Thursday, August 26, 2010

the old ways

Last night I made wontons for the first time after thinking about doing so for awhile, man they were good - and incredibly easy to make! (much easier than I thought they would be anyway).

mmm wontons but alas, not mine (so didn't think I'd be blogging about them!) Image: What Did You Eat?
So as I sat wrapping and folding (they are easy to make but like any good food, took time to prepare), I started thinking how this must be a lovely rite-of-passage or bonding experience for Asian mums and kids (well let's face it, most probably Asian mums and daughters) sitting together and learning the 'old ways' of preparing traditional dishes, and I did kind of wish I had a surrogate Asian mum or auntie to sit and learn this from (instead of Auntie YouTube).

This is such an important part of our childhood and adolescence, but of course we never realise this until we are adults as well. I remember sitting around the kitchen table with my mum, rolling dolmas (mine were always the fat ones), skewering meat for kebabs until our fingers were red from the capsicum paste or folding spinach and feta boeregs (you could just tell which (wonky) ones were mine), usually chatting about inane stuff but now I realise what special times these were. My mother probably had to beg me or threaten starvation if I didn't help, and at the time I probably saw it as a major chore but I do reminisce about these occasions fondly. I have retained most of the knowledge with regards to the dishes themselves but I have decided to get cooking lessons whenever I am with my mum (she lives interstate). Especially in Australia with such a multi-cultural population, if we don't get these recipes down now we might lose them, definitely if your mum puts her own 'secret' ingredients in.

I so far have got my favourites down - although they still never taste as good as mum makes - why is this so? I am following her instructions to the letter... But maybe this is the problem, she never uses measurements and weights - always does things by eye, so this may be something that comes with practice...hopefully. Still got many recipes to go but getting there.

One of my aunts was born in Calcutta and we always got to eat her amazing curries at the bring-a-plate family get-togethers we had so many of when we were younger. Some time ago, I decided I was not only going to learn the old ways from my own mum, but from others as well so I had wonderful thoughts of spending an afternoon with my Auntie J in her kitchen, grinding spices and learning to make traditional curry from an expert. I approached her about my idea and she said to use a jar as it was just as good and she had been doing so for years! I was devastated! All those spices! All those aromas!

Alas, it was not to be, but it has not put me off my mission. There are many foods that are certain aunt specialties (I am thinking of your mamool Auntie Z!) and I can envisiage many afternoons in kitchens soon. Plus I have a Punjabi mate who makes a mean curry so I might just have that sorted too.

Tabouli (Image: Down to Earth Recipes)
PS. Just realised there have been no recipes or tips in here after all my waffling on about the old ways. Here is one of the best tips I've been given, it's for making tabouli: rather than soak the bulghur in water, chop the tomatoes up first and mix in with bulghur, let sit and the grain soaks up all the tomatoey juicy goodness, and makes for soft tasty bulghur in your home-made tabouli! This tip was from my Auntie A - thank you!


  1. OMG!!! Aunty Z's Mamool!!! my fav... You forgot to mention mums Potato salad, lentil soup and mante! ooh Stroganoff aka white jush deserves a mention too ;)
    p.s you were rolling "sarma" or stuffing dolma!

  2. That's right! Although didn't mum call the cabbage rolls dolma too? that's what I was thinking of...

    yep there are too many yummy recipes from mum to mention, a few auntie's got a look in though - esp the mamool!

    i had forgotten about the lentil soup though - it's going on the list right now, perfect weather here for it...