July 2012: East Asian Night

by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

The theme of our July meeting was East Asian Night.   I was happy to host a group of about 30 of us at my home in Sierra Madre.  And as luck would have it, we received a surprise visit from special guest Sandrine Hahn, founder of the San Francisco chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and creator of the Nourishing Our Children program.


This time we held the demonstrations right after introductions, mostly because the dishes being demonstrated were on the dinner menu.  First, Jaye Park showed us how to prepare a Korean buckwheat noodle salad made with plenty of fresh veggies and dashes of both fermented plum sauce and fermented pomegranate juice.  Then, Jeanette Wu lead a demo of a Chinese stir fried pork.  As she worked, she explained the art of stir frying and how important it is to lightly cook the meat first, remove it from the wok, and then add the veggies one by one, in order of the length of cooking time.  As tradition would have it, the vegetables in a stir fry all need to be sliced in the same shape and thickness, partially for cooking uniformity, and partially due to cultural preference:  either cubes or strips, but never both!  In the end, Jeanette added back the cooked marinated pork, and after a few taste tests and seasoning adjustments, the stir fry was done!  Everyone enjoyed both dishes amidst a vast collection of Asian flavors.  I was impressed to see how all of our guests stepped up to the challenge to contribute complementary dishes!  Every food at the potluck included Asian flavors, with plenty of sauces, rice, ginger, spring rolls, fermented fish, and some coconut and lychee deserts to top it all off!   We even had some ginger beer, white wine, and warm & cold sake to complement the meal.


After dinner, instead of holding the normal presentations, we opened the floor to announcements, and held some great discussions about the issues at hand, including: the GMO-labeling initiative (now known as Prop 37!); the latest developments with the Raw Milk Institute as reported by the newest member of its Board of Directors, fellow member Ram Basu (congrats, Ram!); a new buyer’s group being founded by fellow member Sam Wu; and plans to bring a larger SoCal contingent to this year’s upcoming Wise Traditions conference in Santa Clara, CA.  At the end of the announcement period, 5 friends of our chapter participated in a drawing for a free paid membership with the Weston A. Price Foundation.  Congratulations to the lucky winner, Sam Cooper!  And thanks to our chapter members for pitching in to help make this new membership possible.


After some great discussions, we ended the meeting with a Q&A session on the foods demonstrated earlier in the evening.  For Jaye, most questions involved the sauces and fermentations she used, where she got her ingredients, and how to make fermented pomegranate juice.  For Jeanette, questions were directed to hubby Sam who had procured the pastured pork.  Most questions for Sam involved the proper and traditional preparation of pork.  Reference was made to an article published in the Fall 2011 issue of Wise Traditions magazine which showed a healthier blood cell response to properly prepared pork over uncured pork (even pastured). The uncured pork caused red blood cells to coagulate or bunch up,  interrupting optimal blood flow for hours after consumption, whereas the properly prepared pork had no detrimental effect on blood flow or coagulation.  To see the article and get more information about the proper preparation of pork, go to:   http://www.westonaprice.org/cardiovascular-disease/how-does-pork-prepared-in-various-ways-affect-the-blood.  


The lesson of the evening:  Grandmother knows best!  There truly seems to be some great wisdom wrapped into the culinary traditions of our ancestors, which modern science is only beginning to understand.  Thanks to the Weston A. Price Foundation for continually bringing this to light.  All the more reason to practice traditional culinary techniques, whatever your ethnic background! 


All in all, the meeting flowed very nicely, and everyone seemed to enjoy the looser structure with more opportunity to talk.  Based on how well the meeting went, it’s clear that a before-dinner demo followed by an after-dinner Q&A session is a winning formula for future Ethnic Nights.  Our group has so much to offer, and thoughtful discussions at our meetings are a wonderful opportunity to bring out the knowledge and experience of our members and friends.  


Thank you to everyone for going out of your way to contribute both fitting and flavorful dishes to enhance our East Asian Night.  And special thanks to our presenters Jaye Park and Sam and Jeanette Wu who shared their knowledge about and experience with traditional East Asian Foods.  Finally, Happy Travels to our friend from San Francisco and creator of the Nourishing Our Children program, Sandrine Hahn.  It was an honor to have Sandrine pay us a visit at our July meeting, and we look forward to seeing her again at the Wise Traditions conference in Santa Clara this fall!  


Until we meet again, get out and explore your culinary heritage!  Happy Traditions!

~ Your Chapter Leader, Karen Voelkening-Behegan


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