Monday, February 25, 2008

Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup

The best wontons I've had were made with pork and ji cai, or shepherd's purse. You're probably thinking, "what the heck, that sounds like a weed". And according to wiki, yeah basically it is a weed. I've never been able to find it here in the States, since I don't think it's grown here commercially. My dad brought back some seeds from China to grow at home but his idea of growing vegetables was basically taking the fistful of seeds and throwing it on the ground. Whatdoyaknow nothing grew. Anyways so I make my wontons with salted Chinese mustard greens that I salt at home. I'll post a guide for this eventually (I included the recipe at the end) but you can also use napa cabbage or even bok choy but make sure to salt them first for about 30 minutes and squeeze out all the excess water.

Pork and Vegetable Wontons

1 lb ground pork
1 1/2 C finely chopped napa cabbage, bok choy, packed + 1/2 tsp salt
or 1 C salted (not preserved) mustard greens (instructions below)
1 egg
1 tsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp rice wine
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp corn starch

1 pack of wonton wrappers
Bowl of water for dabbing the wrappers
Flour for dusting surface

For serving:
Chicken stock
Spinach leaves (optional)
Seasame oil

Toss the napa with the salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Squeeze the excess liquid out with your hands or in a cheesecloth and add to a large bowl. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and mix until everything is throughly combined.

Add 1 teaspoon of the filling to the center of the wrapper (pic 1). Keep the rest of the wrappers covered while you wrap each wonton. Apply water to the perimeter of the wrapper on all four sides. Fold the wrapper in half, make sure not to trap any air in the center, press firmly to seal the edges (pic 2). Holding the wonton lengthwise crease the wonton by folding it in half (pic 3). Bring the two corners together (pic 4), dab a little water and press firmly to seal (pic 5). (Doing this with one hand and having to take pics was hard.) They'll look like nurse caps or sometimes like gold ingots like mine (pic 6).

While your folding the last of the wontons, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the wontons and turn the heat down so the water is simmering. Give the pot a stir once you add in the wontons so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot or to each other. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes or until they float and the filling is cooked through (you can cut one open to check). If you over cook the wontons, the warpper will be all flabby and mushy, which is not very tasty. Always boil wontons in water and never directly in the chicken stock because the flour on the wrappers will cloud the chicken stock.

Meanwhile, have your chicken stock/chicken soup ready. Bring your chicken stock up to a boil in a separate saucepan. Homemade is best but a good quality canned/boxed kind will do in a pinch. If you want to add spinach leaves, add it at the very end to quickly blanch them in the soup. Serve the wontons in the chicken soup with a drizzle of sesame oil on top.

Freezing Wontons
You can freeze the extras and simmer them whenever you feel like soup. Freeze the wontons in one layer not touching each other on a tray lightly dusted with flour so they don't stick. When the wontons are frozen solid, transfer them to a big freezer bag.

Simmer for 4 minutes (rather than the 3 minutes for fresh ones) in water, or until they float.

I'll post a more in depth guide next time I do this.
Salting Mustard Greens

1 bunch of Chinese mustard greens (xue li hong/sher li hong)
Plenty of salt

Break each leaf off and wash the mustard greens and spin them dry or pat them dry with a paper towel. Place them in a pyrex and sprinkle liberally with salt. Let them stand overnight.

Then keep in the fridge in it's salted juices for up to a week.

Use in stir fries, dumpling, or wonton fillings.

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