Kakadu Travel Diary – Blog Part 1

We’ve survived Kakadu National Park, 20,000 square kilometres of saturated blue skies, burnt gum trees, drenched wetlands. An area 28 times the size of my home country of Singapore. It’s  beautiful in its own starkness but just so mind numbingly vast, what they call the Top End of Australia.

In Victoria where we live, we’re spoilt by stunning, undulating, varied vistas. For example, on the 2.5 hour journey to Mount Buller from our house, you pass by the gorgeous beaches of the Mornington Peninsula, the buzzing hipsters in Melbourne, the golden tinged vineyards of the Yarra Valley, cute little country hillside towns like Yea and Mansfield, then the vertiginous snaking road up through towering snow gums to the top of the mountain.

In the 4 hour drive from Darwin to Kakadu, you just see monotonous blurry stretches of the gum trees on flat land for most of the journey with only the occasional termite mound or dishearteningly boring McMiners town to break up the scenery.

We decided to take things easy because after 3 hours on a bumpy dirt road, all the kids were car sick and the only thing we had seen was an army base and a small patch of swamp with magpie geese on it. Apparently it was another hour to the cultural centre, and then another 2 hours to a waterfall! My head (and bum) hurt just to think of it. I mean, if you drove that far from Singapore, you’d practically be halfway to China already! We gave the cultural centre a half-hearted exploration, had lunch at a truly tacky resort and beat a hasty retreat back to Wildman’s Wilderness Lodge where we were staying, an hour outside Kakadu.

Actually, as it turns out, we had a far better time exploring the area surrounding the lodge as it is part of the Mary River system and has its own billabong and wetlands. The highlight of our stay was definitely the airboat trip. An airboat is like being on a souped up V8 race car that hovers on a cushion of air over the water. It is dead fast, crazy noisy and a lot of fun. The kids screamed with crazy glee as the Macca, the airboat driver, deftly executed turns and chicanes on the swamp, scattering enormous flocks of birds in the air and alarming kangaroos, wallabies, wild buffalo, feral pigs and crocodiles.

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In fact, the airboat was so fast, I feared that we were practically going to crash into the wildlife half the time. In the photo on the below right, you can see the most bizarre stork called the Jabiru. This one was about 1.4 metres tall with a iridescent teal blue face and flamingo pink legs. He had just caught its fishy dinner in the billabong and calmly ate it in front of us as black kite birds circled over head screaming for him to leave some remnants for them.

Speaking of wild buffalo, we were lucky enough to come across two wild male buffalo who were sizing each other up, preparing for a territory dispute. As we watched with great interest, they charged towards each other, and when their horns locked, they both turned at the same time and ran, tangled up straight towards our airboat, no more than 15 metres away!

Luckily Macca had the good sense to whack on the reverse and get us out of their path in a hurry – nobody wants to be smacked by half a ton of wild buffalo! I can just see the headlines – Singaporean family turned into Buffalo Biltong at Kakadu…

Here’s the youtube video I shot of the entire alarming event. The kids thought it was splendid, educational fun though and spent the rest of the day practicing buffalo wrestling moves in the tent.

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The wild lotus flowers are magnificent, velvety petaled, geometric and unexpected, rising majestically out of the muddy swamp.

Oh and the crocs are everywhere. A few weeks before our trip, some unfortunate fellow as bailing water with a pail from a fishing boat when he leaned a little too far over the edge, and a huge 4.7 metre crocodile jumped up and dragged him down into the water as his horrified wife and daughter watched. It was so fast he didn’t even get a chance to scream, and he was never seen again. The police went out and shot 2 crocs and found his remains in both, according to the locals. “He got taken just at this spot here. Ah you know, these things happen.” our weatherbeaten Northern Territories cowboy guide shrugged, “we’ll be right.”

