We had our friends D & JT over for a very belated birthday dinner. Originally, I was going to make Mexican food in honor of Cinco de Mayo, but they were going to be leaving for Mexico so I figured too much Mexican! We really wanted to do something different for this dinner party so we went with an Asian inspired theme.

If you are a regular reader, then you know my fear of “fish sauce”. I have been using a lot of recipes, lately, that all call for “fish sauce”. I am so naive that I thought it was the “oil” part of a dish and have been substituting just that, oil for fish sauce.

Christine, over at Holy Basil has been holding my hand during this entire “fish sauce” leap and since two of my recipes for this big meal needed just that, I ventured out to my favorite Asian Market and found just the one she recommended! Unfortunately, I do not think we need the hefty gallon size but it seems that is all they have. Out of a dozen different kinds they are all large or extra large. Luckily for us, the fish sauce definitely made the difference with our dishes and we will now be using it! I also learned something else at the Asian Market … rice paper wrappers are exactly that – “paper”!! I searched high and low thinking that they would be like wonton wrappers – big surprise when I stumbled upon them and lucky for me, just in time as it was the last package!

Okay, back to what we ate for dinner! We started the evening with the Blood Orange and Lychee Nut Caipirinha Cocktails and veggie spring rolls. Okay, we know Caipirinha are not very “Asian”; but, hey we did throw in a Lychee! I found a very easy recipe in Bon Apetite for the spring rolls. I did leave out the coconut and shrimp, as I was using these ingredients later on. Lenny was in charge of putting them together – he did a great job at rolling them, they looked perfect! We served them with three different sauces, a lime and chili one, a soy, honey and garlic one and a soy and chili one, all recipes are in the newest Donna Hay magazine and they are fantastic!

Our main course was Grilled Prawns with Szechuan Peppercorn Salt and Coconut Rice, thanks to Jaden over at the Steamy Kitchen. I have made the rice a few times in the past, it is really fantastic, the coconut is not overwhelming, just lightly scented and the coconut milk that is used during the cooking process makes it creamy but still with texture, it really complemented the salty but spicy prawns! The Szechuan Peppercorns are not peppercorns but a berry instead and they crush easily in a mortar with some sea salt. Interesting taste to them, when on their own – not really spicy almost a numbing sensation, but flavorful and a little spicy. When you crush them together with the salt it brought out an entire new layer of flavor which really complimented the smokiness from the grill and the rich taste of the prawns. As well we served some snake green beans that we sauteed with sesame oil and crushed garlic – YUM!

We served two wines with dinner, a 2006 Champalou Vouvry, which was outstanding! We discovered Vouvry style wines a couple years ago, during a trip we made to the Loire Valley, we fell in love with them and drank them on and off for the three weeks we were there. This particular Vouvry was slightly sweet at first but finished dry, it was chalk full of melon and apple which really complimented the spicy flavors of the shrimp. This wine is a very cool and crisp summer wine – we will definitely be drinking more of this! We then moved onto a big bad boy, a 2003 Boodeaux Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is BIG, CHEWY and JAMMY with nice smooth tannins, was nice to drink towards the end of the meal moving into dessert; but, would have been better with a grilled steak and a big baked potato. We really enjoy this wine and will definitely be adding it to the cellar. We think this wine will definitely age very well!

Dessert was really fantastic, and I wish the photo would had turned out …. we made a Banana Creme Brulee! Creme Brulee is always ultra rich but with the added ingredient, the Banana, it was sinfully rich! The burnt sugar topping really mixed well with the full, ripe flavor of banana and it was very smooth and creamy! Perfect dessert to round out the evening!

Recipe: Blood Orange & Lychee Nut Caipirinha

1/2 small Blood Orange sliced into 4 wedges – we found some that were as small as a small lemon

2 t caster sugar or simple syrup
5 ice cubes
2 oz. cachaca
lychee nuts for garnish

Gently muddle the orange and sugar in a cocktail shaker.  Add the ice and cachaca, shake, and pour the drink into a glass.  Garnish with a lychee nut.

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