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Allen Susser LOBSTER AND MANGO SUMMER ROLLS
I grew up in Brooklyn, where mango meant one of the tropical flavors in the fruit salad. Not exactly an earth-shattering encounter. So nothing prepared me for the experience of mangoes that greeted me in South Miami, where I came to live and work: the whole neighborhood possesses a deep ambrosia when the mango trees bloom, and the varieties of mangoes exceed anything I could have imagined. We have 150 kinds just in this region. In India, where mangoes have been cultivated for four thousand years, there are more than four hundred varieties. Bar none, the mango is the most popular fruit in the world, and every tropical culture uses its native fruit in distinct ways. Cubans love the Toledo mango, the Vianado. In Jamaica they prize the Julie or East Indian mango. The Edward, or the Zill, is popular in South Florida.
Since moving here, I have been on a quest to sample as many kinds of mango as I can. Even on my travels I seek out new varieties; I think I'm up to 250 types. Some mangoes have peach and pineapple flavors, a tropical cinnamon aroma, and an aftertaste like pine or dried fruit or lemon. The Preacho, a Cuban mango, has a deep floral aroma with a distinct scent of candied orange peel. The Neillium is an Indian mango with clove and cinnamon aromas and red-berry, plum, and apricot flavors. The Madame Francis from Haiti has hints of anise, cinnamon, caramel, and fig.
The mango's spectrum of colors is just as astonishing: green, pink, red, orange, red-orange, yellow, canary yellow, crimson, and ruby. And their size can range from the peach-size Cuban mangoes to the cantaloupe-size Mexican Oro mangoes.
LOBSTER AND MANGO SUMMER ROLLS Serves 4
1 tablespoon coarse salt
One 1 1/2-pound live Maine lobster
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 small Thai chile, seeded and minced
12 large Thai basil leaves, chopped
2 fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
1 cup shredded arugula
1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and julienned
4 rice paper wrappers, 8 inches in diameter
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the salt, and plunge the lobster into the pot. Cover the pot and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the lobster from the water and transfer it to a platter to cool slightly. Crack the shell and remove the meat from the tail and claws. Freeze or discard the shells. Slice the meat and set aside. (The lobster can be prepared and refrigerated 1 day in advance.)
2. Combine the fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and chile. Mix in the basil, cilantro, and arugula. Add the mango and toss gently.
3. Fill a shallow dish or pan with warm tap water and spread a cotton cloth on the work surface. Submerge a wrapper in the water for 10 to 30 seconds. Remove it from the water just as it turns limp and carefully spread the soggy wrapper flat onto the cotton cloth. Repeat with each wrapper.
4. Carefully retoss the salad and place a mound of the mixture in the middle of each wrapper. Divide the lobster meat evenly, placing the slices on top of each mound of salad.
5. To make the wrap, roll the bottom of the rice wrapper toward the middle, fold in both sides, and continue to roll toward the free edge. (If the wrapper cracks or doesn't roll easily, use a new wrapper and soak it longer.)
X Cut the rolls on a diagonal and place the pieces on small plates, garnished with the remaining salad.
When I first opened my restaurant, I placed a little 2 X 1-inch ad in the local Topical News--"I trade dinner for mangoes. Bring me your backyard fruit"--and it listed my phone number. I've done this every year since, and during the summer I almost have more fruit than I can use.
Here's a typical story: A mango tree blooms in December or January, and as the months go on, the fruit forms so that by May or June the mangoes are a pretty good size. Sometime in June the family has its first ripe fruit. Everyone is thrilled. Then, during the next week of ripening fruit, a couple dear friends and relatives receive a perfect mango from the family's very own tree. Then the ripe mangoes fill a basket or a shopping bag that someone takes to work to share. And then two weeks pass, and suddenly they're asking everyone, "Did I give you some of our mangoes yet? Please, take." Then the following week--it's mid-July now--mangoes are dropping from their tree every hour, squirrels are taking bites from them, and their yard's a sticky, rotting mess. That's when they bring us a wheelbarrow full of mangoes. It's a wonderful community connection, and people are so proud to be sharing their fruit with "Chef Allen."
Then, in exchange, we create a full-course dinner for each couple that brings us mangoes, and we include some of their own fruit in the dishes we serve them. For many of our neighbors this is their first truly grand dining experience.
We use the fruit in every possible way: I make mango martinis, mango mojo, mango upside-down cake, mango tarte tatin with ginger, mango chutneys, mango ketchup. I stew them, grate them when they're still green and unripened, grill them, use them in curries and salsas and ice creams. I simply can't exhaust the possibilities.
This particular recipe is a refreshing appetizer that brings mango together with lobster, another resource that's especially sweet and bountiful in summer. I suppose if my restaurant were in Maine, I'd be trading dinners for lobsters. The rice paper makes a simple envelope, transparent enough to let the arugula, cilantro, and chopped chiles brighten the flavors of the meat and the mango.
The New York Times called chef Allen Susser "the Ponce de Leon of Florida cooking." His cuisine is a fusion of the world's tropical cultures in a sweet, spicy, and aromatic harmony. Chef Allen's is Miami's premier restaurant, rated number one for food in the 2002 Zagat Survey. Allen is the author of The Great Citrus Book, The Great Mango Book, and Allen Susser's New World Cuisine and Cookery.
