Cooking My Way Through Tet: 2 Burner, Masala-Spiced Potato Pierogies

Day 2 of Tet, with Saigon’s doors closed firmly for the week.


A few weeks ago, my schedule at work changed unexpectedly.

I work in the English for University department at an Australian university and I normally teach five days a week, four intense hours a day, between 8am and just after noon. One group sees me Monday and Tuesday and the other group is stuck with me for the rest of the week. The workload is a bit mad: my super duper advanced groups produce a lot of long, complicated writing that needs to be marked and redrafted and remarked.

So. Much. Marking.

And then there’s the brain-bending planning needed to get Confucian-educated kids ready for Australian tertiary studies. My level is the last level they need to pass before entering their degree programs.

I am the Gatekeeper.

I’m also the designated course contact for the super duper advanced classes so all the other teachers hover around my desk at all hours, asking what they should do next. Macrame and square dancing are always sensible options, I inform them sagely.

I did that solidly for a year and a half, until three weeks ago, when the timetable mysteriously dropped my Wednesday to Friday classes for the new term and I was allocated a desk job creating online vocabulary games, waiting to see if anyone called in sick (I was also on designated cover duty).


From 7am, when we drove in, until 6pm when I was free to leave.


Drinking coffee.


Drinking more coffee.


My centre of gravity lowering and expanding and seemingly gaining exponentially in mass, moment by moment.

Sitting at my desk all day made me restless. I opened up a Morning Pages account and tried writing 750 words every day. I tried running up and down the five flight of stairs every hour. I drank too much coffee. I walked in loops around the office, looking for people to have a quick, nerdy chat with.

I was going stir crazy, with nowhere to channel my nervous energy.

And then, two weeks into the new term, we got two weeks off for Tet.

And everything pretty much stopped.

And I’m at home, with a shuttered city outside and an ongoing need to actually do something.

Hence, this sudden series.


Seriously- yesterday, I made chapatis, breaded cajun chicken strips and marshmallow brownies; today, I made what started out as pierogies from scratch, and turned into something resembling spicy veggie samosas au style polonais. 

Popular with the preschool set!

I made pierogies here before, back in my Shanghai days, back when everything was made with Northern Chinese black wheat, a wok and a lot of substitutions. I think my original ones were made using the Xinjiang noodle dough recipe that I used for everything.

Six years later (6!!!!!), I’m revisiting pierogies.

And this time, I actually looked up how to make Polish pierogi dough.


This is roughly what’s in the Polish dough (adapted slightly, due to my coarser atta flour, which sucks up water):

  • 3 cups of flour (I used atta flour)
  • salt (I used a large pinch, close to a teaspoon)
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1/4 cup of cold water
  • A few glugs of oil

I failed to carefully read their instructions, due to the fact that Thwack had me up at 4am today, and instead of gradually adding and mixing the ingredients in a methodical fashion, I just threw it all together at the same time, adding extra water until the consistency felt right.

You might want to just follow their recipe, if you’re not sure what I mean.

I kneaded it for 12 minutes, as they said somewhere between ten and fifteen is ideal. It was sproingy and baby’s bum-like, which is great.

I jammed the doughball into a Tupperware container and put it in the fridge to rest while I made the filling.

Here’s where the Poles lost me.

Sorry, Poles.

Because we came back from Mui Ne in the early evening on the night before Tet, most shops were shut and our fridge stocking options were very limited.

I had no cabbage, no cheese, no cottage cheese.

I did have potatoes and onions.

So I started to make potato and onion pierogies.

So, this is the onion I sautéed until lovely and golden. Medium sized.
Here are the three medium sized yellow spuds I steamed until tender.
Oh, wait- where did this fish masala come from? Two tablespoons. It’s nice and fragrant, delicate enough for fish but strong enough for me.
Cooking in my enormous, shoebox sized, 2.5 burner kitchen. I added leftover peas and corn to the masala onion mix.
Aaaand the spuds and onions and peas and corn and spices were blitzed until sort of smooth. Use spud masher if no hand blender available.
Get the dough out of the fridge. I cut mine into quarter to make it manageable. The total lump should make about 30 pierogies. Mine made 34.
Roll the dough out until maybe 2mm thick. Think Lasagne thick. Or linguine. Cut out rounds with a pretty cup. Look- blue green!
They see me rollin’. And cuttin’.
And spooning the veggie mix onto the rounds of dough, about a rounded tablespoon each. Remember they need to be folded over and sealed. Give remaining veggie mix to Demandatron Child, who eats ALL of it.
Then the folding begins. Moisten the rim of the rounds (no rimming jokes, please) with a glistening of water to help seal the edges. Make sure to push out any air pockets. Crimp the edges with fork like an ’80s hairdresser.
How to feed a hungry three year old: boil lightly salted and lightly oiled water in large pot. Carefully add a half dozen of the pierogies. Wait until they float to the surface and scoop them out. Add pat of butter and scoop of plain yogurt. Serve on bunny plate.
Also, feed the adults.

See this, above? That was a dozen photos and a thousand words. Also, 34 pierogies, with half parboiled and loaded into the freezer for another day.

I’m keeping my brain busy.

I may be able to get through Tet- and possibly this term- with sanity intact if I decide to just do a ton of cooking and writing.

Chúc mừng năm mới!
(image credit: manhhai)
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