That’s the thing about Aussies. Half of the time they’re freaking out about applying SPF 50+ sunscreen, speed limits, making sure that swimming pools are fenced off like Alcatraz and such, but point out that they live in the most dangerous place in the entire world when it comes to wildlife and insects that will kill you and they’re all “No dramas! Throw another snag on the barbie will ya and mind that redback spider under your coaster!” Finn can recite a list of 20 things that will kill you in under a minute just on our local beach alone – coneshells, blue-ringed octopus, the list goes on…

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It’s a crazy, rugged, cowboy kind of place. Finn got to ride in the front seat of the jeep – seatbelt optional. We often didn’t see a single car for hours in the baking sun. There’s a town called Humpty Doo and its gas station is called Humpty Pump. There’s a place on the Adelaide river that trains crocs to jump 2 metres into the air to catch dead chickens suspended from rods on the side of the boat. I spoke to a teenage boy who pulled out his mobile phone to show me videos of him riding a rodeo bull, where he hung on for 2 seconds before he was flung off like a rag doll and stomped on. “Jeez, that was a bit hairy there!” he grinned.  It’s a mad place. And when I say we survived it, I mean that I’m on antivirals, antibiotics and antihistamines after being bitten by a swarm of insects which led to a dreaded staph infection.

Did I mention the kids had an awesome time though?  The things we do as parents. More to be continued in Part II of our Kakadu travel diary soon…
xxx,
Yours, feverishly,
C

Random list – the winter edition.

There’s this game going around in the blog world where if you’re tagged, you have to complete a list of questions. In that spirit of randomness, this is my list of random winter fragments.

Reading: House of Leaves – Mark Danielewski’s seriously creepy and subversive book which my little brother gave me

Listening to: Amazing new band London Grammar – the lead singer reminds me of Beth Orton, Tracey Thorn with a dash of Lana Del Rey.

Making : My special winter kimchi and fermenting red wine vinegar. And big arrangements of greenery from the garden out of the savagely pruned branches from our orchard.

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Cooking : Roasted cauliflower with nam pla, lime juice and chilli, all kinds of dumplings,

Drinking : Lots of liquorice tea, genmaicha, berry smoothies and water

Wanting: Warmer weather! And a boat for summer sojourns to the nearby islands

Looking: For inspiration, always and everywhere.

Missing: An old pearl and sapphire necklace. And one of my best friends in Singapore.

Playing: Just playing with things in general. Messing about in the kitchen, experimenting with new skills. As I get older I learn how to take myself more lightly. And it helps that I have a great bunch of fun and silly friends here on the Peninsula.

Wishing: That the dishes would do themselves…

Enjoying: Fires in our awesome new Cheminees Phillippe cast iron fireplace. I love the satisfaction of lighting a fire, watching the flames, the ambient crackle and snap, the fragrance released when you throw orange peels on them while reading books in the living room.

Having: So many visitors from all over the world recently! Just this month we’ve had 4 groups of guests come to our house. It’s great living in a place where people go on holiday

Preparing for: My next Legacy Retreat in Bhutan. It’s very exciting but also one of the hardest things I’ve ever organised.

Liking: The ages my kids are at. Our youngest is 4 and everyone is out of nappies, old enough to reason with and now we can travel longer distances for car trips and camping without packing the entire house!

Wondering: If we should set up another business. Tempted, but we will need to be careful. I don’t want to overstretch myself and I know that the last year was frenetic and I need a break.

Loving: My husband, we have never been at a better place in our relationship. Coming up to 10 years now and I’m still excited to hear his footsteps when he comes home and grateful to clamber into a warm bed with him at night and talk nonsense.

Marvelling: At Finn’s willpower and quiet conviction. I volunteered to help out at his gym class last week and he had to step on a seesaw to flip a beanbag up and then catch it. He missed the first 43 times but he immediately tried again and again until he finally made a catch. And then he made 8 catches in a row. I have it on video. He’s such a marvellous soul.

Smelling: Our limes and lemons everywhere in the house. And unfortunately, also smelling Bruno our greyhound’s farts. He’s on probiotics now to see if it makes a difference to his general flatulence!

Hoping: That my business Legacy Retreat settles into a happy self-sustaining rhythm next year.

