Monday, April 13, 2015

Homemade Wontons


You've probably had wonton soup when you've ordered Chinese takeout, but did you know that wontons can actually make a filling and delicious meal on their own? They can be enjoyed in a soup or with a spicy Sichuan style sauce. I'll be getting to that later this week, but first, let's talk about making the wontons.

Wontons are very simple to make and at home, you can make them with leaner meat and incorporate some leafy greens to make them more healthy yet just as tasty. You can find wonton wrappers (also called "wonton skins") in Asian supermarkets, usually in the refrigerated or frozen section. The filling traditionally uses ground pork, but ground chicken or turkey can also be used and you'll barely notice a difference.

[ packages of wonton wrappers/skins ]
When incorporating greens into the filling, my go-to is watercress. It's small and easy to manage (so not a lot of cleaning and prepping to do) and it's light in flavor and loaded with nutrients. Since the filling can only accommodate about a handful of the veggies, I usually just toss extra veggies into the pot when I'm boiling the wontons. The more greens, the better! Of course, if you're less of a veggie-lover than I am or just don't have any greens on hand, just omit the watercress.



Ingredients:

1 package of wonton skins (makes approx. 50 wontons; 3-4 servings)
3/4 lbs. of ground pork (can substitute with chicken or turkey)
1 egg
1 scallion, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
1 tsp. corn starch (can substitute with flour)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1-1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
Optional: 1 packed cup of finely chopped watercress

Instructions:

1. If your package of wonton skins came frozen, defrost it by leaving it in the fridge over night (if you're making them in the next day or so) or, if you want to use them the same day, leave the package out on the counter for about an hour or more.


2. Make the filling: in a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Using chopsticks or a spoon, stir the ingredients vigorously until everything is evenly combined into a creamy, pureed consistency.


3. Make the wontons: (use a sheet pan, tray, or large plate to hold your finished wontons)


Step 1:  Hold a wonton skin in your left hand with one of the corners at the middle of your palm. Place a dollop of filling in the middle of the wonton skin. The amount of filling to use is about the size of a grape or a cherry.

Step 2:  Fold the wonton skin in half by taking the top corner and bringing it to the bottom corner, making it into an upside-down triangle.

Step 3 (Optional): Here you can "seal in" the filling by gently pressing the skins together around the border of where the filling is. You are NOT trying to pinch or press hard to make the skins stick (like you would for a dumpling), instead you're just flattening the skin around the filling so that it ends up having the look of being vacuum sealed. This is a completely optional step if you're worried about your filling escaping. However, my parents say the traditional and "correct" way is to not seal it and that it doesn't even matter if the filling gets out a little bit.

Step 4:  Wet the right or the left corner tip of your wonton triangle (doesn't matter which side) by wiping a little bit of filling--or you can also use water--with the tip of your chopsticks or spoon. This will act as a glue to hold your folded wonton together.

Step 5:  This is where your triangle will turn into a legitimate wonton! Hold the upside-down triangle in your hand with the top side just below the upper tip section of your middle finger. Curl your middle finger in toward your palm, creating a fold in the middle of the triangle. As you do this, bring the left and right tips of the triangle together, place them on top of each other (with the wet tip on the bottom) and give it a firm squeeze. And that's it, you have a folded wonton!


If you plan on cooking the freshly made wontons the same day, you can keep them in the fridge. If not cooking the same day, put the wontons in a single layer on a sheet pan/tray/large plate and freeze them. Once they're frozen, you can transfer them into a ziplock bag.

The wonton-folding process may sound complicated, but it's actually easy to master. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to crank them out pretty fast. I can usually make 50 wontons in less than 10 minutes, and since I can make them in bulk and just freeze them, they make a great lunch or dinner option for those days when I'm unprepared or pressed for time.

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