Connie Clarkson, one of Auckland’s best known foodies, is throwing her support behind Chinese Language Week.
Singapore-born Connie has combined her love of food and people in a rich and varied career. A restauranter - she owned and operated the legendary French Cafe in the 1990s - she’s also written about food, engaged with migrant communities to help them share their food heritage and is now Head of Business Development at Peter Gordon’s Homeland “food embassy” on the Auckland waterfront.
Connie is sharing her family’s simple but much loved wonton soup recipe and the story that underpins it. “My grandfather and grandmother first set up house on the wonderful heritage protected road in the middle of Singapore called Emerald Hill Road. Living right next to them was a lady called Auntie Mei Mei, a Shanghainese woman.
“The recipe for the wonton dumplings that I'm making for Chinese Language Week was taught to my grandmother by Auntie Mei Mei. Wonton wrappers are really, really thin. We didn't have the luxury of pasta makers and rollers in those days and so we used to roll the whole thing out by hand. We'd be rolling huge, enormous sheets of pastry, using a 2 metre long piece of doweling, on the dining table. And then we’d cut them up into wonton skins.
“I've grown up eating these ever since I was born and my mother as well. I went to boarding school in New Zealand and wonton soup was the thing that always evoked memories of home. It was one of the first things I asked for when I went home to Singapore for school holidays. When we got married and I had my children, and I settled into New Zealand, it was one of the things I made, just to keep home close.
“I think that the simplest food is the food that evokes memories and actually means the most. That's what we need to preserve. My children are now grown up with their own children. I cook for them a lot and I ask, what do you want for dinner? Invariably it’s Hainanese chicken rice and wonton soup. And the girls have learned how to make it for their families now and my grandchildren love wonton soup.
This simple wonton soup recipe has gone on now for four generations of my family."