Wearing: My favourite cashmere sweaters in neon pink, yellow and crazy patterns to cheer me up in this winter weather. And my Hunter wellies for mucking around with the greyhounds and in the chicken coop.

Following: Self sufficiency expert Rohan Anderson @WholeLarderLove on instagram. I just went for a weekend workshop with Rohan and learned to dispatch, pluck and butcher chickens and skin rabbits. More on that later.

Noticing: The magnolias blooming more luxuriantly every day.

Knowing: That I am blessed and lucky. Just like that 10,000 Maniac’s song These Are Days.

I’m tagging @thebrewerswife next!

xxx,
C

The Unofficial Peninsula Guide to Dining Out with Kids

When I was a kid I used to hate going to restaurants. My parents, like most Singaporeans, love eating out and would always drag us for these excruciatingly long 9 course Chinese dinners, and if you so much as dared to wiggle a salt shaker at the pepper shaker, a pair of chopsticks attached to your mother would descend out of nowhere and swiftly thwack your knuckles. OW! Sorry, Pavlovian response.

It didn’t help that my father is an expert on mastication. (Read that last sentence properly before you send me outraged letters! ) Yes my dad can out-chew the cud of a herd of dairy cows. He starts every meal with a long squint at the offending items on his plate, then a careful assemblage of a tiny bit of each of the constituents, rolling it into one huge spoonful. Then the spoon is popped into his mouth and masticated on for AT LEAST 35 chews. And sometimes he even administers a through intestinal massage at the same time to encourage digestion. (He’s a doctor). If the meal is particularly satisfying, he will erupt occasionally with a gigantic “UR-BURP!” belch. That is is his happy sound. My father never talks while eating- it’s not polite you see.

Someday, after I finish my therapy, I’ll write my memoirs…

And as life would decree, now that I’m all grown up, there’s few things I love more than taking our kids out to restaurants! Not a restaurant again, they groan…

I resort to the fellowing strategies:

1.) Throw them outdoors to play while they wait for their food

2.) Bring along iPads just in case the weather is crap

3.) Promises of chips

4.) Entertain / threaten them with gory family history stories of Grandpa’s Masticating – complete with sound effects! Or the Irishman’s preferred fable – “How I Grew Up With Just One Potato As A Toy”…

On the Peninsula, thankfully the restaurants here have lots to offer children. Most of them have large outdoor areas, are kid and dog friendly and not too fancy. We love Tucks Ridge (nice sandpit, lots of outdoor space), Box Stallion, Montalto, Yabby Lake, Heronswood’s Fork to Fork cafe, and Whispering Vines at Trofeo Estate. Btw, to truly act like a Mornington Peninsula local, you need to check out the Official bible Love The Pen for everything Peninsula…

This weekend, our restaurant pick was the Whispering Vines at Trofeo Estate with the kids and my brother who’s visiting from Singapore.

Not another restaurant, grimaces Dylan!

Wise words on the Specials board.

The kids meals are hearty and pretty affordable, I think they’re about 7 bucks, I wasn’t paying attention but the Irishman was waxing lyrical about them. It’s the kind of thing you do when you hit your mid 40s. The kids get to make their own ice-cream cone afterwards too. Again it’s at some low price point which I’m sure the Irishman was quite impressed by. Look at Dylan’s face, every ice-cream is a miracle! The Irishman felt the same way about the kids discount.

What I was more interested in was this novel method of mowing the grass in the vineyard.

Look, they have a set a flock of sheep loose in the vineyard, and every row has a happy industrious sheep going up and down mowing the grass. That’s the way forward!

The grass is disgracefully long at our house due to unseasonably sunny winter weather and it looks pretty yummy, so much so that the greyhounds have been stuffing themselves silly on it and lying around groaning like my dad after a 36 course El Bulli degustation. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check out who will rent us some woolly grass mowers for our property. Hope to see you on the Peninsula sometime, kids and all. Let me know if you need me to tell them a scary story or too. xxx

Confessions of a Neglectful Mother

“You’re NOT doing meditation Mom, you’re actually sleeping!!!” Oh no, I’ve been sussed. I am so, indisputably, regrettably, NOT a morning person. The Irishman is on a business trip this week and has left me in charge.

