26 October 2009

Expat mingling

Getting to explore a new land. Spending time immersed in a local culture. Learning more about yourself-- what you love, what you can endure, what pushes you too far. These are all of the elements of a life lived abroad. But, far too often, one of the keys to a robust life lived overseas is neglected to be mentioned-- the other expats.

For the first three months of life in Thailand, I only had a few connections that I had either made during Internet research prepping to live abroad or by a matter of circumstances. In an effort to set up "home" and find some friends for myself and my kids, I had a few bumps along the way... a morning playgroup that turned into a cocktail mixer, the well meaning neighbors, the kid-centered play areas that felt more like a disco. But, as time went on, I slowly began to meet some wonderful people who were also on their expat journey.

A few months back, about ten of us sat around a dinner table. I found myself at a quiet moment and looked around at the faces of those seated at the table. On this particular evening, we were all moms enjoying an evening out sans children. And, as wine was poured and the meal was served, I realized what an amazing experience I was a part of when I took note that my dining companions hailed from the Netherlands, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, England, America, Canada and Thailand. The opportunity to talk with women who are all at a similar point in raising their families overseas is one that I get to repeat often as an expat. And, during this quiet moment at the dinner party, I realized again how incredibly fortunate I am to be having this experience.

I have valued these friendships through weekly playgroups, explorations through local markets, mornings at coffee shops, limoncello shots (sans kids) and, yes, even visits back to those nasty Bangkok play areas that still feel like baby discos to me. And, along the way, I have collected wonderful stories from their home countries and generous conversations about their overseas experiences. One can not meet so many amazing people from around the globe and not be changed by the experience. For the positive affect my other expat friends have had on my life, I am profoundly thankful.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 67:
Yeast Dumplings (Kynute knedliky s ovocem)
A wonderful friend from the Czech Republic, and fellow expat living in Bangkok, gave me a gift of a Czech cookbook. Having never cooked Czech food before, I excitedly embraced the opportunity to test my culinary skills out on her gift. After several "test" batches (and a couple of pounds gained!), I fell in love with these amazing little fruit dumplings. I altered this recipe from the one found in "Traditional Czech Cuisine" from the Czech Chefs Association.

for dumpling dough:
2 teaspoons of yeast
1 cup of whole milk
1 Tablespoon of sugar
2 cups of flour
1 egg
pinch of salt

for filling:
1 cup of chopped fruit (apples, plums, peaches, apricots, cherries, blueberries, gooseberries)
1/4 cup of apple juice
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
sugar, if needed to sweeten the fruit

for topping:
your choice of melted butter, confectioner's sugar, cinnamon, yogurt or extra fruit

To make the dumpling dough, heat the milk to lukewarm. Remove from heat and add sugar and yeast. Set aside. In a mixing bowl combine remaining ingredients, then add the milk mixture. Stir until combined and turn onto a well floured surface. Knead and add more flour to create an elastic dough. Return to a bowl, cover and allow to rest for an hour. When you return to the dough, separate it into golf ball sized pieces and set about two inches apart on a cookie sheet.

Begin to make the fruit mixture. Place fruit and juice into a small saucepan and bring to a bubble. Remove a bit of the liquid, place into a small bowl and add the cornstarch. Combine well and return to the fruit simmer. Add sugar if the fruit doesn't meet your sweetness requirements and bubble until thick. Remove from heat and cool.

To assemble and cook the dumplings: Again, working on a well floured surface, flatten each ball and gently roll until the dough is about 3 inches in diameter. Place about a 1/2 teaspoon of fruit filling in the center, pinch the dough closed and form back into a ball. Make sure the seams are well sealed and set the balls seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with all of the dough. Cover and leave to rest for half hour. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the dumplings (working in batches) into the boiling water. Cook for approximately 8 minutes, remove from water and place in a serving bowl. Top with desired topping and enjoy hot!

(Note: you can freeze the filled dumplings prior to boiling. Place cookie sheet containing unboiled dumplings into freezer, remove and individually wrap later. Place into boiling water to cook, when desired, directly from the freezer and double the cooking time.)

1 comment:

  1. I love the picture! Those look so good boiling. I can almost taste them. YUM-O!


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