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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Food bloggers, a birthday and a mountain of dumplings

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.

Dumpling mixture

Making dumplings

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.

Dumpling factory

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

Pan-fried dumplings

Dinner time

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.

Birthday presents!

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...

Rainbow cake!


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!

View Larger Map

Bondi Surf Seafoods
128 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9130 4554

The deep-fried Mars Bar currently costs $3
43 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/25/2009 01:48:00 am


  • At 11/25/2009 1:57 am, Blogger lex said…

    what do you do with an edge brownie pan?! O.o Glad you had an awesome celebration :)

  • At 11/25/2009 2:11 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Maaaan, that was such a fun evening! Sorry, I should've added more seasoning, it was a bit under-seasoned hey? I never had made that much dumplings before! lol

    So when do we apply for a job @ chinese restaurant?

  • At 11/25/2009 2:42 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That makes it look soooo easy

  • At 11/25/2009 3:49 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Happy (belated) birthday Helen! Coolest. Cake. Ever.

    And omg, what kind of brownie pan is that?!

  • At 11/25/2009 7:33 am, Anonymous Andrea said…

    Happy birthday Helen. I, too, have an edge brownie pan and it is fabulous for making brownies. No one misses out on a crunchy 'edge' or 'corner' piece. You can also make cakes, gratins and lasagnes in them.

  • At 11/25/2009 7:34 am, Anonymous Trissa said…

    What a great way to celebrate your birthday and so many great gifts! I've got the momofuku and I think it is brilliant - you will enjoy cooking with it! How many dumplings did you end up eating? I think I would have had 50! They look delicious with all that dipping sauce.

  • At 11/25/2009 8:16 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    What a brilliant way to celebrate a birthday! The dumpling making sound so fun and delicious. Hurrah for lots of ice kacang! I wish I could have gotten palm seeds for mine, they're my fav. And that cake. WOW! Just way too awesome.

  • At 11/25/2009 8:18 am, Blogger Shanks said…

    Happy birthday Helen. Well done on the dumpling pleating - I tend to lose patience with the pleating. What an amazing cake. Mother Jelly & loads of food colouring...would have been an interesting time :)

  • At 11/25/2009 8:29 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    HEHEHEHE happppppy biirrthhhdddaaaaaayyyyyyy!!!! glad you liked the cake dude! cos uh i wont be doing that rainbow cake again any time soon lol and i have no more dumplings at home!

  • At 11/25/2009 9:11 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    Hahaha I still have my box of dumplings in the freezer... hope you had fun Helen! It was awesome making that many dumplings even if I crashed and burned after eating 12 lol

  • At 11/25/2009 9:14 am, Blogger K said…

    Wow, that cake looks awesome. I can imagine chocolatesuze having fun (or hell?) mixing all the colours! I want an ice machine now. After several days of 40 degree heat, an ice kacang would be fantastic!

  • At 11/25/2009 9:19 am, Anonymous The Extra said…

    When I die, I want to come back as a food blogger - as long as I get to partake in birthday parties like that. It's now 9.20am and I am sooo hungry for dumplings.

    And where can you get those brownie pans (I think I've just found a xmas present for Mrs Extra).

  • At 11/25/2009 10:54 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Happy belated birthday, Helen!

    Love the edge brownie pan - never knew there was such a thing but completely understand its existence. And the multicoloured cake takes me back to primary school days... =)

  • At 11/25/2009 10:59 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Ooh wow! Where to begin!! Love the dumpling party and the cake is awesome! And the edge brownie pan - so awesome!! Ahh... What a great way to celebrate your birthday!

  • At 11/25/2009 11:00 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    I spotted the butt-dumpling! LOL.... oh so much fun that night and so fulll...... and that cake... omg!

  • At 11/25/2009 11:31 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Happy birthday Helen!!! <3

    Reading this post and seeing what your food bloggers gave you (AHEM MOST AWESOME CAKE EVER) made me a wee bit teary =]

    I love the dumplings - made me nostalgic about those days us kids used to help our aunts/mums make them. Loved every bit of this post..

  • At 11/25/2009 11:32 am, Anonymous Carmen said…

    Those dumplings look delicious and the cake amazing! Hope you had a fantastic birthday!

  • At 11/25/2009 11:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Happy Birthday Helen! I loved watching your dumpling production line... this week I dined at Din Tai Fung, so I have been contemplating the art of dumplings myself. Nice to see such wonderful examples come from a home cooking setting! Those pleats and folds look perfect... was there a magic number? I am told at Din Tai Fung there must be at least eighteen.