Never before have my children been so terrified. You see, while I am sufficiently credible as a parent (after 10.30 a.m. GMT +8) , my morning routine is based on the little-known parenting philosophy known as Benign Neglect.

Let me share my typical morning routine – you may wish to get out your notebook mes cheres!

Now imagine if you will, the setting for this bucolic scene – my beautiful bedroom converted into a ramshackle shanty town as I have cleverly moved Finn and Dylan’s mattresses to the floor next to my bed to avoid having to trek to their bedrooms in the morning. The whole room is strewn with soft toys, cups of tea and random articles of clothing including a pair of pants belonging to Finn’s classmate’s sister.

7.15 a.m. – Alarm goes off. Finn and Dylan wake up and run off to the kitchen to find the most responsible person who’s awake (Sean) and get him to fix them breakfast.

7.16 a.m. – Dylan runs into the bedroom. “Mama, there’s no more milk!” “Dylan, milk sucks. Drink some juice. ”

7.18 a.m. – Finn runs into the bedroom. “Mama, why are you still sleeping?” “I’m meditating.” “Is meditating sleeping Mama?” “Something like that Finn.”

7.19 a.m. – Dylan pops in and announces – “Mama, there’s no more juice!” “Dylan, juice sucks. Get one of your brothers to make you a Berocca cocktail”

7.20 a.m. – Sean shouts from the kitchen – “Muuumm, are you awaaakeeee????”

7.25 a.m. – Finn & Dylan jump onto the bed. “Mama, go put on your makecup!” “Ok darlings… Mama is just finishing my meditation visualisation thing…”.

7.28 a.m. – I feel tiny gentle strokes on my face and open my eyes to find Dylan rubbing my cheek as if performing ministrations for a very elderly person, whispering “Por Mama, Poooor Mama” in a slightly patronising manner . “OK OK Dylan I’m getting up!!!” Drag myself out of bed and get started on my 28 step morning abolition routine. Step 1 – Lymphatic drainage facial massage.

7.30 a.m. – Sean sticks his head around the door. “Muuum, I’m walking to the bus stop!” “NOOOO DON’T LEAVE ME WITH THE… I mean have a great day honey!”

7.45 a.m. – Dylan comes in to dress me. “Mama, put on your brawr! I will choose your clothes for you!” Lays out an outfit worthy of Tradies Night at Frankston Disco.

8.00 a.m. – Breakfast of avocado, tortilla chips & salsa while Finn & Dylan quiz me suspiciously on whether I’ve packed their lunch boxes and brief me on what things I have to sign for class.

8.15 a.m. – “Come on Mama! We have to go to school! ” Accusatory looks and pointing at the door. Mama slinks off to bathroom to perform last minute search for missing phone.

8.25 a.m. – Kids are in car with Finn beeping the horn. We drive to school with the music blasting at 200 decibels to cheer me up and to drown out any arguments going on in the backseat.

This week my iPhone is at the D section of my playlist, which, very appropriately, consists of the following songs –

1.) Don’t Panic – Coldplay
2.) Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna
3.) Don’t Wanna Go Home – Jason Derulo
4.) Don’t You Worry Child – Swedish House Mafia
5.) Dosed – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

It’s pretty much a spot-on soundtrack to my morning.

Now let me tell you, we’ve gotten to school every morning pretty much on time, with zero nagging from me.

Which goes to show that a little bit of judicious neglect can foster the most amazing independence! And didn’t my therapist Volker tell me that frustration tolerance was the best skill I can teach my kids?

Thank you kids. Take a bow! Have two Berocca tablets! Don’t go drinking them at one sitting now!

xxx,

The Benignly Neglectful Mother

A real education

If you had asked to guess what the most unexpected benefit of moving to Australia would be, I would have never in a million years thought that the answer would be the amazing education that our children would receive in the countryside.

