When I was a kid, most of our big family celebration dinners were held at home. Food was always the center of the festivities; from fruit salad, lasagna and roasts, borscht and potato leek soup, to homemade rolls and cake; we always ate well. Then there were the dinners at Louie’s Cuisine of China. Louie’s catered to a crowd with ease and we often walked past the smoky lounge to a banquet room so our boisterous conversations and laughter would be contained. It was something a little exotic but completely comforting, with a huge menu to please just about everyone.

A Louie’s dinner was something my brother and I especially looked forward to. The lazy Susan in the center of the table would start with a pot of green tea (into which we would dump several pink sugar packets per tiny cup) and gradually fill with what seemed like dozens of platters from red-tinged barbeque pork with sinus-burning mustard, greasy hot egg rolls, fluffy pork fried rice, tender steak with sugar snap peas and flower-shaped carrot coins, deep-fried General Tso’s chicken with bright orange sauce and whole chili peppers, crispy slices of breaded chicken topped with thick almond sauce and mounds of chow mein noodles all with the promise of a sweet fortune cookie at the end.

After the feasting my brother and I would make “special sauce” in our teacup saucers with all the condiments on the table. Once our parents were fed up with that, we would move on to playing underneath the table, untying people’s shoes and tickling their feet. Soon it was time to go home, happy and tired, full of Chinese food.

I picked up these beauties from the Vashon Island Farmer’s Market on Saturday and they immediately reminded me of the stir-fried pea dishes at Louie’s. These fresh sugar snap peas were crisp, sweet and juicy, with tender peas that popped in my mouth. It’s a wonder I didn’t eat them all before the ferry ride home was over but I somehow managed to wait until I got home. With a quick sauté in bacon fat, the peas turned bright green and retained their sweet crunch. A simple glaze of savory oyster sauce, smoky black vinegar and a speckle of toasted sesame seeds and meaty bacon bits made this simple summer sauté really special, almost as special as a family dinner at Louie’s.

Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas with Bacon & Black Vinegar

Use the freshest snap peas or snow peas you can find, hopefully from a local farmers market; the Vashon Farmers Market is where I got these. Oyster sauce and black vinegar can be found in Asian supermarkets; in Seattle, I get mine at HT Market or Uwajimaya.

Serves 4


1 pound (4 cups, 454 grams) snap peas

1 slice (29 grams) smoked bacon

1 tablespoon (18 grams) oyster sauce

1 tablespoon (15 grams) black vinegar

2 teaspoons (4 grams) toasted sesame seeds (or a mixture of black and white)

Trim the peas. One pea pod at a time, snap off the ends and pull off the fibrous stings along the sides. Set aside.

Crisp the bacon. Finely mince the bacon and place it in a cold sauté pan. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the bacon bits are crisp and golden brown.

Sauté the peas. As soon as the bacon is cooked, turn the heat up to high and add the snap peas all at once and sauté for 1 minute. Add the oyster sauce, vinegar and sesame seeds and cook for another 2 minutes, until the peas are bright green and tender-crisp and the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze. Serve hot or warm.