How does a food blogger celebrate her birthday? With food. And lots of it.
I was fortunate enough to celebrate my birthday with homemade dumplings on the weekend, a happy huddle of food bloggers industriously pleating packages of pork and veal mince. It's been ages since I'd made wontons or dumplings. I love the ritual of seasoning the mince and then settling down for a few hours to patiently wrap tray upon tray of little parcels, an activity done with grandma when I was a little kid, or, more recently, on my own in front of the telly.
Making dumplings with friends, on the other hand, is much more fun. There's a lovely sense of camaraderie as everyone chips in with the prep work--one person chopping the shallots, the other in charge of garlic and ginger, another pulling apart the cabbage leaves--and then our combined efforts pulled together in the big mixing bowl (or pot) and kneaded and pummelled until the mixture has melded and softened.
Slicing the shallots
Chinese cabbage leaves to be wilted in hot water for extra sweetness
Working the mince until soft
There was no hard-and-fast recipe here. We used a mixture of veal and pork mince and then added finely chopped shallots, ginger, garlic, rehydrated black fungus and cooked Chinese fungus. Season with soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and white pepper and then cook a teaspoon of the mixture to check the flavours are to your liking. Egg and/or cornflour are optional binders.
Peanut butter and jelly macaron in front of Suze's Christmas tree
Flagging energy levels can be quickly perked up with a homemade peanut butter and jelly macaron. Thanks Billy!
Gather everyone around the table for the best part - folding. We chatted and laughed as we made our way through the stack of wrappers. I loved how everyone had their own style of pleating too.
Place a spoonful of mince in the middle of the dumpling wrapper
Fold the wrapper in half
Pinch and pleat the dumpling wrapper together
Billy's beautifully folded dumplings
In less than 45 minutes, six of us made 270 dumplings.
We steamed some dumplings but panfried the majority of them. Yas worked the frypan like a professional, first browning the bottoms in an oiled pan, and then adding a splash of water and putting the lid on to steam until cooked.
Pan-frying the dumplings
Dumpling condiments of soy vinegar, ginger shallot oil,
chilli flakes, ginger and shallot
Eat dumplings with plenty of sauce - I managed 18, Yas got up to 34
We continued the hands-on theme with a production line of ais kacang. Tins of jackfruit, palm seeds, grass jelly, lychees, kidney beans, cooked sweetened red bean and creamed corn were opened and sliced as necessary. We had cendol and basil seeds and roasted peanuts and gula melaka palm sugar syrup and evaporated milk and condensed milk and ice. Lots of ice. Crushed into a fine powder and then piled on top of our multi-coloured concoctions.
Ais kacang ingredients
Suze and Billy work the two ice crushers
Ais kacang base
Billy pouring on palm sugar syrup onto the ice
Ais kacang for one
A late arrival knows to bring gifts. With a tray of deep-fried Mars Bars in hand, we welcome him gladly!
Deep-fried Mars Bars
Inside the deep-fried Mars Bar
A classic menu item at Bondi Surf Seafoods, the deep-fried Mars Bar is not for the faint-hearted. A whole Mars Bar is dipped in coconut batter and fried twice, the coating quite thick and chewy, with echoes of the wrapping around a Chiko roll. You can also faintly taste fish, the Mars Bar presumably fried in the same oil as its aquatic friends.
And then birthday presents! I lovelovelove my edge brownie pan, guaranteed to give you two chewy edges for every individual serving of brownie! I love edges. I also love my Momofuku cookbook, a copy of Nose-to-Tail Eating and a panda pan - you guys really know the way to my heart!
But wait, there's more.
After being banished to the lounge and forbidden from peeking, I was eventually led--eyes closed--to the bestest birthday cake I've ever had...
A Grab Your Fork birthday cake!
A cake! In the shape of a fork! For Grab Your Fork!
Cutting the cake
Surely it couldn't get any better...
OH YES IT CAN.
Oh Suze, you have outdone yourself. A multi-layered rainbow cake just like a giant packet of colour pencils.
Maple syrup jelly, Coca Cola jelly and Mother jelly
And there was jelly too. Suze concocted her own jellies using real maple syrup, Coca Cola and Mother. The Mother had a great fizzy buzz on the tongue and the maple syrup had me craving bacon. Coca Cola was much more flavoursome than the usual cola varieties.
A ladder of rainbow cake
Thanks Suze so much for hosting and for the most amazing birthday cake I've ever had the pleasure of receiving. And thank you Billy, Minh, Simon, Richard and Yas for the great company and wonderful gifts. Here's to many more food adventures ahead!
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Bondi Surf Seafoods
128 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9130 4554
The deep-fried Mars Bar currently costs $3
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11/25/2009 01:48:00 a.m.