A wonton is a meat filled dumpling that is usually served in broth. It’s soothing comfort food that can be customized to your taste. Fill the dumpling with ground chicken or turkey, or make a vegetarian dumpling and load the broth up with bok choy and napa cabbage. Make a spicy pork broth brimming with fat noodles or a mild fish broth garnished with lots of lime and cilantro. The wontons themselves are so simple to prepare and when you make them from scratch you can be sure that only the best ingredients are used and that no MSG is added. There are many versions of the wonton, each with slight variations depending on place of origin.
The traditional wonton is stuffed with minced pork and shrimp and served in a light broth with noodles. Sichuan wontons are known as “red oil wonton” because they are served with sesame paste and chili oil. Shanghainese wontons are made with minced meat and bok choy and Cantonese wontons are served in a broth made from shrimp shells, pork bones and dried flounder.
The important thing is to make sure your wonton is formed correctly. Whether your wonton ends up in a hot pot, or soup, or is fried in a wok, a little dumpling that opens up during cooking, or spills its contents into the broth or hot oil, is not much fun.
Of course we are going to start off by assuming you are going to make these from scratch, because you can always a) order in, or b) buy the wraps pre-made and stuff them yourself or c) buy them frozen. The first thing you will want is a reliable and simple recipe for the dough to make the wrap.
Rhonda Parkinson’s recipe for wonton wraps is straightforward and the dough is tender and resilient enough to be manhandled by less than expert hands.
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup water, as needed
Extra flour as needed
- Lightly beat the egg with the salt.
- Add 1/4 cup water.Sift the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the egg and water mixture. Mix in with the flour. Add as much of the remaining water as necessary to form a dough. (Add more water than the recipe calls for if the dough is too dry).
- Form the dough into a ball and knead for about 5 minutes, or until it forms a smooth, workable dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out until very thin, and cut into 3 1/2-inch squares. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.
Your wrappers are ready and now you will want a delicious filling. Here is where the choices really explode. You could make a pork wonton, shrimp, duck, mushroom…the choices are almost endless. I think we should start with the classic, and none other than Martin Yan’s Classic Pork and Shrimp Wontons.
“The slogan on my show is, ’If Yan can cook, so can you.’ My approach is to demystify Chinese and Asian cooking. People always tell me that Asian cooking is very complicated, very time-consuming, but it isn’t as hard if you know the basic skills. If you understand the basic principal of a cuisine, and you know the basic technique, you can easily prepare delicious, healthy and wonderful food very quickly.” -Martin Yan
Martin Yan’s Wontons
1/4 pound ground pork
5 large shrimp (about 3 ounces)—shelled, deveined and minced
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
pinch of freshly ground white pepper
26 square wonton wrappers, plus more in case of breakage
- In a medium bowl, stir together all of the ingredients until blended.
- Working with 2 or 3 wonton wrappers at a time and keeping the rest covered with a damp paper towel, spoon a slightly rounded teaspoon of filling into the center of each wrapper. Lightly brush the edges with water and fold to form a triangle, pressing out the air as you go.
- Bring the 2 pointed edges together and press to seal (like tortellini). Transfer the finished wontons to a platter lined with plastic wrap and cover with a damp paper towel while you make the rest.
You can make a big whack of wontons and IQF them for later use; they can be plopped in simmering stock or boiled and are fully cooked after about five minutes.
We looked around and found Ken Tin’s video to be a great primer on how to fold a wonton and get that classic lovely little shape; this technique is not overly intimidating or complicated, and you don’t have to have been doing this for years to get the desired results. Make some green tea and have a gander at this while you get in the mood.