Welcome back old friend. This recipe for Crab Rangoon transports one back to the glory days of Trader Vic’s and all its progeny spread across America like the Polynesian archipelago itself. I was always one to pooh pooh the pu pu platter — a hit or miss gamble and always too few Crab Rangoons. A full order or two is the de rigueur commencement of an ersatz tropical repast.
My nephew Christopher, a recent college grad and now rapidly rising young executive, turned us onto an astonishingly delicious Vietnamese restaurant in St. Louis on my annual Christmas trip home. Better than anything I’ve had in NYC, tucked in the depths of a messy, massive mega-mall mish-mash, the restaurant lurks beneath a six story parking garage. Can’t remember the name — why don’t you email Chris? Tell him USNY (Uncle Sean New York) told you to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You know where this is headed: the Crab Rangoon was superb. (Full disclosure: never been to Vietnam so have no idea if C.R. an authentic southeast Asian dish, but the other fragrant dishes spiked with lemongrass, galangal and fiery bird chilies seemed like the real deal to me.)
During early days in the big city, I was a sometimes cater waiter for elegant museum benefits and the assorted fancy dress ball and rich person’s birthday party. Like Cosiima von Bulow’s sweet sixteenth on a glossy vintage yacht steaming up to the Hudson, the sparkling night sky temporarily eclipsed as we passed under the George Washington Bridge. A time when Blaine Trump in her Lacroix poof dress anchored the smart young social set and Anne Slater, Nan Kempner and Bill Blass (“Young man, would you please get Mrs. Buckley a chair?”) were mainstays of the entrenched old guard. Nights when Crab Rangoon was as inevitable as Warhol and Stephen Sprouse and Cornelia Guest turning up at the party. The crispy, cream cheese-oozing won-tons elicited squeals of delight; “Oh look, it’s them again” was the reaction to the to the aforementioned posse. (BTW Andy, thanks for the signed Campbell’s Soup-in-a-Box litho; can you believe I almost tossed it?)
Maybe the financial crash in the late ’80s killed off Crab Rangoon. Or the inevitable progression of tropical-themed restaurants from exotic to retro-camp to irrelevance.
But why dwell on the wreckage of the past? Crab Rangoon is on a comeback, I just feel it.
Of crucial importance: all is for naught if you expect commercial sweet and sour sauces will do justice here. No, you must make your own; believe me, there’s no comparison. Mandatory, no exceptions and that’s final.
Let’s get this party started! Double air kiss, bon appetit and aloha.
Click here for the recipe for Crab Rangoon.
Click here for recipe for Apricot Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce.