Chinese New Year workshop a recipe for cultural insight
A Chinese New Year's celebration became an international cooking experience for a dozen children at the Pequot Library, when Carol Dannhauser expanded a Wonton Winter Wonderland workshop on Friday to include similar culinary creations from other nations.
"We're going to make wontons a bunch of different ways," said Dannhauser, a cook, journalist and editor of an online site, www.cookingteens.com. "Have you ever had a ravioli? Have you ever had a burrito?" Dannhauser asked the young chefs. She told them many cultures wrap up ingredients in dough.
"We're making chicken wontons from scratch," Dannhauser said. They weren't entirely from scratch. As a time-saving measure for the 90-minute workshop, Dannhauser had the children use pre-made wonton wrappers. She instructed them on how to make various fillings and taught them how to fold them in different ways. "That's the wonder of wontons. You can fold them any way," she said.
"Whatever you make is like a masterpiece," said Jessica Abbazia, 9, of Fairfield. To one table, Dannhauser said, "You fold it up (into a triangle) and press, press, press so whatever is in here will stay, unless you put in too much filling, in which case it will come out like a disgusting mess," Dannhauser said.
"But that's good. I like messes," she said, emphasizing substance over form.
At the table where Charlotte Meyer sat Dannhauser had the children shape their wonton wrappers into beggar's purses. They folded up each corner and pinched all four together at the top. "I've never made them before," said Charlotte, 10, of Fairfield. "It was fun to use all the ingredients," she said.
Children sat at three different tables, each one set up to make a different treat. At one table the children made a filling of chicken. At another they made a spinach-and-cheese filling. Charlotte and her tablemates sliced bananas and slathered them in Nutella, a hazelnut-and-chocolate creamy spread, to make the beggars' purse desserts. They fried the wontons in oil and got to sample their creations.
Francis Ohe, 10, of Fairfield, said he liked preparing the food, "watching it sizzle and bubble and experimenting with how much or how little to put in of the filling."
Brendan Watchke, 13, of Fairfield, said he had never tried making this kind of food before and wasn't sure whether or not he would try it at home. "My mom signed me up. I got to make Chinese food. I was kind of excited about it," said Lucy DaSilva, 10, of Fairfield, who enjoyed the hands-on factor "and the tasting too." Dannhauser brought 150 wonton wrappers to the workshop. All were used to make wontons and there were no leftovers.
Head Librarian Robin Swan Filippone, said the Pequot Library offers many hands-on workshops and activities for children. "We like to do different things. We're celebrating Chinese New Year. We're introducing children to new experiences and giving them a sense of accomplishment," she said.