When we moved from Singapore to Australia, we steeled ourselves in anticipation of big changes to our children’s schooling. Plans were made to hire Chinese nannies to keep up the kids Mandarin. Many sleepless nights were spent fretting over which school to put the kids in and how they would bridge the vast chasm between the Singapore education they had been receiving and their new Aussie schools.

We finally managed to get Finn & Dylan into a beautiful little private primary school just 15 minutes from our house called Penbank.

It is a very small school in terms of student numbers. Minuscule really, compared to the schools in Singapore where we are used to 40 kids in a class and 350 kids in one year level. In Penbank, there are about 130 kids in the whole school, and only about 25 kids per year. The principal knows every child personally and also teaches music classes and special learning activities.

Despite the small intake of students, the school is set on 35 acres of land full of beautiful gum trees and wide open green spaces for the kids to run about in. Dylan’s class of 24 kids has its own vegetable patch, huge playground, pigs and chickens, and Finn’s class playground has a ghost town and majestic pirate ship.

During summer, the school set up a huge trapeze on the school grounds for the kids and the adults were invited to join in as well. It was amazing to see even the tiny kids get the guts to climb up that very high ladder and take their turn swinging in the sky, punctuating the air with squeals of delight

Over here, one thing I find very touching is that the whole community gets really involved in supporting the schools on the Peninsula, not just the parents. Each of the schools on the Peninsula holds one or two flagship events every year which everyone turns up regardless of whether they have kids in that school or not. For example, Red Hill Consolidated School holds the annual Red Hill Country Fair and the Red Hill Art Show, which I’ve written about here http://thecrystalbawl.com/2010/11/22/the-annual-red-hill-country-fair/ and Penbank holds a massive Between The Bays music festival at the end of summer which again is always eagerly anticipated and tickets are often sold out.

Being in Australia means embracing the great outdoors regardless of the season. We had a “Walk to School” day in late Autumn recently which was quite confounding given that the countryside distances would mean that we would take approximately 5 hours to get there from our house on foot, potentially climbing over electric fenced pastures and dodging confused livestock. Turns out that the school just wanted us to assemble at the nearby Moorooduc Oval and walk the 2 km to school together.

Parents turned up with their dogs, kids and coffees, rubbing their hands together in the brisk morning air. The kids were lined up in neat rows and then led off to amble along on a countryside path leading to Penbank.

This is Vivienne, Penbank’s principal who was doubling up as a lollipop lady and cheering the kids on. This would be unthinkable in my day! I think there were approximately 42 levels of strata between my principal and the road traffic control.

It was a beautiful and quintessentially Peninsula thing to do, share a morning walk with your child in the misty goldenshot country air, chat to fellow parents and see the kids skipping happily with their friends.

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I’ve also been making guest appearances in Finn’s class as their cooking teacher every Wednesday morning. I have the best fun hanging out with these funny and curious  5 & 6 year olds and introducing them to foods from all around the world.

Every week we have a different theme / country.  In the picture below,  I was teaching them about Switzerland and its cuisine and we  set up a little drive-in counter where the kids could line up and help themselves to cheese and chocolate fondues.

The dipping was very popular, although somehow the boys seemed to enjoy the very odd combination of carrots in chocolate fondue the best!

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The Asian food has also been a big hit and the kids seem to love devouring wontons, Japanese gyoza and making sushi. I learned very quickly not to let 5 & 6 year olds anywhere near a wok full of boiling oil despite their assurances that they’ve now learned NOT to pelt dumplings into the wok.

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We have made our own chinese hot water dumpling dough and learned not to stick it to our faces and hair (I think), mastered the art making of extra crispy Japanese panko crumbed organic chicken nuggets and conquered American camping classics like maple candied bacon and smores.

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It was really cool to get to know all of Finn’s classmates. They are a fantastic bunch of kids, warm, cheeky and open. I found myself actually enjoying those early Wednesday mornings, getting my small group of 4-5 kids into their aprons while Finn’s two amazing and capable teachers Bec and Sophie put music on in the background and helped the other groups of kids in their “investigations”, which sometimes involved taking apart old appliances – hello there fax machine from the 80s!

