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: 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 SlaterNan  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.

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Written by on January 13, 2011 under Appetizers, Dumplings, Party foods.

  • Thos

    What a nostalgic journey — social and culinary! Perhaps SD should adopt the tagline of Suzy, the preeminent society gossipeuse of that era: “Who else would tell you these things?”

    • Sean

      I’d forgotten that one, thx. I have recycled her “but you knew that
      already” enough times. And “Let mother tell you…” is off limits while
      Cindy is still able to sharpen her own pencils

      • Thos

        Likewise the ever-popular “hahahahahahahahahahahahaha”

  • Charles G Thompson

    You do weave a magical tale — from the shopping center basement level Thai place with a forgotten name to hobnobbing with the old guard of New York… ah, I remember those names so well from my time in NYC in the 80s (way to often as a cater waiter too!) — how I miss it all. And this dish is spot on for that time period. Thanks for the memories, and the reminder of this dish.

    • Sean

      Weird how quickly things go from everywhere to nowhere. Remember Benettons
      on every corner?

  • Anna Johnston

    Oh My Goodness Sean…, if anyone can make Crab Rangoon make a comeback you will my friend, what a story, what memories, what decadence and tsk tsk…., almost throwing out that signed copy from Andy :) Love the prose too, you do string along a great story :)
    Double air kisses to you too, & bon appetit and aloha back at’ya :)

  • carol

    page could not be loaded

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