bau-ing out

Last night I set my menu and today I went to the neighborhood Asian market to do the preliminary grocery shopping for my annual Oshogatsu. Unlike most Japanese who host one, I do not serve the traditional food that goes along with the celebration. I’ve learned from many past open houses I’ve had, the requisite New Years Day food proves unpopular. At least with my friends. Ozoni (a somewhat fishy rice cake soup), soba (buckwheat noodles are an acquired taste), kamaboko (fried fish cakes), and takuan (neon colored pickled daikon) have all been minimally touched by hands other than mine at the shogatsu buffet table. This year I’ve decided to make it easier on myself and make dishes that are quick and easy – dips. Hummus, ginger dip, wasabi dip, curried tofu dip, sweet onion dip, butternut squash dip, and maybe mango salsa all served with an assortments of dippables – pita chips, potato chips, eggplant chips (this should be interesting), won ton chips, various crudites, breadsticks and crostinis.

I will still have a handful of Japanese dishes – kuromame (sweetened black beans), yokan (red bean confection), gyoza (veggie and/or pork), tsukemono (pickled cabbage) and maybe edamame. In the past, I’ve also made the not-traditional-by-any-means char siu bau (Chinese steamed pork buns). They are time consuming to make and mine never quite turned out as good as ones you can get at any dim summery. What I do like about my homemade ones is just that – I make them myself, something that not many people do and I get an ego boost when I hear a “wow” after I tell people those white balls filled with pork were made by me.

On my way home tonight, I stopped by for some dim sum take out and got a bau to-go. As I took the light, pillowy globe out of the white paper bag, and took a bite, I knew I could never make ’em as good as these people did. Nor did I want to. I realized that some things are just meant to be bought. Then eaten.

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