  • At 11/25/2009 11:42 am, Blogger M? said…

    Happy Birthday! Hope you enjoyed your special day and were spoilt silly! They are some mighty awesome gifts and fantastic food love the rainbow cake!

  • At 11/25/2009 12:00 pm, Anonymous Zina @ tastedbytwo said…

    Happy birthday Helen! What a wonderful way to celebrate.... and holy moly, look at that cake ;)

  • At 11/25/2009 12:03 pm, Anonymous Rilsta @ My Food Trail said…

    Happy birthday! It sounds like an awesome party and what an effort Suze went to with the cake!!

  • At 11/25/2009 12:13 pm, Anonymous Simon said…

    What a great birthday party, huh? Had so much fun making dumplings together. Gotta do it again sometime!

    Suze's cake was absolutely amazing. Totally jaw dropping and I wasn't even the birthday girl (not that I would be).

    After that night, developed a fondness for ais kachang :)

  • At 11/25/2009 12:25 pm, Anonymous YW@BrunchLunchMunch said…

    Sounds like you had a great celebration! I don't particularly like dumplings, but I do enjoy making them together with friends & family. It's a very enjoyable, fun and tasty activity :)

  • At 11/25/2009 12:34 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    A gazillion dumplings, ice kacang, deep fried mars bars and that amazing CAKE?! What more could you want! Looks like you had an awesome birthday and I'm totally putting that panda skillet on my wish list hehe. Do you know where it was from?

  • At 11/25/2009 1:40 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    What an awesome birthday with a bunch of great friends. OMG I have an Edge Brownie Pan. Its the best thing ever.

  • At 11/25/2009 1:49 pm, Anonymous Renee said…


    Dumplings look awesome! And the cake, outstanding. All the best for a wonderful new year for you.

  • At 11/25/2009 2:11 pm, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Deep-fried Mars Bars should be outlawed! Hehe.

  • At 11/25/2009 2:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hee hee glad you had fun and thanks for stretching it out so I could join in haha! and thinking back you should've just attacked the whole cake with a fork :P

  • At 11/25/2009 2:59 pm, Blogger Eileen Chong said…

    happy birthday helen! that is one hell of a birthday party. suze's cake is OUT OF THIS WORLD!

  • At 11/25/2009 4:08 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How did Suze make the crayon cake?

  • At 11/25/2009 9:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great friends + good food = perfect birthday celebraton! How many bottomless stomachs were there to finished the 270 dumplings >_<

  • At 11/25/2009 10:11 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    Happy Birthday Helen :)
    and that cake looks freakishly awesome!
    Suze is one hella of a good cook

  • At 11/26/2009 12:33 am, Blogger YaYa said…

    Happy Birthday! That cake is awesome! Don't great minds think alike, a brownie pan that give maximum crunchy edge, reminds me of the deliberately shallow muffin pan that makes only muffin tops!

  • At 11/26/2009 1:14 am, Blogger Suyin said…

    Happy Birthday Helen!
    Those dumplings look absolutely scrumptious! (Late-night craving totally triggered now) :)

  • At 11/26/2009 2:12 pm, Anonymous Kate said…

    Happy, Happy Birthday! Your cake is gorgeous - you are lucky to have such great friends.

  • At 11/26/2009 2:48 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    The rainbow cake is gorgeous! I like the hands-on theme too. Happy birthday!

  • At 11/27/2009 2:05 am, Anonymous steph said…

    You are a very lucky birthday girl!! I am soo envious of that beautiful cake.

  • At 11/27/2009 3:04 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Lex - You bake brownies in an edge brownie pan. And revel in all the chewy crispy edges! Thinking about lasagna too :)

    Hi Yas - Thanks for all your hard work. I have never seen anyone enjoy working with pork mince so much. lol. And nah, the dumplings were great. That's what the dried chilli was for!

    I don't think my dumpling folding is quite up to scratch yet. I reckon that you and Billy could definitely hang out in the dumpling window though. lol.

    Hi Pina Colada Kisses - Dumplings are easy - once they're cooked noone can tell whose are whose :)

    Hi Karen - Thank you :) It was a very cool cake. My very first homemade character cake. I had a sad childhood. lol.

    And the brownie pan is just all kinds of awesome. lol.

    Hi Andrea - Thanks so much, and yes, I agree, I was spoilt with so many thoughtful gifts. I only ate 18 dumplings although I was thinking ahead about dessert. lol.

    Hi Stephcookie - Yup dumpling parties are always fun. Get everyone to pitch in and then enjoy the fruits of your labour together. Palm seeds are my favourite too - I think they're nature's jelly beans :) The cake was very cool, but then so is Suze.

