of my faves when I'm in the area.

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