The weekend after Christmas means it’s time for the annual Maisano Family Dinner! This year’s theme was Street Food, featuring dishes from every corner of the world. We had a smaller group this year thanks to an unexpected snowstorm, but more than enough delicious food for everyone who braved the weather.
A little bit of the story: our whole American-Sicilian family gets together once a year, usually the weekend after Christmas, for an enormous feast. Every year has a different theme – cuisine, region, event – and we’ve spanned most of the globe over the years. Over twenty years and going strong!
I’m humbled to say that this year I took over menu planning. I (selfishly) chose one of my very favorite food categories, Street Food, which turned out to be a hit! I tried to hit as many regions as possible, although we still had to cut nearly a dozen from my original list.
This year’s full menu of street foods from around the world:
- Korean Odeng-Guk Fish Cake Soup
- Cambodian Chicken & Shrimp Rice Soup
- Brazilian Pão de Queijo
- Chinese Scallion Pancakes
- Turkish Döner Kebab Salat
- Mexican Esquites
- Lebanese Tabbouleh
- Taiwanese Pork Belly Bao Buns
- Thai Shrimp Pad Thai
- Peruvian Anticuchos
- Spanish Patatas Bravas
- Italian Arancini
- German Currywurst
- Uzbek Plov Pilaf
- Israeli Falafel
Speaking of snow & chilly weather, we actually had to put a space heater in our staging space – aka the garage – so everything wouldn’t freeze! Kirk was a champ about grilling out on the porch anyway.
Some of the more certain crowd-pleasing recipes are quadrupled, some of the less-familiar recipes are just doubled; we only made one recipe of these grilled beef heart skewers for Peruvian anticuchos, but they disappeared by the end of the night!
We were suspiciously ahead of schedule all day. I never know what to do with myself – it’s a good thing I was so busy in December that I wasn’t able to make a nerdy spreadsheet planning out kitchen time and oven space, or I would have driven everyone else crazy. What can I say, I’m an over-planner.
And then, after too long without much to do, the last hour always means frantically stuffing sandwiches and last-second frying and counting to make sure we actually have all the dishes out on the counter. Everything always gets done somehow!
And if you thought that we might be stuffed after that enormous spread…
…you can’t miss out on the pies!
My aunt has made nearly a dozen pies for the family dinner for as long as I can remember, but our traditions are slowly being passed down to my generation. This year her daughter and another cousin took over pies and they did a wonderful job – although I think my aunt would pull my ear if I didn’t say hers were still better.
Just look at those gorgeous perfect golden crusts! I can’t resist that raspberry pie every single year.
Bonus family shot: our new pie bakers, clearly not enjoying themselves at all. Thanks Toni & Dani!
Each year I share my favorite recipe from the dinner. I thought the pork belly bao buns might be my favorite when I was planning the menu and I knew I was right from the first bite! I even went back for a second, which is rare with this massive spread of food.
These buns aren’t exactly quick & easy, but they are so, so worth it. You can make them in stages: brown the pork, make the sauce, and blend the peanut powder ahead of time for fast assembly. Next year I’ll have to check a bag on the flight home to scoop up more leftovers!
I hope you all had the happiest of holidays with the people you love and a wonderful start to the new year!
Pork Belly Bao Buns
- 1 lb. skin-on pork belly
- 2 T. vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger sliced
- 1 small Thai chile thinly sliced
- 2 T. brown sugar
- 1/2 t. five spice powder
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice wine
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 12 steamed bao buns
- 4 cabbage leaves
- 1/2 cup pickled mustard greens chopped (optional)
- 1/2 cucumber thinly sliced
- 6 sprigs fresh cilantro roughly chopped
- Cut pork belly into 2-inch strips, then cut strips into 1/4-inch slices.
- Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Sear pork belly until lightly browned on both sides. Remove from the wok and set aside.
- Add garlic, ginger, & chile to the wok and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar & five spice and stir until sugar is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes.
- Add soy sauce, rice wine, & water and bring to a simmer.
- Return pork belly to the wok and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 2 hours until very tender.
- Pulse peanuts and brown sugar in a food processor into a coarse powder.
- Arrange frozen or uncooked bao buns on top of cabbage leaves in a bamboo steamer or metal steamer. Set steamer over a large pan of boiling water and steam for 3-5 minutes, until centers are soft and fluffy.
- Slice buns in half. Spread pickled mustard greens on the bottom, top with a slice of pork belly, and sprinkle with cilantro and peanut powder.
- Serve hot immediately.