The kids have made heaps of friends and I’m really glad for the new friendships I’ve made as well.  Here’s a photo I took of Dylan arranging the wellies of her classmates after outdoor play. She’s very proud of her classroom and is especially fond of the wood stove in the corner in wintertime.

In the last week of the school term, we had an hour long meeting with the school principal, Finn’s two teachers and the school counsellor to review Finn’s progress. I was again struck by how much each of the four people in the room knew about Finn’s development and personality. He is not a easy child to teach although he is reading and doing maths a few levels ahead of his peers as he can be very disruptive if he is not stimulated enough. Not to mention being a bit of a smartarse!

A few days ago, our nanny S told me that Finn had been rude to his sister and when she asked him why, he told her that his Polite app had been deleted and that he needed to download it again from the App store in the sky… No words! On another occasion, he took it upon himself to write a letter to his school explaining that he was “allergic to cold lunches” as he figured out that everyone in Australia seemed to have one allergy or another.

Anyway, getting back to the school meeting, I was impressed by how everyone was genuinely interested in helping Finn and for their thoughtful suggestions. Mark and myself took the opportunity to thank his teachers for everything they have done to make Finn feel comfortable in his new school.

I have rarely met teachers who are so proud of their vocation, who recognise teaching for the noble and heartful work that it is.

Hanging out behind the scenes in class, I’ve noticed how their eyes light up when they interact with the kids. Even during the lunch breaks when I’m cleaning up the mess from the cooking, I can sometimes overhear Bec excitedly telling Sophie about some child’s progress in writing a particularly difficult word or Sophie commenting about some newfound friendship between two children. They have a lot of heart.

I told them that it is impossible to be that consistent unless you’re being authentic, and those teachers are the real deal. I know that schooling is not the same as an education but here in this very special corner of the world, these two things come pretty close.

Look for the light and when it arrives, everything changes

I am probably more fascinated than most people by how much the light shifts from season to season, having spent most of my life in the tropics.

The sun is low in the sky during Autumn. The light gets under the trees, scattering into horizontal shafts, cleaving apart the landscape and illuminating select things, certains objets, so that you’re forced to contemplate details such as the texture of the peeling bark on a tree or a dazzling beadscape of morning dew.

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I have to be extra vigilant in the colder months to force myself to go outdoors, get some of those precious vitamin D infused rays, otherwise it’s easy for me to get slightly depressed and cranky. It is hard to pull myself away from the fireplace but once I’m outdoors I appreciate the vitality of that extra crisp country air, which is currently infused with the delicious burnt eucalyptus smoke coming from our bonfire.

I thought it’s really funny that the Irishman hasn’t bothered to take the tags off his new wellies. Or maybe he’s really proud of them as they’re the first pair of proper gumboots he’s owned. True story – the Irishman once purchased USED second hand gumboots from a car boot sale on a whim and quite happily wore them for 4 years until they disintegrated. Which may explain why I found 21 tubes of Lamisil in the bathroom the last time I spring cleaned.

And the beloved red tractor has been refurbished and is as good as ever. It’s such a beautiful thing really with its blocky cartoonish lines and apple red paint job.

On a random note, Dylan has been really getting into dancing and amusing us with her creative choreography.

She twirls and bounces until she gets so sweaty that she lies around the house panting and begging for us to turn down the heating while all of us are freezing! I suppose there’s a lesson in that as well.
Here’s a video of her totally improvised dance which I just happened to get on my iPhone.

x,
C

World Cooking Adventures – Finn’s Favourite Dumplings

I’m not usually daunted by cooking projects but cooking for a class full of ravenous and unabashedly frank little 6 year old gourmets was slightly intimidating at first. “What if they don’t like Asian food?! What if they get raw meat wedged under their fingernails and bacteria grows and…” I fretted to the Irishman. “You’ll be fine! You’re really anal! Everyone will love it!,” snorted the Irishman helpfully, bemused that my greatest culinary challenge to date was prep school critics.

