December 30, 2012

Life's Dirty 30 & Kung Pao Chicken Wontons with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

Do you make New Year's resolutions? You know, 'I'll work out at least 5 days a week,' 'I'll read more smart-people books,' 'I'll fly to the moon,' 'I'll stop partying like it's 1999.' Yeah, when I do that there's always a tiny voice in my head snickering, telling me, "Yeah, fat chance, sucker!"

Last year was different, though. There was all this hoopla about the world ending in 2012, so I figured that before I went up in flames, I'd make a couple of frivolous promises to myself. I mean, they do say you should live every day like it's your last, right? And since the Mayans were kind enough to do the math and precisely pinpoint when the clocks would stop ticking, I decided to keep it simple; I just wanted to have an awesome time before the apocalypse ate me alive.

Did it work out?


This year, there were three big three's. I marked three decades of dawdling on this planet, my husband and I celebrated three years of marriage with the birth of our baby boy, and after three years of joblessness, I caved into the unconventional culinary career I've been contemplating since college. So yes, it's been a big, beautious year.

More than anything though, I've learned some life-altering lessons along the way. My words of wisdom might not be wow-worthy, mostly because they're obsessive observations, but reflection relaxes me, especially at end of the year. Of course, it would be kind of depressing if I only found one fun fact for every year of my existence, but I purposely kept this list current. It's not fair to curse you with my countless hours of contemplation. 

The Dirty 30: Little Life-Altering Lessons 
  • Superficiality has taken my city by storm! That's right, nothing matters more than money. My thoughts on that? Let's just quote the husband; "It's a rat race, baby!" Winning just confirms that you are, indeed, a repulsive rodent. 
  • Don't tell me to relax, unless you want to hear me roar. I recently reconciled with the fact that I'm incapable of keeping calm. 
  • Being a perfectionist doesn't make you perfect; it makes you a premium-grade procrastinator. 
  • All men are not monsters: They might be from Mars and we might be from Venus, but let's face it, some women can be pretty vile and vicious too. 
  • Fascinating fact of life; Not everyone likes me. Lovely. Hate-orade is my cocktail of choice too. 
  • Hypocrisy, democracy? Thanks to the Government, I'm constantly confused about the difference. 
  • Bugs bug me out. I'm more a wuss than a wiper-wielding vixen. 
  • Driving is for dudes. Sorry ladies, rear-view mirrors are not for reapplying make-up, hence my chauvinistic judgment that wheels and women just don't gel. 
  • You're responsible for your own irresponsibility. Those extra 10 pounds? Blame the snacks, not the scale. 
  • My little one is the light of my life and I love him to death, but poopy pampers are not a "perk" of parenthood. 

  • "Stubborn" is code for "doggedly determined." 
  • Aunties are evil. Cougars with caked makeup and crass clothes creep me out. 
  • Being in Sunday does not make you a celebrity, it makes you one of the seven million other "socialites," in this city. 
  • Your purse is not a person. Assign it a separate seat and I'll be forced to strangle you with it's strap. 
  • Gentlmen, feminism isn't just for females. 
  • I don't understand the mystical meaning behind statements like, "You need to turn your weaknesses into strengths." Right, so what about the rest of the instructions? You know, the part where you tell me, how. Oh riiiight, that's the riddle. Which brings on more hokiness like, "Life's a riddle." Say, what? 
  • Mean girls from school usually turn into meaner monsters afterwards. She'll still state that she's somehow superior and you will never have the nerve to smack that smile off her face. 
  • Zen is being in the zone. Stop struggling and sit down for some silence. 
  • Guys over 35, lurking at parties, trying to lure in the ladies, aren't sexy, they're sleazy. Tuck that belly in, Sir, and limit your lust to someone in your league. 
  • Putting too many Pakistanis on the same plane is asking for total pandemonium. 

  • The wisdom of Dr. Seuss and the Dalai Lama leaves me wide-eyed and wondering,especially when combined, like so; “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple....My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” See, equally eloquent and perfectly profound. 
  • If you're dumb enough to ask me disgustingly direct questions, don't be offended by my incredibly indirect answers.
  • Two things in life are most satisfying when they're simple; food and men. 
  • Dear Pakistani food channels, I have it on good authority that the appeal of edibles is directly proportional to the awesomeness of it's appearance. Translation: humans eat with their eyes. Stop assaulting them with atrocious imagery of ancient ingredients and annoying anchors. 
  • My husband and I both speak English, but we don't speak the same language. Thank God for love, right? 
  • Shahrukh Khan, please retire. Please. 
  • Cats are a lot like politicians. They walk into the room and head straight for the person who likes them least. 
  • Society girls secretly share the belief that smiling is sin. That's A-Okay, just please put that pout away!
  • Motherhood has left me in awe of my own mother's maternal instincts. 
  • Believe. Have faith. Be brave. Give in.

