Gordon Lightfoot, Sundown
Although the NBA Grizzlies left for Memphis long ago, interest in the Toronto Raptors runs high in Vancouver parks and on city sidewalks. This year, heading into We The North territory ready to defend the Golden State Warriors, we got an early start, breezed through Seattle traffic and were at the border crossing by 10:30 am. Grilled briefly by a stern Canadian guard, (What is your reason for crossing), we passed muster and were allowed to enter, free of charge.
The wait for our 1:00 dinner date zipped by while we sat in the park watching energetic city kids, stroller-bound babies, flap-eared dogs, colorful kites, water taxis, sunbathers with exposed white skin, and romantic couples lounging on blankets in the grass.
As delightful as the park is, there are no readily available “facilities”, but after four hours in the car, the need to find one was crucial. The Sweetie, risking exposure and incarceration, chose an overgrown corner buffered by shrubs and a retaining wall. I was on guard, “Just move along, there’s nothing to see.” The Sweetie emerged, undiscovered and relieved but completely covered with fuzzy, blue stickers in his moustache, on his hat, and covering his soft, dark brown sweater. Luckily we had plenty of time to detach, brush, and tweeze. As a graceful, concealed option is less forthcoming for women, I waited.
First course was served on the upper level of our hosts’s community garden patio accompanied by a gentle Northern breeze and warm sunshine. This year’s theme was “Lower Forms of Life, divided into three sub-themes: 1)There’s a fungus among us, 2)The yeast is red, and 3)Good evening, ladies and germs.” Needless to say, we were all curious, if not apprehensive. There was nothing to fear: a delicious, five-course adventure with mushrooms, fermented drinks, and well-executed Moo shoo pork with truffled Chinese pancakes appeared effortlessly over the next five hours.
‘ETHNIC’ DINNER 2019:LOWER FORMS OF LIFE
Iced tea. Mould
Lager beer. Yeast
IPA beer. Yeast
Non-alcoholic beer Yeast
Kombucha gin cocktail. Fungus
Sushi biscotti with mirin. Fermented wine
Tuna poke with fermented red pepper paste
Roasted mushroom in miso sauce. Fermented soy beans
Black garlic horseradish smear. Fermented garlic
Popcorn with nutritional yeast
Belgian truffle paté
Creamy mushroom paté
Turnip porcini soup with truffle croutons & mushroom dust Fungus
Shrimp-stuffed button mushrooms with fermented oyster sauce Fungus
Moo shoo pork with shiitake mushrooms and Chinese black fungus
Truffle-oil pancakes with fermented hoisin sauce
Fennel with fermented red pepper paste
Double cream Danish blue
Salt Spring truffle goat cheese
Cacio di Bosco al tartufo
Chocolate chai cookies. Chocolate and tea are both fermented
Fritz’s annual “Name That Tune” match was held as scheduled, only this year he added an extra challenge to his bag of tricks. There was the usual one point for correctly guessing the song, and one point for naming the singer (no points for singing all the verses) with a bonus five points for guessing the over-all theme of the contest. It took Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell, Diana, Paul Anka, Sundown, Gordon Lightfoot and Heart of Gold, Neil Young before the Sweetie and MacGregor both quietly yelled, “The singers are all Canadians!!”
The first time I had Mu Shu pork was in the late Seventies watching my friend Nancy wok-fry her way through countless Chinese dishes for a crowd of Seventies friends. Beth and I were tasked to paint Chinese pancakes with hoisin sauce and stuff them with a succulent pork filling for the multitude. Nancy had been taking UCLA Extension classes for several years from Madam Wong, becoming proficient at the skills, techniques, and subtleties of regional Chinese food.
The second time was on May 19, 1980, the day after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I remember sitting on the front porch steps of our Vashon rental overlooking Tramp Harbor with the Sweetie, Muth, and Beth, eating Moo shu pork (made from Madame Wong’s Long-Life Chinese Cooking, purchased in 1979 at Nancy’s recommendation), watching identical images of enormous black clouds of ash billowing up in the sky and on the living room TV.
The third time was last Saturday in Vancouver, with both Beth and Nancy at the table. Making Moo Shu pork is a long and daunting process not to be undertaken lightly, so a special thumbs up to our hosts who were willing and able to make it so successfully!
Today, when I took Madame Wong’s battered book from the shelf it opened automatically to this stained recipe for Moo shu pork, still smelling of sesame oil and soy sauce. It is a delicious dish (with many spelling options), but be ready for a trip to an Asian grocery store and lots of chopping, slicing, stirring, and wok-frying.
Moo shu pork, Madame Wong’s Long Life Chinese Cookbook
- 4 dried black mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons golden lilies
- 2 tablespoons (after soaking) fungus
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 1/4 lb. lean pork, julienne
- 4 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
- 6 tablespoons oil
- 1 green onion, julienne
- 1 slice ginger, julienne
- 1 tablespoon sherry
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 medium-sized head cabbage, julienne
- 6 water chestnuts, shredded
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Place mushrooms, lilies, and fungus in separate bowls. Pour boiling water over each. Soak separately at least 20 minutes.
Remove stems from mushrooms, hard tips from lilies, and hard part of fungus. Discard. Cut ingredients julienne.
Mix pork with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and cornstarch.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in wok. Add scallions and ginger. Stir-fry 30 seconds. Add pork. Stir-fry 1 minute or until color changes. Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, sherry, and sugar. Remove.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in wok. Add cabbage, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and salt. Stir-fry 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, lilies, and fungus. Stir-fry one minute more. Remove
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in wok. Pour in beaten eggs. Scramble them very fine. Remove.
Return pork, vegetable mixture, and eggs to wok. Heat thoroughly. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and stir-fry quickly.
To serve: Place steamed pancake flat on a plate. Spread 1 teaspoon plum (If you’ve gotten this far, just buy a jar of plum sauce) or hoisin in center of pancake. Scoop 2 tablespoons of filling on top of sauce. Roll pancake, folding one end to prevent dripping.