Ming Tsai PORK AND APPLE POTSTICKERS WITH DIM SUM DIPPER
Being Chinese, I've probably made and eaten more dumplings than any other food. Steamed, boiled, panfried, deep-fried: dumplings have filled my life. I have very distinct memories of sitting with my grandmother and my mother to roll dumpling skins at a large table and help fold them around the fillings. We'd have whole meals based on dumplings: the traditional pork filling (with garlic, ginger, and shaoxing wine) and then a filling of gyou tsai (garlic chives).
We had a Ping-Pong table in the basement of our home in Dayton, Ohio. Every five years or so my father's three brothers and their families would visit over the Christmas holidays. We'd be ten cousins and four sets of parents talking for hours as we made potstickers around that long green table.
At my grandfather's house we'd have special dumpling nights where I would attempt to outeat my grandfather. I was in third or fourth grade, and I'd manage twenty dumplings. I'd also try to eat more sambal or hot sauce than him. It was something of an honor to outdo my grandfather. For Chinese people food is culture.
Admittedly, with only two thousand people of Chinese descent in Dayton, we weren't offered much in the way of Asian groceries. Whenever we traveled, we'd fit in a side trip to some city's Chinatown. Toronto's was our favorite. We'd pack our station wagon with cooking tools, Chinese pastries, spices, black bean sauces--everything we missed. I'm sure we looked like smugglers coming back across the border.
My other grandparents moved to Taipei after the Cultural Revolution, and I'd visit them every summer. Along with improving my Chinese speaking and learning more about our culture, I'd get to eat lots of street food, which included the best potstickers. Plus, there were whole restaurants devoted to dumplings. Going out to dinner always meant a big affair with eight or ten people around a table, ordering hundreds and hundreds of dumplings. We'd start with lighter, steamed dumpings and eventually move on to panfried ones. We'd start with lighter shrimp or chicken fillings and move on to spicier ones with pork. And, once again, I had to impress everyone, trying to eat more than any other kid at our table.
PORK AND APPLE POTSTICKERS
Makes 30 to 32 dumplings
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 pound ground pork (not too lean)
1 medium green apple, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (red chile paste, available at Asian markets)
2 tablespoons naturally brewed soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Thirty-two 31/2-inch round potsticker wrappers (sue gow skins), defrosted in the refrigerator overnight if frozen
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 recipe Dim Sum Dipper
1. To make the filling, knead the butter into the pork in a large bowl until fully incorporated.
2. Add the apple, ginger, garlic, sambal oelek, soy sauce, sesame oil, 1 lightly beaten egg, and the salt to the pork mixture. Combine thoroughly.
3. To assemble the potstickers, mix the remaining egg with 2 tablespoons water and set aside. Place 11/2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of each wrapper (the edges of the wrappers should stay clean to ensure a proper seal). Fold each wrapper in half to form a half-moon. Seal the top center of each dumpling by pressing between the fingers and, starting at the center, make 3 pleats to the bottom right corner. Repeat pleating process to the bottom left corner. Gently press the dumpling on the work surface to create a flat bottom. Lightly brush the egg wash on the finished dumpling and transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. Leave space between finished dumplings to prevent them from sticking together.
4. To cook the potstickers, heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the canola oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the potstickers (flattened bottoms down) in rows of 5. Cook in batches without disturbing until the bottoms are golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and immediately cover the pan with a lid to avoid spattering. Lift the cover: 1/8 inch of water should remain in the pan; if not, add a splash. Steam until the potstickers are puffy and firm to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes. If the water evaporates before the potstickers are done, add more water in 1/4-cup increments. If the potstickers are cooked and some water remains, drain the excess water and return the pan to the burner.
5. Cook the steamed potstickers over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes to recrisp the bottoms. Transfer the potstickers to a platter.
X Serve the potstickers with a bowl of the Dim Sum Dipper.
DIM SUM DIPPER Makes 1 cup
1/3 cup naturally brewed soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup 1/8-inch-thick slices scallion greens
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (red chile paste, available at Asian markets)
Whisk the ingredients together and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
The years I didn't journey to Taipei, my whole family vacationed at East Coast Chinese Family Camp. The fathers bunked in one cabin, the mothers in another, and the kids bunked in various buildings according to age. Three or four hundred people from across the country came to share in camp activities like swimming and crafts, as well as games and programs more typical of China. The parents would cook. The kids would clean. (And underlying the whole experience was the hope that your kid would meet and one day marry a nice Chinese kid of the opposite sex.)
One morning we kids would rise early to make a special pancake breakfast for the adults. We'd scrounge around the camp kitchen adding heads of garlic, spicy sauces, anchovies--everything we could find--to the batter. Then we'd fry up the pancakes and rush out into the dining hall to watch our parents and grandparents pour on the maple syrup and eat. But since a typical Chinese breakfast is the previous evening's dinner--marinated meats or fermented tofu, along with the rice porridge--we rarely got the Big Surprise of Disgust we were aiming for.
But the highlight of camp was potsticker night. Throughout the day different families took turns at the five round tables in the dining hall, rolling out the dumpling skins and folding them around one or another filling. We'd crank out something close to six thousand dumplings, stacking them on trays until dinner, when everyone gathered in the dining hall.
This particular dumpling combines an American favorite, apples, with the traditional pork, adding a sweetness and juiciness to the filling. I'm always looking for dumpling innovations (and this one was cooked up with my sous-chef at Blue Ginger, Jon Taylor), even though I've long since given up the need to eat more dumplings than anyone else.
Ming Tsai is the chef-owner of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Massachusetts, author of the Blue Ginger Cookbook, and Emmy Award-winning television personality whose series Ming's Quest appears on the Food Network. He is the recipient of the 2002 Beard Best Chef Award/ Northeast.