I'm glad the Mayans messed up on the math. They finally confirmed my theory that you can always count on the Chinese when it comes to correct calculations. According to Chinese astrology, 2012 was the Year of the Dragon. What does that mean? Well, the dragon represents good fortune and seriously, this year, with it's many milestones, has really been like hitting the mother-load! 

This week, to celebrate the close of year and in an ode to the Chinese for painting such a positive picture, I'm making Kung Pao Chicken Wontons with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce. 

These wontons aren't folding the traditional way, but the crisp, golden pouches, filled with moist, seasoned chicken and crunchy roasted peanuts, look like little bags of gold, making them a tad more festive for this time of the year. 

I like to pair the wontons with a sweet chili dipping sauce that's both tart and sweet at the same time. Simmered and strained, the flavor and fragrance of this sauce is truly Asian-inspired. 

Kung Pao Chicken Wontons (makes 30 wontons)
Adapted from, The Joy of Cooking:Wontons, by Irma S. Rombauer 

  • 8 ounces (1/4 kg) minced chicken
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons spring onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 30 square wonton wrappers (square samosa wrappers are a great substitute)
  • 3-4 spring onions, cut into thin strips and wilted in boiling water
  • Vegetable oil, enough to come 4 inches up the side of a large pot
- For the wonton filling, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt, pepper, peanuts, spring onions, ginger, garlic, and dried chili flakes.

- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and water together. 

- Brush a wonton wrappers with the egg-wash and place a 1/2 tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper. Brush the edges with more egg-wash.

- Lift all four corners of the wonton wrapper and make a pouch. Squeeze together around the top of the filling to form it to remove all the air, sealing it into the middle of the wrapper.

- Tie with a strip of wilted spring onion.

- Heat the oil and fry the wontons in batches, until golden and crip, approximately 2-3 minutes.

- Drain on paper towels.

- Serve hot.

Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
Adapted from, The Heritage of Chinese Cooking, by Elizabeth Chong

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch piece ginger, sliced thinly
  • 4 whole dried chilis with seeds, split open
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice

-  In a medium bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, water, and ketchup.

- In a separate bowl, combine the pineapple juice and cornstarch.

- In a small saucepan, over a medium flame, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, ginger and whole chilis and saute for about 2-3 minutes, until fragrant

- Pour the vinegar mixture into the saucepan and bring it to a boil.

- Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes. 

- Pour in the pineapple juice and cornstarch into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sauce starts to thicken, cook for approximately 2-3 minutes and remove the pan from the heat. 

- Pass the sauce through a sieve to strain out the garlic, ginger and whole chili. 

- Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Until next time, don't forget to make your own resolutions and have an awesome New Year!

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SCANDAL ALERT!!! Sounds like someone's stealing Hunger & Haw Hai's material! Life's Dirty 30 & Kung Pao Chicken Wontons was published on the 30th of December, 2012. Follow this link to read the probably-plagiarized post published in the Express Tribune a day later. If you still haven't read my New Year's post, tune in now and follow the link at the end of the piece to read the near-replica of my rant. If ET's post sounds convincingly close, please leave a comment because they're not publishing mine!


  1. Love your lessons, especially the ones about the society ladies !! ..
    And the wontons sound delicious .. but I would want to freeze them since they are so many .. can I do that with the spring onion tied? ..

  2. Yay! You can absolutely freeze them, spring onions ties and all. Fill me in on how it goes. Thy really are super simple!

  3. Mehreen Zaidi12/31/12, 9:55 PM

    Insha this is great. I'm thinking about actually filling em up with spring rolls mixture, bean sprouts n all! Will look more festive your way!!

  4. Mehreen, that's the great thing about this recipe-it's so versatile. Feta and spinach are another delicious filling you might want to try. Fill me in on how your wontons go :)

  5. Shafqi Nawaz1/19/13, 3:22 AM

    Insha! I was in Lahore this December and Rano told me you were writing this blog, it's amazing! I can hear your cute little voice in my head when I'm reading it, you're writing is sharp, smart & seriously hilarious! Really fun read, let me know when you're in nyc next xx

    1. Shafqi! Thanks for popping by and much love for the praise :) I'm heading to NYC in the summer so, I'll definitely give you a buzz! xoxo

  6. mehreen Obaid4/26/13, 5:05 PM

    love your posts!!

  7. Thanks, Mehreen! Any dirty lessons to add to my 30?

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