The first Monday in August recognises an important day within the Northern Territory, and one of the most fun celebrations – Picnic Day!
The public holiday, which is only celebrated in Northern Territory, commemorates the day when policies regarding Chinese indentured labourers were overturned. Many immigrants were taken over to Australia to boost the number of labourers, although these immigrants were frequently mislead, underpaid or even died in unsafe conditions aboard. Those who did survive could expect to do gruelling work for little money and to be socially isolated.
One particular group of Chinese people were used to build the part of the North Australian Railway, between Darwin and Larrimah – a gruelling task. In 1889 a reversal was made to the existing policy which meant that any Chinese “coolies” had the choice of either staying in Australia as free citizens or having the cost of their fare back to Hong Kong covered.
Instead of leaving, the vast majority went down to the Adelaide River and celebrated with a picnic. We remember that day as one that welcomed in some of the first free non-European settlers in Australia and of course there’s only one way to celebrate – with a picnic!
Steamed Pork Buns
These delicious treats can be made up ahead of time and eaten lukewarm later – preferably keep them just warm until ready!
- 2 tsps peanut oil
- 200g pork mince
- Third of a cup of hoi sin sauce
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- 1 tsp dried yeast (instant)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 2/3 cup of warm water
- 1 ½ cups of plain flour
Start by heating up your wok over a very high heat and then add the oil. Swirl it around to code the base before adding the mince and cooking for 3 minutes while stirring.
Then add the hoi sin sauce and stir to completely cover the mince. Add your spring onions, stir well and then leave aside in a bowl to cool.
In another bowl, combine the yeast with two teaspoons of caster sugar and the same amount again of warm water. Cover with a plastic wrap and stand for ten minutes, or until you see bubbles.
In yet another bowl, place the flour. Add to it the yeast mix as well as the rest of the sugar and water and stir to make a soft dough (add more water if necessary).
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll into a long sausage shape, trim the ends and then cut into 2cm thick portions.
Push one portion of the dough out into a disc, placing two teaspoons of the mince mixture in the middle. Pull all the edges up and together, then pinch to seal. Do the same with all of these dough portions, cover them loosely with a towel and leave for half an hour.
Pierce holes in the baking paper and then steam the buns for 12-15 minutes each until they look puffed up!
- Shredded red cabbage
- Shredded carrot
- Bok choy with leaves
- Mung bean sprouts
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- ¼ cup of rice vinegar
- ¾ tsp sesame seed oil
- Coriander leaves to garnish
Wash all of the vegetables and then dry them. Shred anything that needs to be shredded and take out the bok choy. Cut the stalks of these diagonally, but cut the leaves straight. Put all of the vegetables including the bean sprouts in a large bowl, all mixed together.
Stir together the olive oil, rice vinegar and sesame seed oil.
Put the dressing in the bottom of the bowl and add the rest of your ingredients, mixing in very well.
Once mixed, top with coriander!
And to add a little more protein to your meal, try these:
Black Tea Boiled Eggs
- Half a dozen eggs
- 3 ½ cups cold water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ cup black tea, ready-breed
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
Put the eggs in a saucepan of water with at least half an inch of water over them. Cover and bring to hard boil and then take the saucepan off the heat and leave the eggs to sit for 15-20 minutes.
Tap the eggs all over gently with the back of a spoon being careful not to break the shell completely but just crack it all over.
Bring the water back up to boil and add all of the other ingredients to the pan, breaking up the star anise as you do.
Add the eggs back in and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. At the end of this time, turn the heat off. The eggs can stay in the hot liquid until you’re ready to pack them up for a snack – then eat cold.
Enjoy a delicious Chinese-inspired picnic – even if you don’t live in the Northern Territory, we can all appreciate the freedom we enjoy.