In this new weekly Voracious column, yours truly has undertaken the incredibly difficult task of reporting on what the uber-foodies of our city serve to

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Will Blog for Food: Demystifying Dumplings at Monsoon East

In this new weekly Voracious column, yours truly has undertaken the incredibly difficult task of reporting on what the uber-foodies of our city serve to their guests when they throw parties. All of these shindigs will have two things in common: they'll have good food and they'll be hosted by those you have come to know in the local food scene, whether they be bloggers, chefs or restaurateurs.

I've never celebrated Chinese New Year. Had I known it was basically one big carb fest, things might have been different.

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Deep-fried lobster wonton
Last Friday, I attended a luncheon at Monsoon East (10245 Main St., Bellevue) hosted by cookbook author Andrea Nguyen. She shared with us her favorite dumpling tips and techniques not only to honor the Chinese New Year, but to celebrate her newest cookbook, "Asian Dumplings."

The restaurant was packed with us local media types, including Rebekah Denn, KING 5 News anchor Joyce Taylor, NW Palate Magazine editor Peter Szymczak, Seattle Magazine's Lorna Yee, Catherine Reynolds, and freelance cookbook author extraordinaire Cynthia Nims.

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Bánh Tét
The Lunar New Year-inspired menu consisted of four different types of dumplings, none of which I had ever tasted, but now can't stop thinking about. A Bánh Tét (not to be confused with Monsoon owner Eric Bành) kick-started this party; it's a sturdy cake made of sticky rice with coconut, mung bean, pork and garnished with some chili flake dumpling "bling." What this Chinese New Year novice found most interesting is that these round dumplings actually come from sausage-shaped banana leaf casings that are boiled then unwrapped and sliced up for serving. Andrea likes to pan fry hers. I think I might, too.

In between courses, we were poured Oolong and Green teas and given tips on shopping for wonton wrappers (for those of us too lazy to go the homemade route): Don't buy any wrappers that are smashed together; Choose Hong Kong-style or thin wrappers, as they are more delicate; Shop in Asian markets, which have a higher turnover rate of wonton wrappers, thus, offer a fresher supply of them.

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Tapioca dumpling with shrimp & taro
To be honest, I was half-listening to Andrea speak, because I was so freaking starving. I hadn't eaten all morning, saving up for the scrumptiousness of this luncheon. By the time we were served our first dumpling, I couldn't concentrate on anything else other than devouring the next dumpling. They were delicious! Like, "I want to buy the $30 cookbook and learn how to make these dumplings every day" delicious.

I left Andrea's lunch empty handed (no cookbook for this cash-strapped gal) but my stomach was delightfully full.

 
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