Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wontons, Two Ways


Last week I showed you how to make wontons, today let's talk about how to eat them. Wontons are typically served in one of two ways, in a soup or tossed with a spicy sauce. The latter is actually a famous traditional Sichuan street food called hong-you-chao-shou, translation: wontons in red chili oil.

The ubiquitous wonton soup from Chinese takeout restaurants are, in a word, subpar. Those wontons are usually factory made, with poorly made fillings, and the soup is very one dimensional in flavor, heavily remedied by salt and MSG. When you make wonton soup at home, the results are very different. Tender and meaty homemade wontons bathed in a fresh and brothy soup that is light in body and rich in flavor--it's comfort in a bowl.

In a spicy sauce, wontons take on a whole new personality. They become more complex and bold in flavor and are deliciously savory. In this Sichuan classic, wontons are usually sitting in more chili oil, but in my recipe I use less.

A word about the recipes I'm about to share with you... Wontons are similar to a fast food meal in our house (in regards to time, not quality) and the recipes will reflect that. What I mean by this is, because they're so easy and fast to make, it's my go-to when I need to whip together a meal in limited time. As a result, there are certain "cheats" I've developed in my wonton recipes all for the sake of efficiency (or is it just laziness?)

For example, using chicken stock and water for my wonton soup base allows me to make a meal in less than 20 minutes. Are there ways to make the soup base that will yield even more depth of flavor? Of course! But that usually requires ingredients I may not readily have on hand and more time, and the difference of me going from hungry to hangry.

So keep that in mind and perhaps see this as an opportunity for you to experiment with the recipes. Maybe you always have dried shiitake mushrooms in your pantry, they would be great in the soup!





Recipe #1: Wonton Soup
(12-15 wontons per serving)

1 part chicken stock
1 part water
Ginger, peel removed
2 Scallions, one of which thinly sliced
Handful of veggies (Ex: bok choy, mushrooms, bean sprouts, lettuce, watercress)
Salt and pepper

1. Fill up a large pot half way with equal parts chicken stock and water. Add ginger and one stalk of scallion. Bring the pot to a boil on medium-high heat.

2. Once the liquid is boiling, add wontons to the pot (don't cook more than an amount that covers the bottom of the pot, usually about 1-2 servings at a time). Use a spatula to gently stir the bottom of the pot to prevent any wontons from sticking. Stir again after 1-2 minutes. Wontons will float to the top when they're cooked. Once they're afloat, add the veggies and cook for another 1-2 minutes. To check for doneness, you can take a wonton out of the pot and break it open to see if the meat filling is cooked through.

3. Prepare the bowl while the wontons are cooking: add a pinch of salt, pepper, and thinly sliced scallions to a bowl. With a ladle, add soup from the pot to the bowl, up to about half way. Once the wontons are cooked, use a slotted ladle to transfer them along with the veggies into your bowl. Top off with extra soup if necessary.



Recipe #2: Spicy Wontons
(12-15 wontons per serving)

Spicy sauce (for 1 serving):
2 tsp. chili oil (ex: Lao Gan Ma chili oil) use more if you like it hot!
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
Optional:
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of Sichuan peppercorn powder
pinch of sesame seeds

1. Fill up a large pot half way with water and bring it to a boil on medium-high heat.

2. Once the water is boiling, add wontons to the pot (don't cook more than an amount that covers the bottom of the pot, usually about 1-2 servings at a time). Use a spatula to gently stir the bottom of the pot to prevent any wontons from sticking. Stir again after 1-2 minutes. Wontons will float to the top when they're cooked. Once they're afloat, cook for another 1-2 minutes. To check for doneness, you can take a wonton out of the pot and break it open to see if the meat filling is cooked through.

3. Prepare the bowl while the wontons are cooking: add all the dry ingredients first, followed by all the wet ingredients, stir to combine. Once the wontons are cooked, use a slotted ladle to transfer them  into your bowl. Use chopsticks or a spoon to toss the wontons in the sauce until fully incorporated.

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