The other week I mentioned my search for wontons in Chinatown that brought me to the treasured mangosteen. My desire for wonton soup must have been fate to find my true fruit love. But this pull must also mean that these little dumplings are truly blessed and a perfect treat for the Chinese New Year that started this past Thursday.
Where did this sudden desire for wontons come if not from the pull of the mangosteen?
A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend in my Community Supported Agriculture group. Many of the members are currently in a winter share, comprised of storage vegetables like beets, celeriac, carrots and cabbage. It is amazing to have the opportunity to buy local and in season in the winter, but the real challenge is finding unique ways through 25 pounds of 5 or 6 kinds of vegetables! So when this friend mentioned she was making wontons, without asking what she put in them, my mind was working and I knew they were too good to pass up. Off I ran to pick up some no-hassle wonton wrappers.
These days, wonton wrappers are available in many specialty supermarkets in the refrigerated section. I go to Chinatown because they have a larger selection from various producers, as well as shapes (circular or square). For these wonton wrappers, I found a local New York City producer that only uses flour, water and eggs to make the noodle (no MSG or other hard to pronounce additives). In addition, I picked up a young ginger and some scallions to complete the flavor profile I was after.
While most supermarkets carry fresh ginger rhizomes (not roots), young ginger is harder to find, but well worth the effort. The taste is sweeter, less bitter and has less of an astringent bite compared to regular ginger. It is also less fibrous and can be slivered into soups or salads for an extra kick. Young ginger has a smoother skin and a pinkish hue (not to be fooled with the pickled ginger you get with your sushi). Regular ginger (non-powdered) you find in most supermarkets will work in this recipe.
I made these wontons with ground pork, but you can make them vegetarian or with beef just as tasty. For a first time go I think these turned out fabulous. 50 wonton wrappers come in (most) packs so as I made them I assembled them on a cookie sheet to freeze and store for later. Now, whenever D wants some wonton soup he boils these wontons for 10 minutes, adds a little miso paste and dried seawood and voila, instant hearty wonton soup!
This soup is totally no-hassle as long as you have a few key ingredients.
Instead of a chicken stock base (which would be equally delicious) I used organic red miso paste, available at most Asian markets and health stores. Miso paste is made from fermented rice, barley or most often, soybeans. 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water makes a great fast soup base, but you can also use it to pickle vegetables! Red miso paste has a stronger flavor than white (which is used in most miso soup at Japanese restaurants). It is great to have around for fast soups, but also because it seems to last forever. But again, chicken or vegetable stock would taste equally delicious.
When you buy miso paste, don’t forget to pick up some dried (or fresh) seaweed. Experiment with different types, some are better for sushi rolls, others are meant to be re-hydrated in soups or for salads. My local health store carries all sorts of Wikame Eden brand. One package has lasted as long as the miso! If you don’t like seaweed, try bok choi, or stir spinach or even lettuce in there before serving (hey, why not).
As for the wontons, I wanted to use some of my winter storage vegetables so this was a key ingredient. All the recipes I found for wontons contained a basic meat, ginger and garlic trio, most added some soy sauce. Play around and find a flavor combination that works for you.
Serving Size= 2. Active time= 5 minutes. Inactive time= 12 minutes.
- 6-8 wontons (see recipe below)
- 4 teaspoons miso paste (available at most Asian or health markets)
- 2 strands dried Wikame seaweed
- 1-2 scallions
1) Bring 4 cups unsalted water to a boil. While the water is coming up to temperature, prepare the bowls.
2) Slice scallion into 1/4 inch slivers and cut seaweed into 1 inch pieces. Divide the scallion and seaweed between the two bowls. Add 2 teaspoons miso paste to each bowl.
3) When water is boiling, remove 1/2 cup of the liquid and set aside. Add wontons to the boiling water, cover, and boil for 8-10 minutes. Divide the 1/2 cup liquid between the two bowls and use a spoon to help break down the miso paste. Make sure the seaweed is covered. Set aside.
4) When the wontons are done, divide them between the bowls and add the boiling water over top. Serve hot.
Pork and Vegetable Wontons
Serving Size= 50 wontons. Active time= 1 hour.
This was my first time making wontons and I found once I developed a rhythm I could stuff them a little plumper and work a littler faster. I followed a technique similar to the one in this YouTube video, but you can make them by a simple one fold method and not worry about getting fancy.
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 celeriac, shredded
- 1/4 head of cabbage, shredded
- 4 scallions, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1 pound lean ground pork
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 3-4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili flakes (optional, or what you think is best)
- 50 wonton wrappers
1) Peel the celeriac and carrot and use a food processor to shred these and the cabbage. Transfer to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix the ingredients with your hands to evenly incorporate.
2) Assemble a cutting board in front of you, the wonton wrappers, a small dish of water and a cookie sheet (if you plan to freeze the wontons).
3) Assemble wontons: Place one wrapper on the cutting board. Dip your fingers in the water and rim the edges with a little water. Place one heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper, fold in half once and push out the air and seal. Finish there, or push the center filling in slightly and fold two corners onto each other to form a sort of hat. Continue until all the wrappers are used, assembling them on a cookie sheet to freeze (eat remaining filling in a small burger!). Once the cookie sheet is filled, cover and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer storage bag for a tasty wonton treat (steamed or boiled) whenever you’re in a pinch for time!
Note:See the YouTube video link above for a step-by-step video of the process (not mine), but it is easier to visualize- sorry, I didn’t have additional un-porked hands to handle the camera!