    Hi Shanks - Thank you and awww my pleating still has some ways to go. The cake was quite a sight. A great night indeed!

    Hi chocolatesuze - I think you may have found a new market in rainbow cakes. lol. Thanks so much for hosting the party and for making the best cake ever! And ha, I can imagine you having rainbow nightmares for some time. lol.

    Hi Minh - Ahh yes my dumplings are still in the freezer too! I had a blast - always a great night with you guys. I have an ice machine but I think I want to upgrade. lol.

    Hi The Extra - Live your life now. It's never too late to start a food blog!

    The brownie pan was from the US - suggest you google it but you'll have to be patient for it to get shipped over!

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - I first heard about the brownie pan from Suze but it's funny that she remembered how much I coveted one as that was ages ago. The multi-coloured cake does bring out the kid in you. Long live childhood I say.

    Hi Betty - It was a fun night. I think everyone should have a dumpling party for their birthday :)

    Hi Billy - Yes a fab time, and your dumpling pleats were phenomenal. I loved your little game of "name that colour" as you ate the cake. lol

    Hi Margaret - Thank you :) Aww did you really get teary? I have fond memories of making dumplings with my grandma. I think it's a great way to spend quality time, with a delicious reward at the end! Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you have a dumpling night yourself with family so you can create even more memories :)

    Hi Carmen - Thanks, I had a very memorable birthday and the dumplings were very delicious!

    Hi MissDissent - Ahh I don't think we'll ever come up to the standards of Din Tai Fung but it was tasty regardless. Everyone had their own technique but I think my average was about 10! lol.

    Hi M's nemesis - Thank you and yes, I think I was spoilt silly! The pressies were all so very appropriate and the rainbow cake was lots of fun. A perfect evening!

  • At 11/27/2009 3:04 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Zina - The cake was a sight to behold. We couldn't stop staring - or photographing! lol. Thanks for your b'day wishes too :)

    Hi Rilsta - It was a great night and Suze did go to a lot of effort. It was worth it because the cake - such an amazing sight!

    Hi Simon - Yeah an ais kacang convert! Now you know why I couldn't stop eating them in Singapore. Dumpling nights are always fun and the cake was brilliant, but from Suze would we expect anything less?

    Hi YW - I love dumplings, but good to hear you pitch in with making them even though you don't eat any/many :)

    Hi Jacq - Had a fab b'day celebration (one of many, actually). Not sure where the panda skillet came from, but if you contact FFichiban from Here Comes the Food he might tell you :)

    Hi A Cupcake or Two - Can't wait to use the brownie pan. Was surprised by how strong and heavy it was too.

    Hi Renee - Thank you so much. The dumplings and the cake made for a fab evening - with matching company of course!

    Hi Joey - lol. I want to try deep-fried coke!

    Hi FFichiban - Attacked the whole cake with a fork? lol. Thanks for the Mars Bar delivery and whoah, can't believe you ate two bowls of ais kacang!

    Hi E(ileen) - Thanks. Suze's cake was one-of-a-kind :)

    Hi Anon - If you check out her site, Chocolatesuze, she'll be posting pics and details of the cake construction next week.

    Hi Ellie - I agree wholeheartedly. Good friends and good food always make for a great night out. There were 6 stomachs on for dumplings although Suze didn't manage many at all. Yas was the clear winner :)

    Hi sugarpuffi - Thank you and yes, Suze is quite the baker!

    Hi YaYa - Thanks and yes, the brownie pan is a brilliant idea. I'm also a fan of muffin tops too. lol

    Hi Syn - Thank you and lol, hope you satiate that dumpling craving soon :)

    Hi Kate - Thanks and yes, I'm very grateful for my wonderful group of friends :)

    Hi Arwen - Thank you. I think hands-on cooking is fun for everyone. Besides people always tend to congregate in the kitchen anyway.

    Hi Steph - It was a great birthday and yes, I was very pleased with the special birthday cake!

  • At 11/27/2009 4:57 pm, Anonymous Tresna said…

    Looks like the best birthday party EVER! Dumplings, Es Kacang, Cake! (not sure about the Mars Bar, by arteries hurt just looking at them!)

    I think I need a dumpling making session....

  • At 11/30/2009 3:52 am, Anonymous Helen (grabyourfork) said…

    Hi Tresna - It was a great birthday! The Mars Bars were pretty intense, but yes, I definitely recommend a dumpling-making session!

  • At 11/30/2009 1:38 pm, Blogger Babe_KL said…

    sorry Helen, am so late in wishing you a happy belated birthday :p

  • At 11/30/2009 10:00 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi babe_kl - Thanks so much, and it's never too late :)


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