The July 4th Melting Pot (Grill)
The Fourth stands with Thanksgiving as the two holidays that revolve around the consumption of a set menu. For Thanksgiving, we admire the turkey in all its variations; for July 4th, we bow to the grill. Grilled meat has been a mainstay of July 4th celebrations that date prior to the Civil War. James Heintze describes how in some towns, the day before the Fourth was devoted to grill prep:
“Chickens and ducks were decapitated by the hundred; fat pigs, lambs and calves, were slaughtered by the dozen, and a number of busy cooks were engaged in preparing immense bacon hams, and large joints and sides of fresh meat, as well as untold quantities of pies, puddings and cakes.” (Daily Southern Argus, July 7, 1855)
Historically, Fourth of July meals closely reflected regional preferences and seasonal bounties. In 1824, Central Park booths offered baked beans, clam soup and roast pig while in 1857 Texas, fried fish was thought to be a necessary accompaniment to barbequed meat. Heintze also adds that summer strawberries sprinkled with sugar and lemon seemed to seem to have been extremely popular, and lemonade or limeade was the beverage of choice.
Thiri Estrada suggests a few Asian twists for Independence Day from her cookbook, “Shortcuts to Asian Cooking.” Acknowledging the difficulty of modifying the grill favorites of burgers and hotdogs, she recommends side dishes like “Fresh Spring Rolls” and “Asian Chicken Meatballs.”
Thinking back to early childhood memories, I remember my sister complaining about the blandness of hamburgers, and my mother’s attempts to ‘asianize’ them to suit her palate. Perhaps my mother’s fusion hamburgers aren’t that far from the spirit of American independence---the acknowledgement that it is the mix of cultures that makes this country so vibrant and different from any other. Or as my sister would say, “One brought the burger, the other brought the spice and now it’s perfect.”
As you watch the fireworks this Fourth with a cold Sapporo in hand, standing next to a smoky grill, try the following variations on national favorites:
Asian Hamburger(Also known as the Chinese Hamburger, Vietnamese Hamburger, _____ Hamburger)
Kiwi Limeade(Despite its associations with New Zealand, the Actinidia Chinesis originated from southeast Asia and southern China. Vodka optional)
Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce (from Thiri Estrada’s cookbook, “Shortcuts to Asian Cooking”)
- 1lb ground beef
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 4 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tbsp water chestnuts, chopped
- ½ tsp five spice powder
- 1 tsp red pepper
- 2 tbsp minced cilantro leaves (optional)
Black pepper and salt as necessary. Add 1 tbsp cornstarch if ingredients are not holding patty form easily.
Mix ingredients with hands, working the spice through the meat. Form patties and refrigerate to make handling easier. Grill with charcoal if possible.
- 8 ripe kiwis
- 16 ripe limes
- 1 cup of sugar or more to taste
- 1 2L bottle of sparkling water
Using a blender, extract as much juice from the kiwis. Depending on the blender, if there is too much pulp, strain as necessary. Some of the seeds are a nice addition to the drink. Extract juice from the limes and mix with sugar. Add sparkling water and adjust sugar as necessary. Serve cold.
Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce (from Thiri Estrada’s cookbook, “Shortcuts to Asian Cooking”):
- 1 package of rice paper (round rice paper)
- Fresh mint
- Fresh cilantro
- Fresh basil
- 5-6 sprigs of green onion (cut into thin long pieces)
- 1 pound of fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 package of rice noodles also know as been thread
- Hot water
- Boil shimp until cooked through. Set aside
- Boil rice noodles, drain and set aside
- Take pieces of basil, cilantro and mint, set aside
Pour hot water in a bowl large enough for the round rice paper to fit in. Immerse one sheet of rice paper at a time in the hot water be careful not to burn yourself and or tear the rice paper which is very delicate once it gets wet. Once the rice paper is soft and pliable. Lay out the circle add two to 3 pieces of cooked shrimp, then lay about a half of a cup of rice noodles on top. Then top with a few pieces of basil, cilantro and mint. You can make each one different or use them all in the same wrapper. Add a few thin slices of spring onion.
Bring the bottom of the wrapper around the stuffing. Then bring the two outer sides together and roll up until it is sealed. Repeat until all the stuffing and or wrappers are used up. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- 3-4 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon hoisen sauce (optional)
- 2-3 teaspoons of sugar
Mix all ingredients above until mixture is smooth and easy for dipping. You may add more water to thin it out. Texture should be smooth and not too thick.