Thursday, May 31, 2012

a sojourn...for the perfect wontons.

wrapped wontons, ready to be cooked

and the chinese food streak continues! this time, it's wontons. wontons are a tricky thing for me, although slightly less so than dumplings. in the same vein as my post from last week regarding the lack of recipes in my family, it's been nearly impossible to replicate the wontons my mom used to make when i was a kid. consequently, i've made it somewhat of a mini life mission to scour scores of wonton recipes from any source i can lay my hands on and tweaking this here, that there, and you guys - i think my wonton journey has finally come to an end. this, i present to you, is my ideal of the perfect wonton recipe.

scallion ombre

the main ingredients (from top): scallions, soy sauce + sesame oil, bak choy, ground pork, ginger

i think there's somewhat of a preconceived notion that wontons are hard to make, but let me set the record straight right now: they're not. they're practically one of the easiest, most delicious things you could ever make; it's literally a one bowl dish, and they cook in one pot. see? that doesn't sound so hard.

wetting down the edges of a wrapper

the recipe that follows is my preferred wonton filling, though if you're adventurous (or vegetarian), you can definitely try adding/substituting ingredients as you please. my only caveat is the actual wonton soup recipe that follows isn't exactly fancy by any means (read: super traditional), but this one's entirely the wang family's own - i like to call it 'the quick and dirty chinese soup'. it's essentially a glorified mixture of hot water, soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper, super quick to put together but oh so delicious and perfect wherever broth soup is needed in a chinese dish.

pork and bok choy wontons
serves 6-8

for the wontons:
- 1 cup finely minced bok choy (*see note)
- 2/3 pound ground pork
- 6 scallions, finely minced
- 2 tb ginger, finely minced
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- one package square wonton wrappers
*note: a traditional meat/vegetable filling uses napa cabbage, but i prefer the heartier taste of bak choy. if you wish, try both versions and see which one you prefer.

for the soup broth:
- two quarts chicken stock or water, two cups set aside (divided)
- large handful of scallions, chopped into 1" pieces (optional)
- one inch of ginger root (optional)
- two whole cloves of garlic, peeled (optional)
- soy sauce, sesame oil, thinly sliced scallions and white pepper for serving

to make the soup broth (start on this first while making the wontons):
- put all ingredients together (except for those for serving and the reserved two cups of broth) into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. once at boil, bring down to a simmer while you're preparing the wontons.

to make the wontons:
- combine all ingredients except for the wrappers in a large bowl. mix thoroughly. note this can also be done up to two days ahead of time, kept in the fridge.
- take about a teaspoon worth of filling and place in center of wonton wrapper, and with the tip of your finger, wet two adjacent edges of the wrapper with water (it helps to have a little dish of water next to you while doing this). press the other side onto the wet side to seal the wonton (while also working out excess air), you'll end up with what looks like a little stuffed triangle. make sure to seal completely, the wontons will expand while cooking and burst wontons are a sad sight. note: i usually just fold them into triangles to keep the process quick, but if you're feeling extra super fancy, you could moisten the tip of one of the long ends of the triangles and press it together with the opposite tip, forming a little "crown" shape.

to put everything together:
- bring the soup back up to a boil and once at a rolling boil, stir the soup in a circular motion and drop the wontons in one by one while continuing to gently stir the soup in a circular motion - this prevents the wontons from "settling" at the bottom of the pot and to each other, so they don't stick together.
- continue to gently stir the soup in a circular motion, taking care not to puncture or burst any wontons, and bring back to a full boil. once at a full boil, take the two cups of reserved broth and pour into the hot soup mixture. bring back to a boil. the wontons are done when they float on the surface of the soup.

to serve:
- ladle wontons and the accompanying soup into bowls (avoid the chunk of ginger and garlic cloves at the bottom of the pot), and add soy sauce to taste. top with a light drizzle of sesame oil, a scattering of scallions and just a dash of white pepper, serve immediately.

one final note: wontons freeze very well. if making this for only a meal or two, line up the wontons on a cutting board and pop in the freezer. once individually frozen, you can then put them into a tupperware to cook as needed (the individual freezing process makes sure they don't stick to each other while freezing - really bad). the cooking method is the same, cooking time will just take a few minutes longer.


Belinda said...

You've made wontons seem so easy! This is tomorrow night's dinner - we're already writing the shopping list. Well, a vegetarian version, I should say.

Every time I eat them out (at least once a week lately) I always think 'how hard could this possibly be?'. Then I have this feeling that there must be some magical wonton-making secret that is passed down through generations that I'm not privy to and therefore it will all go terribly wrong when try and make them myself.

I guess I'm about to find out tomorrow night!

k. wang said...

Belinda - I'm so glad! Please let me know how they turn out. The only thing I might add for a veg version is that you may need a binder to keep the filling together, maybe something like egg (though I know vegetarians who both do and don't eat egg), cornstarch or flour, since in the case of the meat version the meat acts as a binder for all the ingredients to keep them from completely falling apart in the wonton. Let me know what you try, I'm so curious!

Belinda said...

Hmmm...I do eat egg. I was just going to used finely cut, semi-firm tofu in the place of meat. I will try som with and without a binder and see how they hold up. Thanks for the tip!

k. wang said...

Oh cool! I bet firm tofu would be excellent, too. Yes, try both and let me know how they turn out! I'd love to try a vegetarian version someday too, but you know, I love my meat. :)

nikole said...

These looks so great, I'm totally going to try them. And thanks for saying so about our shop on twitter the other day! :)

k. wang said...

thanks nikole! absolutely, i meant every word of it. been a big fan of HG for a long time, so it's super cool to finally see a little more of the backstory behind HG.