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The Year-Round Vietnamese Party Snack That's Much Simpler Than It Looks

A savory little morsel that feels incredibly comforting...
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My hosting alter-ego is nothing like me IRL: She wears breezy maxi dresses and her perfectly windblown hair would take real-Thao hours—and a whole glam squad—to coif into being. When her guests arrive, she whisks them into a clean house, handcrafted cocktail at the ready, and makes effortless conversation while doling out appetizers from a cute platter (“Oh this? A vintage find!”). She’s warm, gracious, and so poised that she’s actually able to enjoy the parties she hosts.

In reality? I’m usually a few steps behind, pulling something out of the oven while trying to find the extra cloth napkins, cleaning up a juice stain from my daughter’s dress as I kick a discarded tutu under the sofa. I stress about whether people are happy and eating well enough. I come by my anxious hosting honestly. My whole family is just a little haphazard. We don’t float through a social gathering; we hover, we rush, we have no sense of ambiance. It’s not for lack of trying. Sometimes, it was a lack of resources (parties are expensive!), and most often, it’s just a sense of pressing social anxiety we all seem to wear like cheap coats.

But tablescapes aside, one thing we did really well was consistently put together delicious assortments of party snacks. We weren’t parlor people; we were kitchen people, comfortable amidst the hot snap of oil and rhythmic chop of vegetables. Our best gatherings weren’t formal. They were the ones where everyone swarmed the food, perched on kitchen stools, grabbing a taste of this, pitching in to stir that. In the kitchen, you don’t have to pretend to be breezy—you can move, mingle, jostle.

One of my favorite things to serve in my own messy kitchen is Vietnamese Patê Sô, otherwise known as Pâté Chaud: essentially, a hot meat hand pie served for breakfast or as a snack. The flaky puff pastry wraps around an unctuous meat filling, and the result is a savory little morsel that feels incredibly comforting. Patê Sô is an adaptation of the French Pâté en Croûte, and looks like a little pop tart, with its crimped edges and golden-brown exterior. It comes in all sorts of shapes: little scalloped circles, triangles, and, most often, a perfect square. Meat pies are ubiquitous all over the world, but I profess a keen loyalty to the Vietnamese version.

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I made Patê Sô for the first time for a “Game of Thrones” viewing—they mentioned meat pie so often in the show (though, in retrospect, not appetizingly) that I made a batch for our Sunday night gathering. I was astounded by how easy it was to prepare. You need some puff pastry (as Ina Garten would say, “Store bought is fine.”—as I would say, “Store bought is all you’re getting.”), and a bit of meat or vegetarian filling that can be assembled in one bowl. I’ve also prepped my Patê Sô ahead of time, popping it into the oven right before guests arrive. (It’s actually encouraged to refrigerate your pies after assembling, to let the butter in the puff pastry chill again.) The savory filling melts into the buttery crust. It’s endlessly versatile; some people use chicken, some add veggies, or even meat pâté, as the name suggests. Patê Sô is great for summer, served with some iced Vietnamese coffee or a light beer, and also in winter, alongside a stew.

What did I serve when hosting our beloved babysitter for a congratulatory engagement dinner? Patê Sô. What did I bring over when meeting my boss for the first time? Patê Sô. Saturday night family happy hour? You guessed it. If you come to my kitchen, I’ll probably hand you a hot pie on a paper napkin—because I still can’t find the cloth ones.

There are so many recipes out there, but these are two I’ve tweaked to my liking. I made a version for meat-eaters, and a curried potato one for vegetarians that is extremely nontraditional (though one day, remind me to tell you about the irresistible Vietnamese Coconut Curry that inspires it). This summer, we have a line-up of birthdays, anniversaries, and long-anticipated backyard hangs ahead of us. And I know just what I’ll be offering my guests. Maybe this familiar old recipe will lend me some much-needed calm in the midst of all my hosting anxiety:

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Serving size: 9 large pastries or 12 small pastries

2 puff pastry sheets (I use 1 box of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, which includes 2 sheets)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup minced onion
1 pound ground pork
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1 egg, separated

Defrost the pastry for 2 to 3 hours on the counter or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 350° F and line your largest baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat, then add minced onion. Cook, stirring, until translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Once onion is cool, add to a bowl with your ground pork. Add fish sauce, sugar, and ground pepper, then mix it all together. I like to roll a teaspoon of the mixture into a ball and heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to cook, to make sure the seasonings are right for me.

Remove your pastry sheets from the fridge or counter, and unfold onto a floured surface, carefully rolling over the creases with a rolling pin. Cut your sheet into 9 or 12 even squares, depending on how large you want your pastries to be. Add 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of filling into the center of one square (depending on how large your pastries will be), flattening the filling a bit.

Brush egg whites around the perimeter of your pastry, then place the top square over your bottom square. I use the edge of a fork to crimp the edges and seal the pastries. Put your finished pastries in the fridge for about 5 minutes to firm up again. At this point, you can leave them covered in the fridge overnight, if making ahead for a party.

Remove from fridge and brush the tops with egg yolk. Bake for 20 minutes. You can serve these hot, or at room temperature. You can also make them ahead of time and reheat the day-of at 350° F for 10 minutes.

Note: You’ll probably have extra filling; try making meatballs! I roll the mixture into 1” balls and cook at 375° F for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. These are great in vermicelli noodle bowls, in a bánh mì, or just as a little snack.

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Serving size: 9 large pastries or 12 small pastries

2 puff pastry sheets (I use 1 box of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, which includes 2 sheets)
3 medium Yukon potatoes, peeled and halved
2 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup of minced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ cup coconut milk
2 cloves of garlic
1 egg, separated

Defrost the pastry for 2 to 3 hours on the counter or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 350° F and line your largest baking sheet with parchment paper. Add your potatoes to a cold pot of water. Bring water to a boil. Once boiling, let the potatoes cook for 10 to 15 minutes until tender. Drain and let cool, then dice into very small pieces.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium heat, then add minced onion. Cook, stirring, until translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and carrots, then cook for an additional 5 minutes, until everything is soft. Then, add your last tablespoon of oil and your diced potatoes. Add curry powder, turmeric, salt, and sugar, and stir.

Then, add your coconut milk and simmer for an additional 5 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Using the back of your spatula, mash the filling slightly. Take off the heat and cool.

Remove your pastry sheets from the fridge or counter, and unfold onto a floured surface, carefully rolling over the creases with a rolling pin. Cut your sheet into 9 or 12 even squares, depending on how large you want your pastries to be. Add 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of filling into the center of one square (depending on how large your pastries will be), flattening the filling a bit.

Brush egg whites around the perimeter of your pastry, then place the top square over your bottom square. I use the edge of a fork to crimp and seal the squares. Put your baking sheet with your finished pastries in the fridge for about 5 minutes to firm up again.

Then remove from fridge and brush the tops with egg yolk. Bake for 20 minutes. You can serve these hot, or at room temperature. You can also make them ahead of time and reheat the day-of at 350° F for 10 minutes.

Note: You’ll probably have extra filling. I include the leftover potato mixture in a wrap or as a side dish!

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