The Washington Post

Radio Free Asia potluck features unusual dishes

Mamatjan Juma(L) with Radio Free Asia Uyghur Service placed a pieces of lamb on the plate of Lobsang Yeshi on November 17, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST)

In pursuit of home-cooked recipes from abroad, I scored an invite to one of the hottest multicultural tickets in town: Radio Free Asia’s semiannual potluck, held the week before Thanksgiving. The scope of the fall event has grown over its seven-year history, says the nonprofit agency’s director and potluck advocate, Libby Liu: “It’s gone a long way toward uniting the [agency’s nine language] news services.”

Space at RFA’s downtown Washington headquarters gets understandably elbow-to-elbow once the buffet tables are laden and 300 employees and guests slide in and out of tortuous queues. Nobody seems to mind. Chalk up the added entertainment value of country banners and native costumes to a good-natured one-upmanship among broadcasters, researchers, studio technicians and videographers.

“The reality is, we don’t have leisure time to socialize,” Liu says. The potluck allows the news services “to share the richness of their cultures.”

Grand total: more than 100 dishes. Highlights: Uyghur stuffed breads and a whole roasted lamb; Tibetan tsampa (ground barley grain) and hot yak butter tea; Cambodian-inspired salmon curry and Burmese tea leaf salad.


Salmon in Curry Sauce (Kary Trey Salmon)

Tea Leaf Salad

Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes:



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