This year, on Christmas Eve, I had the pleasure of cooking for the first annual "Woks and Lox," a dinner celebration in Queens borne from the commiseration Jews and Asians share on December 24th and 25th.
Disclaimer: Ed and I have had many a conversation about the rapport between Jews and Chinese during the holidays when Chinese joints tend to be the only thing open. Still, I would extend that feeling of being left out of the party to the diverse range of people living in any country in which the predominant religion asserts a kind of cultural hegemony.
I jumped at the chance to tinker around with two very disparate styles of cuisine. My only constraint? To keep the menu vegetarian, so gefilte fish dumplings and red-braised brisket were out. Still, that left me with a range of quintessentially Jewish deli/diner type foods.
This was, bar none, the most festive Christmas eve I've ever experienced. Midway through dinner service, which was a packed house of predominantly Jewish and Chinese people, I was told to plate extra food for four little old Jewish ladies who arrived at the restaurant to play some American Mahjong.
On the menu for the evening:
- Wontons stuffed with a Pierogi-like filling
- Latkes topped with roasted and ground sichuan peppercorns
- General Tso's tofu deep-fried in a batter of eggs and matzo
- Kasha Varnishkes dressed in Scallion Oil
- Matzoh Ball Soup with a Shiitake Ginger Broth
- Dessert: Red bean Rugelach
Attention Sichuan peppercorns lovers: Latkes sprinkled with these peppercorns are so good that, as I stood frying hundreds of latkes, I imagined the arguments I'd have with my imaginary Jewish husband if he ever didn't want his latkes with Sichuan peppercorns on Hanakkuh.
My favorite thing on the menu though was red bean rugelach. Maybe because I love a good cream cheese pastry. If you've never baked with red bean paste before, it holds up well to baking and retains its bean-y sweetness.
Here are a few recipes from the evening, for those of you looking to start your own fusion holiday tradition.