When I was seven or eight years old, my mom taught me how to fold wonton. We would watch old Audrey Hepburn movies and dip our fingers into the bowl of cracked egg, my hands inevitably turning into a sticky mess while my mother remained impressively tidy. After much practice, I’ve become better at dolloping out filling and making the square wrappers pinch together just so – but at the end of the day, my hands are always covered in yolk. (As you might be able to tell, I still have a lot to learn.)
I like to bring out this recipe when I’m in the mood for Chinese home cooking, and I’ll usually have a bag of thee stored in my freezer for days when I don’t feel up to doing elaborate meal preparation. When Lunar New Year rolls around I tend to double the recipe and play the soundtrack to ‘My Fair Lady’ as I cook. Afterwards, I invite my friends over to celebrate the holiday and share the finished product.
One good thing about this recipe is that you can be flexible with the measurements – I tend to eyeball as I measure the shrimp, and throw in a generous amount of minced garlic (because I am an incorrigible garlic fiend). If you haven’t made wonton before, test out the recipe with the recommended amounts of ingredients so that you can see what you like/dislike, and then adjust as needed afterwards! As I mentioned, these freeze very well and can be saved for a rainy day. I recommend that you lay everything out in a single layer on a baking sheet in the freezer first, and then collecting the frozen wonton in a bag for storage. If you put everything into a bag without freezing first, they tend to stick together and the wrappers will rip if you try to pry them apart!
I just had the pleasure of preparing this filling and making it into fried wontons with my friend Kevin C. after I finished work the other day. We got to talk and catch up a little as we folded everything together, and then shared our meal and kept the conversation going for another couple of hours before I had to take the last train home. I’m looking forward to cooking more with friends who are still in the city & hopefully coming up with a few mushroom based dumpling fillings so that my vegetarian friends can enjoy, and other non-pork and non-shrimp fillings for friends that eat halal or kosher.
My Mother’s Wonton Recipe:
.75 lb ground pork
.25 lb shrimp
1.5 cups scallions
1.5 tsp minced garlic
4 water chestnuts, finely diced
1 tbs rice wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs oyster sauce
2.5 tbs corn starch
1 package of square dumpling wrappers
1 egg (for sealing wrappers)
chicken broth (optional – for soup)
additional scallions (for garnish)
I normally keep all of these ingredients in my kitchen but you may need to go to an Asian grocery store to purchase some things if you don’t have them on hand. Usually I can find everything but dumpling wrappers and oyster sauce in non-ethnic grocery stores.
- Step 1: Shell the shrimp and dice. The shrimp meat should be able to be evenly distributed throughout the filling, so be sure to dice finely!
- Step 2: Mince water chestnuts, cut scallions, and mince garlic. When purchasing water chestnuts, I try to make sure that I am buying whole water chestnuts (instead of pre-sliced) because it makes it easier to portion out. I find that 2 cloves of garlic is usually enough to reach the 1.5 tsp needed for this recipe, and 1 bunch of scallions is usually enough for 1.5 cups.
- Step 3: Measure out spices and sauces.
- Step 4: Mix all ingredients in large bowl. This can be done with a spoon or spatula, but I find that the most effective way of distributing all of the ingredients evenly is by using your hands. (Or maybe there’s just something sort of fun about squishing everything together?) Once everything is evenly mixed, refrigerate uncovered for 4 hours, or covered overnight.
- Step 6: Fold the wonton. I put about a tablespoon of filling into each, and then use egg to seal the wrappers. My mom taught me to seal these wrappers by bringing the opposite corners together, and then folding the remaining two corners to press into the fold that was just made. (I don’t think that I’ve done a very good job describing the method – but it looks a little bit like a variation on the four-pointed star style of dumpling folding.)
- Step 7: If you want to freeze your wonton, stop here! If you are ready to cook your wonton (frozen or fresh) bring a pot of water to boil and cook several wonton at a time, until the skins become translucent – about eight minutes. If you want to eat wonton in a soup, heat chicken brother and add cooked wonton and use any additional chopped scallions as garnish.
There you have it! You’ve learned about my comfort food and now you have the instructions to make it. If I’m ever sick or in need of comforting, now ya know exactly how to take care of me. 😉