I’ve decided that every week I will explore a different style of cuisine, starting with Chinese dumplings this week. Australian dumplings are a personal bugbear of mine. You see, in Australia, the delicate little bite-sized morsels of “dim sum” as we know them in the Chinese speaking world have mutated to monstrous proportions. Called “Dim Sims” or “Dimmies”, each one is the size of a B cup breast implant and tastes not quite dissimilar, I would imagine.

Look at these horrors below. These are labelled as “Famous Sxxxx Mxxxxxxx Market Dim Sims”. $10.80 for a 3 boob jobs!

Ok enough ranting. Anyway I chose to make wontons for the kids today, because I have never met a kid who didn’t love wontons. Won Ton or Yun Tun means “swallowing clouds”, because the dough gets so light and crispy when fried that they may float away, and the crunch from these little suckers is pretty much deafening.

This photo below is from http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/sichuan-wontons-chinese-new-year-recipe-ideas/. It shows some of the different styles of folding wontons. I demonstrated the triangle, the party hat/ nurse’s cap, the rectangle, the boat and many others.

First I got the kids to use a huge steel meat mallet and bash a clove of garlic into pulpy submission. They loved that. And then we mixed the garlic into the minced meat with spring onions and I let them grind pepper, salt, and add soy, rice wine, mirin and sesame oil to the meat.

We made a little cornstarch paste (or you can just use water too), and poured those into individual little tins for the kids to use as dumpling glue.

They took their jobs very seriously and were completely engrossed in folding the wontons. They even invented some more shapes like the “cigar” and the “doggy poo”. Yum.

I told them that they had to squish out all the air from the dumpling or the dumpling would swell up and burst like a little bomb. Of course this meant experimenting with a big air bubble dumpling which swelled up to gargantuan / dim sim proportions to the merriment of everyone. These are some of the completely kid rolled dumplings. I was really impressed by their work!

And here is the final result, beautiful golden brown devastatingly crunchy pillows of yum. Tip – to get kids to eat minced pork, I called it Bacon Bits. Whatever works!

While I was frying the won tons, I got the kids to make their own individual small bowls of dipping sauce using soy, vinegar, sesame oil, furikake seaweed, sesame seeds and ketchup.

Word got out that I was making dumplings and teachers from other classes and even the school principal came over to sample the offerings.
They were a bit hit with the kids!

One of the girls said “I wish I had you in my kitchen forever so that you could make my dinner everyday.” Best slightly creepy compliment ever! Just kidding, the kids were all so utterly sweet. One boy didn’t want to try the won tons and they all ganged up on him telling him “They don’t look nice but they are SUPER YUMMO!!!”

That was a relief! I have a whole lot of cooking adventures planned – next week we’re going to be doing lovely bubbly fondue in a hot pot, 2 kinds – cheese and chocolate! Stay tuned…

Ingredients: Directions:
1 pound (450 g) ground meat (chicken, beef, pork)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 stalk green onion, chopped
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine2 tbsp sesame oil
2 cups finely chopped kale/ other vegs
1/2 cup water
Cornflour
50 wonton wrappers, defrosted
cooking oil for frying
1.)    In a large bowl, add the meat, ginger, garlic, green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine and kale and mix well to combine.

2.)    In a small bowl, add 2 tbsp of cornflour and some water to make a paste. Or just use water!

3.)    Put a small teaspoon of the meat mixture on a wonton wrapper. Dip a finger in the cornflour paste, and paint all 4 edges with the wash. Fold the wonton in half, corner to opposite corner to make a triangle. Seal tightly all around. Make sure there are no air pockets or holes in the wonton. Refer to the pictures for inspiration on how to fold wontons.

4.)    Place folded wonton on a clean, dry plate and cover with plastic wrap to avoid them drying out. Prepared wontons can be frozen for later use

5.)    You can boil or fry the wontons. To fry wontons, add 1 1/2 inches of cooking oil to a wok or pot. Heat the oil until it reaches 375F. Add a few wontons to the oil to fry, turning occasionally until they are golden brown. Drain and serve!