We’ve had a lot of snow and cold weather this year. The weather had me craving one of my favorite comfort foods—wonton soup. I originally learned the craft from the family of someone I dated, but I hadn’t done it in a while. I used chef Google to help me combine the best recipes I could find to approximate my memory of how I learned to do it. For Christmas Eve dinner we made a big batch of wonton and soup and then we froze a bunch for future use.
This recipe is an amalgam of 3 different recipes I found on the web and what I remembered from my Chinese “family members.”
1 lb of ground pork
½ lb of medium sized shrimp
1 tablespoon minced or pressed garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
3 thinly sliced scallions, with the white parts finely minced, save green parts for soup
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
white pepper to taste
32 ounces of chicken stock
1 package fresh Hong Kong style thin egg noodles
crushed red pepper (to taste)
white pepper (to taste)
garlic chili sauce (to taste)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp minced or pressed garlic
1 ½ cups thinly sliced bok choy or spinach if desired
leftover shrimp shells
Cilantro and green parts of scallions for garnish
Several hours prior to the project (this recipe is definitely not recommended for a weekday night!), you will want to peel and devein the shrimp. You know how Chinese shrimp always seem so crispy? It turns out that the very alkali water in some places is what causes this texture. You can replicate this by soaking the shrimp in alkali water. Some people recommend soaking in potassium carbonate, but I found out that you can substitute some baking soda in cold water. Soak the shrimp in 2 tablespoons of baking soda in cold water and soak it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. When the shrimp is done soaking it will look just a little bit pink. Save your shrimp shells in a plastic bag for use in the soup later.
When I am getting closer to making the actual filling, I start making the soup stock. I add the chicken stock, shrimp shells, sesame oil, garlic, white pepper, crushed red peppers and garlic chili sauce to simmer on a relatively low heat. If too much evaporates, I add extra water. Some people do their stock from scratch. I just didn’t have it in me when I was going to be wrapping a double batch of wonton.
As the soup is simmering, I prep the shrimp further. I chop off the tails and mince them very finely until they are almost the consistency of a paste. Then I chop the body of the shrimp into bigger, perfectly bite size pieces. It’s always fun to bite into a big chunk of shrimp when you bite into a wonton!
Now that the shrimp is prepped, it’s time to turn your attention to the rest of the filling. Mix the ground pork with 1 tablespoon minced or pressed garlic, 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger, 3 thinly sliced scallions, with the white parts finely minced, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon flour, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil , 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons minced cilantro and white pepper to taste.
After I get that all mixed together, I add the shrimp tails to the mixture. This really flavors the pork nicely. It is fine to skip this step if you don’t have the time, but it does have a nice flavor pay-off.
Now is a good time to take a deep breath and a break, because you are about to be elbow deep in wonton mixture. Go stretch, shake out your arms, take care of anything you need to with the babies, go to the bathroom… because you are going to be sitting in one place for a long time!
Ready? Ok. Fill a small bowl with warm water, get out the wonton wrappers, bring your mixture and the bigger shrimp bites into position. Have some baking pans at the ready to stash your wonton in. I cover my filled baking dishes with a wet paper towel while I’m working to keep everything from drying out before I either bag the wonton or cook them.
At this point, your job is to run the wonton wrapping assembly line. I put a wonton wrapper flat in my palm, scoop 1 teaspoon of the pork mixture into the center of the wrapper. Place one of the tasty shrimp bites in the center. There are many ways to properly fold a wonton, but I wanted mine to be cute for Christmas Eve dinner, so I folded them in half like a rectangle first. Wet the inside edges of your wrapper so that they’ll stick together. Make sure there is no extra air trapped in the wrapper.
Then fold the bottom edges down towards each other until you’ve got the cutest little dumpling. Then press hard at the overlapping corners so they don’t come apart. I usually use a little water to help keep the corners together.
Eventually, you’ll start to feel like you are accomplishing something and you’ll have a pan full of beautiful dumplings! I always double the recipe so that I have plenty of wonton to freeze for later. In fact, we still have some of our Christmas stash in the freezer! If you are going to freeze, I recommend freezing about 12 wontons in 1 ziploc bag so that they don’t get crowded and stick together. Freeze flat so that you can just shake them out easily into your next soup.
Now that you have enough wonton wrapped for dinner, turn your attention back to the soup. (Hopefully you’ve been paying some attention to it in the interim… it doesn’t need too much, but you do want soup remaining when you are ready!)
At this point, remove the shrimp shells (they’d be yucky to eat, but provide great flavor to the soup). You can now add your fresh veggies (bok choy, spinach, whatever you plan on using). Chop the rest of your cilantro and green onion to add as garnish at the very end.
When the veggies are almost ready, add your wonton. They float when they are done. It’s like they have their own internal timers! If you are doing Hong Kong style, you can add egg noodles for a rich and hearty topper. The noodles only need to cook for 2-3 minutes, so time accordingly. Garnish with the green onion and cilantro. Voila! There you have a delicious dinner. I always sprinkle a little more white pepper and shoyu at the very end, but you can season to taste.
I know this sounds hard, but it’s really not. It is time consuming, but if you think about the fact that you are really making half a dozen meals, it doesn’t seem like a lot.
Do you have an involved meal that you love to do once in a while?
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