RCP: Chinese Wonton

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RCP: Chinese Wonton

Postby Paul Winalski » Mon Jul 10, 2006 1:28 am

The home version of these little pork dumplings in a pasta wrapper is way better than the "where's the pork?" abominations that you find in most U. S. Chinese restaurants. This is one of the first Chinese dishes I ever learned to make, and it's still one of my favorites--when I can find the time. The recipe makes 40 or so wonton. I usually just mix up the filling, buy a bunch of wonton skins, and keep folding until one or the other is gone.

The recipe is from Joyce Chen's "Joyce Chen Cook Book". With her "Joyce Chen Cooks" program on US educational TV (later Public Television), she was the Julia Child of Chinese cooking back in the early days when nobody in the USA knew what a wok was. It was her program on how to grow your own bean sprouts, and what to do with them afterwards, that first got me interested in cooking as a college student.


Filling:
1/2 lb ground pork
1 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS peanut oil (or other neutral-flavored oil)
2 TBS water or stock
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp (or more; I use one whole scallion) finely minced scallion (green onion)
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp shao hsing cooking wine (or pale dry sherry)

1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside until ready to fill the wontons.

NOTES:

1) Traditionally there would be no oil in this dish, but you'd use very fatty minced pork. Modern supermarket ground pork is a lot leaner, so you have to add some oil. Olive oil will add a taste of olives that is unwelcome here. Peanut or corn or canola or whatever is OK.

2) All the shao hsing Chinese rice wine that I've seen in US Chinatown supermarkets has salt added so they can get around the US liquor laws. If you use that, omit the salt. Pale dry sherry (especially a fino such as Lustau Jarana or Tio Pepe) is an admirable substitute.


Now to fill the little tykes. You will want 40 or so (one package) square wonton skins. I always go to Boston's Chinatown for wonton skins because the ones there are always fresher than the ones in local supermarkets. If you're doing fried wontons, the fresher ones always work out better. It matters less for boiled wontons, or wontons in soup.

If you're in a restaurant, you put a miniscule dab of filling on the end of a chopstick, poke it into the center of a wonton skin, draw the edges of the skin up in a bunch with your hand, squeeze to seal in the filling, and you're done. How vulgar! Real, home-style wontons have (1) an ample filling, and (2) an artistic fold. There are three basic styles of wonton fold. They all start out the same way:

1) Place 1/2 tsp of filling in the center of a wonton skin. Moisten around the perimeter of the filling with a bit of water, to provide a good seal when you do the folding.

Now comes the first fold, which is where the three styles part company. In all cases, after doing the first fold, you want to press around the perimeter of the filling (a half-crescent) to seal it in. You want the edges of the wrapper to be free.

Style 1: The Leaf

2) Fold the wonton corner-to-corner, so that you have a right triangle. Press just around the perimeter of the filling to seal it.

Style 2: The Nun's Cap

2) Fold the wonton edge-to-edge, so that you have a rectangle. Press just around the perimeter of the filling to seal it.

Style 3: The Flower

2) Fold the wonton so that the one corner is midway between the opposite edge (i.e., halfway between a leaf and a nun's cap). Press just around the perimeter of the filling to seal it.

The remaining steps are the same for all three styles:

3) Fold the wonton again 1/2 way in the same direction as the first fold. You'll now have "far" edges (with only a single ply of wrapper) and "near" edges (a double ply of wrapper, due to the second fold you just did).

4) Bring the near edges together, one over the other, moisten the lower one (so that they'll stick together), and press them together. You've now completed your wonton!

The "Leaf" style of wonton has two points of double wrapper, with the filling in the middle. This style is best suited for boiled or soup wontons, since the double thickness of wrapper maintains its shape best while cooking without goind mushy.

The "Flower" style of wonton has four points of single wrapper, with the filling in the middle. This style is best for frying. When deep-fried, the four points curl out and offer the most surface area for crispy, crunchy skin.

The "Nun's Cap" has a circle of double wrapper going about 1/2 way around the dumpling. It's a general purpose fold, good for either boiling/soup or deep-frying.

To deep-fry wontons, heat oil (I prefer peanut oil) to 350 degrees F and cook until golden brown. Turn them over once or twice so that they brown evenly. Make sure each wonton has enough room to puff out; don't overcrowd. Drain and serve.

To boil wontons, boil water in a large pot. When it's at a rolling boil, add the wontons, making sure they have enough room to swim freely. Once the water returns to the boil, add 1 cup cold water. When the water again returns to the boil, remove from heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Drain and serve.

For soup wontons, prepare the soup or broth. Prepare boiled wontons as described above. Add the wontons to the soup just before serving.


NOTE: Fried wontons are delicious on their own, or served with mustard or plum dipping sauce.

For mustard sauce, mix equal portions of water and a good dried ground yellow mustard powder (such as Coleman's) into a paste. Refrigerate for an hour or two. This is a real sinus-clearer!

Chinese plum sauce is made from plums, sugar, ginger, and chile. The ubiquitous "duck sauce" of US Chinese restaurant infamy--a sort of tangy applesauce--is a pale, dumbed-down reflection of the original plum sauce, neutered so that US Middle America, who would faint dead away at any food that actually tasted like something, would accept it. Look for Koon Chun or other brand of genuine plum sauce in Chinatown or better-stocked supermarkets. Genuine plum sauce is a wonderful accompaniment for fried wontons.

Soy sauce, sesame oil, chile oil, and rice vinegar are good accompaniments for boiled wontons.


MAKE-AHEAD NOTE: Folded wontons freeze very well and will keep for a few months, especially if you are going to boil them or use them in soup. Defrosted wontons just don't puff up as well as they should when deep-fried, IMO.

-Paul W.
Last edited by Paul Winalski on Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: RCP: Chinese Wonton

Postby Jenise » Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:52 am

Good recipe. Paul, in your area have you seen Hong Kong style skins? They're thinner than the regulation wanton skin. A Chinese friend of mine prefers them for a sui mai style wonton.
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Re: RCP: Chinese Wonton

Postby Paul Winalski » Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:17 pm

Yes, I've seen the Hong Kong style skins. Those are the ones I usually use.

-Paul W.
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