Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Original Trader Vic's Mai Tai & Pupu Platter

The Mai Tai was not invented in either Hawaii or Tahiti, but in California. Drink recipe creator, Victor Jules 'Trader Vic' Bergeron came up with the original recipe for a Mai Tai in 1944 while working as a bartender in the service bar of his Oakland restaurant, Trader Vic’sVictor pulled a 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum off the shelf and decided to use it because of its golden colour, medium body and rich pungent flavour. With the rum, Victor added fresh lime juice, orange curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy Syrup and a dollop of French Orgeat, to give the drink a subtle almond flavour. He then added a generous amount of shaved ice and shook the whole drink vigorously by hand. The drink was then served in a 15-oz glass, garnished with half of the lime and a branch of fresh mint.

 “Trader Vic” Bergeron

At the time the drink was created, Vic had a couple of friends visiting from Tahiti who happened to be sitting at the bar. Ham and Carrie Guild were the chosen guinea pigs for Victor’s new rum drink concoction. Apparently, Carrie loved the drink so much that she exclaimed in Tahitian, "Mai Tai-Roe Ae!" which when translated into English means "Out of this world — The Best!" It was at that moment that the Mai Tai had not only been born, but named.

The original Trader Vic's menu

The original Trader Vic's Scorpion served in a special bowl 
with a bunch of straws for sharing

In 1953, Victor brought his wildly acclaimed Mai Tai to the Hawaiian Islands when he was asked by the Matson Steamship Lines to design their cocktail menu for the bars at their Royal Hawaiian, Moana and Surfrider Hotels. The Mai Tai was one of the many new drinks to be included in the bar service along with Trader Vic's famous Polynesian-style appetizers, which were known as Pupu, adopted from the Hawaiian word pū-pū, which meant a relish, canapé, or hors d'oeuvre. Served on a platter with a hibachi in the middle, the original pupu platter included Crab Rangoon, BBQ Spareribs, Crispy Prawns and Beef Car Siu.

Trader Vic's Tiki Party cookbook with great tropical cocktails and classic pupu

Inspired by memories of visiting Trader Vic's in London during the 70' and 80's, and visions of throwing my own Tiki Terrace Party next summer, I splurged and bought the Trader Vic's Tiki Party cookbook with lots of the restaurant’s best-loved tropical cocktails and after-dinner drinks and lots of recipes for pupus, tidbits, finger food, entrées, and desserts. All I need now are the grass skirts, Tiki lanterns and Don Ho's recording of Tiny Bubbles!

The Original Trader Vic's Mai Tai 
Serves 4

8 oz 17-tear-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum
2 oz French Garnier Orgeat
2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1 oz Rock Candy Syrup
Juice from 4 fresh limes

Hand shake all of the ingredients and garnish with half of the lime shell inside the drink and float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.

Modern Mai Tai
Serves 4

4 oz light rum
2 oz triple sec
1 oz lime juice
6 oz pineapple juice
6 oz orange juice
1 tbsp grenadine
2 oz dark rum
4 maraschino cherries and slices of fresh pineapple for garnish

Pour all the ingredients except the dark rum into a shaker with ice cubes and shake well. Strain into old-fashioned glasses half filled with ice. Top with the dark rum and garnish with maraschino cherries and a spear of fresh pineapple.

Trader Vic's Scorpion
Serves 8

1 1/4 cups silver rum
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 oz orgeat syrup
2 oz brandy
2 cups ice cubes, plus additional crushed ice
8 gardenia or orchid blossoms, for garnish

Combine rum, brandy, orange juice, lemon juice, orgeat syrup and crushed ice in an electric blender and pulse for a few seconds, until uniformly combined. Pour into a large pitcher. For each serving, fill a double old-fashioned glass with crushed ice, pour the mixture over top and stir well. Garnish each cocktail with the gardenia or orchid. Or to be true to the original Trader Vic's presentation, and serve the drinks in one big bowl with straws!

Trader Vic's Crab Rangoon
36 pieces

1/2 cup fresh cooked crabmeat, drained and chopped
1/2 lb cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp A-1 Steak Sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 dozen wonton wrappers
1 egg yolk, well beaten
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Chinese mustard
Chinese red sauce

Combine the crabmeat with cream cheese, steak sauce and garlic powder in a medium bowl and blend to a paste. Refrigerate if not using right away.

Set out 6 wonton wrappers at a time and place a heaping teaspoon of filling on each. Moisten edges of wrapper with egg yolk and gather corners at the top. Pinch edges together gently to seal.

Heat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Heat oil in wok or deep saucepan to 375°F. Add wontons in batches and fry until golden brown, turning often, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared baking sheet and place in warm oven while frying the remaining wontons. Serve hot with Chinese mustard or red sauce for dipping.

Trader Vic's Rumaki
Makes 8

This addictive appetizer is apparently of Japanese origin, but it first achieved popularity in Hawaii—and is now considered a "Polynesian" specialty.

4 slices bacon, halved crosswise
8 canned water chestnuts, drained
4 chicken livers, cut in half
Soy sauce
1 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lay bacon on a cookie sheet and bake until cooked but not crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and drain off any fat, then blot bacon and pan with paper towels. Place 1 water chestnut in the middle of each piece of bacon, then top each with half a chicken liver. Place a drop of soy sauce, a pinch of ginger, and a sprinkle of brown sugar on top of each liver. Wrap bacon around water chestnuts and livers and secure with a skewer. Return pan to oven and bake until bacon is crisp and golden.

Trader Vic's Barbecued Spareribs
8 servings

The secret to these succulent spareribs is curing them quickly with a simple salt-and-sugar mixture. It makes the meat moist and juicy and, as an added bonus, gives it an attractive bright pink color. Baby-back ribs, as opposed to longer spareribs, are the perfect size for cocktail party nibbles.

4 lb pork baby-back ribs - 2 racks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp salt

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Thai-style sweet chili sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

To prepare the ribs, combine the sugar and salt in a resealable plastic bag and shake to mix. Cut the racks into halves or thirds to fit inside the bag. Add ribs to bag and toss to distribute sugar mixture evenly. Seal bag and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.

To prepare the glaze, combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, sesame oil and pepper in a bowl, whisking until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Remove ribs from the sugar mixture, pat with paper towels then arrange them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush both sides of the ribs with about 3/4 cup of the barbecue glaze, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes, then remove the plastic and bake, basting with the pan juices every 30 minutes, until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If the pan gets too dry and the juices begin to burn, add up to 1 cup water, scraping and stirring to dissolve the caramelized juices. Remove from oven and let sit, covered with aluminum foil, until ready to grill.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium and grill the ribs, turning and brushing with barbecue glaze, for about 25 minutes or until they become dark golden brown. Check often, as the sugar in the sauce can burn quickly. Transfer ribs to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.

To serve, cut the racks into individual ribs and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Arrange on a platter or banana leaf, and decorate with some fresh tropical flowers for a Polynesian flair. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

COOK'S NOTE: Prepare the ribs and bake as directed up to 24 hours in advance. Let cool and store in refrigerator. Let come to room temperature before grilling.