Thursday, February 2, 2012

wonton making

Some people express a desire to eat food from their cultural background as it’s a way for them to get in touch with their heritage. Eating this food enables the person to remember past experiences of when they consumed the food with family members (presumably of the same cultural background) and reminds them of ‘where they came from’. It gives some people familiarity and a sense of belonging. Many people find strength in knowing that they have a ‘sense of culture’. I must admit, during/after Chinese New Year, I was guilty of some of this.

I made vege wontons with a bok choy, tofu and chive filling. I mixed the recipes from several magazines, including a Women’s Weekly cookbook. Amazingly tasty – using real ginger, garlic and good quality sauces are essential. It was a bit difficult to steam them, but lessons I learnt from this:
  1. Oil your steamer – otherwise your won tons will stick to the steamer
  2. Remove excess air from the won tons when you wrap them, otherwise they will explode in the steamer
My (asian) friend and I made chicken and pork won tons another night as a post CNY celebration – the recipe was her mum’s. Delicious. It encourages me to ask my mum for her old wonton recipe.

On the note of ‘getting in touch with one’s cultural background’ many people (ethnic and not) have criticised me for my choice to not speak Chinese. They suggest that I should be ‘ashamed’ as I have ‘lost a part of my culture’. This essentially makes me ‘less Chinese’ than someone who can speak Chinese…

The final result, served with gai larn - some sort of Chinese green vegetable you'd often find in yum chas.
In my opinion, people should not think ‘culture’ as a way to reconnect with their traditional heritage but people should think of ‘culture’ as a developing, contemporary and changing concept. There is a new culture of first- and second-generation ‘ethnic’ people in Australia and overseas – some are confused about whether they are more Anglo-Saxon or [insert name of heritage], some resist one or the other culture and others just live based on what’s convenient.

In a passive-aggressive fashion, if I am ‘less Chinese’ than another person:
  1. So what – are you challenged by the fact that a Chinese person has chosen to not adopt all features of his/her heritage? Are you challenged by a person who is not a ‘whole’?
  2. Chinese-Australian or Australian-Chinese is a culture in itself. Consider that before you make a judgement that I lack ‘culture’


  1. those won tons look yum! (although some of them are triangles? did they steam well? )

    re you speaking chinese:
    You seem very defensive over this. You have made a few comments about not speaking chinese/ people that question your background, etc, perhaps you are building it up in your head?
    some people are genuinely curious about people's backgrounds and ask questions, I'm sure they don't mean anything sinister by it.

    also, you said you choose not to speak chinese. does this mean you CAN speak chinese?

    1. Thanks for your comment. I used to make triangular wontons with my mum for the family – mum found it to be a quicker and easier version when she needs to make dozens of wontons for growing hungry males haha. The triangular ones steamed okay but if I cooked then refrigerated them, the pastry would be a bit dry the next day. They are definitely better boiled.

      Yes, I agree that when some people ask about my background, they are expressing a genuine interest in where my parents are from. This I appreciate.

      I’m not sure about what experiences you’ve had in regard to people’s responses to your ability to speak/not speak another language. However, in my experience, people haven’t always respected my choice. My closest friends have outright criticised me for not speaking Chinese. They said that I’m missing out on a big part of my culture and talked about their own desire to speak Italian, Chinese etc because they felt that they lacked a part of their culture. We just agreed to disagree.

      As for speaking Chinese, I can say the basics including: hurry up, let’s eat, 1-10, shower, toilet, and my favourite foods… but not enough to have a conversation or get around a Cantonese-speaking city independently.


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