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Pan-Asian Party in the Kitchen

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An Asian-inflected dinner party that's full of big flavors and easy to pull together

When it comes to planning a party menu, I like delicious—it just has to taste good. And if the food’s as much fun to make as it is to eat, guests will be happy helping out in the kitchen. That’s my kind of party.

This is my kind of food, too—a modern mix of simple, fresh dishes with an Asian bent. The watermelon lemonade gets spiked with shochu, a Japanese (or sometimes Korean) spirit, while the pasta salad takes a new turn with snow peas, shiitake mushrooms, and sesame oil. A tasty twist on shrimp cocktail includes spicy mayo and crisp garlic breadcrumbs, and crunchy panko-breaded pork cutlets are topped with a Thai-inspired herb salad. Dessert is do-ahead (because your guests deserve a break by then): pineapple parfaits with mint, strawberries, and lychees. Like I said, easy and just a little exotic.

Menu Timeline

Two days ahead:

  • Prepare the pineapple for the parfaits.

One day ahead:

  • Make the spicy mayo and garlic breadcrumbs for the shrimp appetizer, and the dressing for the herb salad.

Six hours ahead:

  • Make the watermelon lemonade; toss the undressed herb salad.

Four hours ahead:

  • Bread the pork cutlets.

Two hours ahead:

  • Make the pasta salad.

One hour ahead:

  • Macerate the strawberries.
  • Poach the shrimp.

Before serving:

  • Garnish and serve the cocktails
  • Fry the pork cutlets.
  • Dress the herb salad.

After dinner:

  • Assemble and serve the parfaits.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce:

  • 4 cups mesclun greens
  • 1 head bibb lettuce
  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms
  • 40 fresh snow peas (4 to 5 oz.)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 piece fresh ginger
  • 2 bunches fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, preferably Thai basil
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 2 bunches scallions
  • 2 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 2 medium ripe pineapples (about 3 lb. each)
  • 1 watermelon, at least 5 lbs.
  • 4 cups ripe strawberries
  • 16 fresh lychees (or one 20-oz. can lychees)
  • 5 medium lemons
  • 3 medium limes

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 2-1/2 lb. boneless center-cut pork loin
  • 2 lb. jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per lb.)
  • 3 large eggs

Other Groceries:

  • 1 bottle shochu
  • 4 slices home-style white sandwich bread (such as Arnold or Pepperidge Farm)
  • 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 lb. dried rolled, tubular pasta (such as cavatelli or strozzapreti)
  • 1/2 cup frozen baby green peas

Pantry Staples:

  • 1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-1/2 Tbs. honey
  • 2 Tbs. white sesame seeds
  • 4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil or melted butter
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns

The Menu

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