- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

When Ludy Onkgeko arrived in the United States from the Philippines four decades ago, she was baffled by the hoopla over football at the University of Southern California, where she was a doctoral student.

So she bought a player’s manual, studied the rules and watched a game on television.

Forty Super Bowl parties later, football is as integral a part of Miss Onkgeko’s life as the foods of her homeland — lumpia (Philippine egg rolls), pancit (stir-fried noodles), mechado (beef stew) and steamed rice — are to the game-day bashes she hosts.

“Even if there’s only a small group, whatever food preparations served are enough to serve an army,” said Miss Onkgeko, who recently retired to Reno, Nev. “We have friends, we’re there howling, and, of course, these are the dishes I’m prone to prepare.”

For generations, immigrants have flavored American traditions by blending them with their own cultures and cuisines. So it’s only fitting that Super Bowl parties — by some accounts nearly as all-American as the Fourth of July — get similar treatment.

That’s certainly the case with Derrick Williams, a 48-year-old New York chef who learned of the Super Bowl after moving to Florida from Jamaica in 1992. Seeing the excitement football triggered, he and his co-workers — immigrants from Haiti, Trinidad, Mexico and China — decided to join the fun, renting two big-screen televisions to watch the big game.

Now he throws his own parties, serving up the traditional buffalo wings in a way that also draws on his own traditions.

“When West Indians host a party, it’s not just the regular chips and dip. It’s jerk. Jerk chicken is big,” he said of the garlic and chili-rich seasoning blend common throughout the Caribbean. “It’s literally a Super Bowl jerk party.”

In Hawaii, where the influence of Chinese, Filipino and Japanese immigrants is strong, the parties take on a decidedly raw note.

“At every gathering I can tell you this, you can find some kind of raw tuna,” said Dave Kodama, who runs three Japanese restaurants on Hawaii’s Maui and Oahu and is a chef for Taste of the NFL, an annual Super Bowl benefit for food banks around the nation.

“Tuna, sashimi, sushi. Raw tuna is how we celebrate very special occasions,” he said.

In Miami, where Cuban culture is influential, Super Bowl gatherings often feature lechon, or whole roasted pig. It’s a special meal that Conseulo Doval, who came to the United States in 1966, makes just four times a year — Christmas, Easter, New Year’s and Super Bowl.

She’s not alone. Homemade backyard spits are a common sight in her area on Super Bowl Sunday.

Miss Doval usually doesn’t go whole hog, opting instead for a hefty portion from a butcher and serving it alongside black beans, rice and fried bananas. She admits her family often focuses as much on the food and fun as on the game.

“Everybody talks at the same time,” she says. “Everybody comes, from the newest baby to the oldest grandparent. There’s the TV and Cuban music, so you’re not sure what to follow.”

Of course, the blending of cultures can create some surprising culinary combinations.

Sheela Shrinivas, a 25-year-old educator whose father emigrated from India to Oakville, Mo., 36 years ago, said her father’s lively Super Bowl parties always included samosas and rice dishes alongside the pizzas his American-born children prefer.

“What’s really fascinating to me about the Indian diaspora is that we’ll assimilate to another country, but we’ll still hold on to our culture,” she said. “The Super Bowl, for me, was the one day in the year where you could really see that. We do it up real big.”

Whether your family arrived on the Mayflower or at Ellis Island — or long before or after either milestone — consider infusing your Super Bowl eats with the some of the diverse flavors of America.

Jamaican jerk chicken wings

This recipe is from Derrick Williams’ Island Village Caf De in New York City.

3 pounds chicken wings

3 fresh hot red peppers, chopped (or to taste)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons allspice

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

½ cup water

In a large baking pan, arrange the chicken wings in a single layer. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining ingredients and puree until very smooth. Pour the sauce over the wings, ensuring they are coated evenly.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake the chicken wings 1 hour. Serve hot.

Makes 6 appetizer servings.

Chicken lumpia (Philippine egg rolls)

This recipe is from Ludy Onkgeko of Reno, Nev.

1/2 pounds ground chicken or pork

1/3 cup chopped water chestnuts

½ cup chopped onion

4 eggs

1/4 cup soy sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 packages small to medium egg roll wrappers (also called wonton wrappers), about 40 wrappers total

4 cups cooking oil

15-ounce bottle sweet-and-sour sauce

In a large bowl, combine the meat, water chestnuts, onion, eggs, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.

On a clean, dry surface, place one egg roll wrapper with a corner facing you (like a baseball diamond). Place about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center of the wrapper.

Dip your fingers in a glass of water and lightly wet the corner pointing away from you (second base). Fold the corner closest to you (home base) over the mixture, then fold the side corners over that and roll away from your body. The wet corner should seal the roll.

Repeat the process with remaining ingredients. Place the rolls in large zip-close plastic bags and freeze overnight.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil to about 350 degrees (use an instant cooking thermometer), or until it begins to shimmer and the oil bubbles lightly when a wooden chopstick is inserted.

Using tongs, place each frozen lumpia roll in the hot oil and fry until brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use tongs to turn rolls as needed to ensure even cooking. Remove the rolls to a plate covered in paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve with sweet-and-sour sauce. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Fresh ramen with Dungeness crab and truffle butter broth

This recipe is from Dave Kodama’s Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Honolulu.

4 cups pork broth (beef or vegetable broth could be substituted)

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons powdered fish stock (also called dashi)

8 tablespoons truffle butter

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 pound fresh ramen noodles

12 ounces cooked Dungeness crabmeat

4 tablespoons Thai basil

4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped scallions

1 teaspoon finely diced jalepeno peppers

3 teaspoons white truffle oil

In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the broth, soy sauce, fish stock and truffle butter. Boil for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large pot over high heat, bring 8 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in the ramen noodles and cook, stirring constantly, until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain the noodles and place in a large heat-safe bowl. Top with the crabmeat.

Return the broth to a boil for 1 minute, then pour the hot broth over the noodles and crab.

Garnish with Thai basil, cilantro, scallions, jalapeno peppers and truffle oil. Makes 4 servings


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