I’m in a funk and I just can’t snap out of it. I’ve been feeling so crestfallen lately and I don’t know why. Like last weekend, it was a perfect day for a walk or a drive somewhere but I was completely content in staying at home. Content in rolling dumplings for supper’s soup. Stuffing wonton wrappers with pork and shrimp and then folding them neatly into dumplings shaped like miniature nun’s hats. I actually didn’t mind the repetitiveness of the task. I loved how my mind wandered aimlessly while I fiddled around the kitchen.
I’m almost certain it’s just the birthday blues. Yes, it was my thirty-eighth the week after New Year’s and, no, I’m not upset about getting older.
I don’t normally celebrate birthdays. No big parties. No fanfare. I usually just spend the day quietly with Dennis and Stanford. And with cake, of course. This year, however, things were a little different. A close friend of mine from high school and his partner were visiting family and friends in the U.S. over the Holidays and San Francisco was their last stop before heading back home to Sydney. They convinced another good friend of ours to fly in from Toronto to surprise me for my birthday and, boy oh boy, was I surprised!
The last time the three of us were all together was in Manila thirteen years ago so you can just imagine how thrilled I was to spend even just a quick weekend with them. It was an instant, unplanned reunion. A beautiful birthday present. Under the Spring-like sun and over watered down mimosas, we looked back and laughed hard at our foolish adolescence and marveled at the fact that, despite having gone through so many changes, we have remained essentially unchanged.
True friends are hard to come by. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but the friendship we share is the kind that spans time and distance. For us, it has never been about where one has been or what one has accomplished. We’ve stuck it out as friends for so long because of the rich history we share and the genuine support for each other that has never wavered.
I sound like a big mush right now, I know. Maybe I just miss them. Maybe I just had the time of my life and wish they were closer. Not thousands of miles and time zones away. Oh my, enough of the nostalgia. I need to shake this off soon. But for now, I’ll drown my sorrows in a bowl of pancit molo [puhn-sit moh-loh] and hope it’ll help cure the unshakable blues.
Pancit Molo Recipe
Recipe from Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s Memories of Philippine Kitchens, makes 60 dumplings
For the dumplings
1 pound ground pork
8 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and minced
1/4 cup diced jicama (singkamas) or fresh water chestnuts
1 small carrot, minced
1/2 leek, white parts only, minced
1 large egg
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the assembly
About 80 square wonton wrappers
Egg whites for brushing the wrappers
12 cups homemade chicken stock
2 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
Fish sauce (optional)
Place all the dumpling ingredients in a large bowl, and use clean hands to mix until well combined. To roll the dumplings like a nun’s hat, place a wonton wrapper on a work surface or on your hand so one corner is facing you. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling on the lower corner. Fold the corner over the mixture and roll the filled part up and over a little past the center. Press on both sides of the filling to enclose it. Brush egg white over the side points and fold the points into the center, one side overlapping the other. Repeat. You should have about 80 dumplings.
Place the stock in a large saucepan and add the leeks, salt, pepper, and fish sauce to taste, if using. Bring to a simmer and gently add 24 of the dumplings until cooked, about 5 minutes. Place 4 dumplings in each of 6 serving bowls and cover each with 2 cups of the broth.
Freeze the remaining dumplings on cookie sheets until solid, then transfer to an airtight container, where they’ll keep for a month.
1. Substitute green onions for leeks and water chestnuts for jicama.
2. Steam the dumplings in a steamer over high heat until cooked, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with fish sauce and calamansi and serve dim sum-style.