Colder temps drive wonton soup craving

March 8, 2019

Sometimes I buy things at the grocery store that haven’t come from a menu list I’ve prepared, but rather come from a food craving. Recently, I wasn’t sure if it was the return of colder temps or a sense that my salt content needed to be raised – I really wanted a bowl of wonton soup. Although I could always go to a Chinese restaurant, I planned to make the soup myself.

By way of definition, a wonton is a type of dumpling that originated almost 2,000 years ago in northern China. According to food historians, a Chinese physician, Zhang Zhongjing, invented them as a way to treat his patients’ frostbitten ears. While I can’t verify that legend, he is certainly well-regarded for his publications on infectious diseases.

Each region of China and other Asian countries have a signature style, flavor and ingredients for their wontons. Traditionally, a wonton is a small, thin square sheet of dough filled with a mixture of ground pork, shrimp, vegetables, shallots and ginger. The edges are then pressed together to contain the filling and they’re steamed, fried or simmered in broth.

You’ll find all sorts of arguments about the difference between wontons and other types of dumplings. Potstickers or guotie are fried wontons with a juicy filling and crisp bottom layer. Jiaozi, shaped like a crescent moon, are made with round pieces of a thicker, sturdier dough. Gyoza are a Japanese variation made with pork and cabbage.

The biggest challenge to making any type of wonton or filled dumpling is folding the wrapper. One way is to bring all four corners together to form a “ruffled purse.” Or you can be meticulous about how the edges are joined to make a “chubby pyramid.” To make the rectangle or the triangle, simply moisten the edges and fold one half over the other into the desired shape. The ones in the photo are a messy (but delicious) triangle An extension of the triangle is to take the two thinner points and press them together, making a sort of hat-shaped wonton. You can make a “sailor’s hat” by folding the wrapper in half, slightly offset, then curling the ends around into a circle. An envelope starts with a triangle, then the two thin points are folded across the front to form a tidy package.

One key to success is to have a small bowl of water nearby to dampen your fingers so you can moisten the edges. Another point is to keep the unused wonton wrappers under a sheet of damp paper towel while you work so they don’t dry out. It’s not necessary to precook the filling, as the wontons will be steamed, boiled or fried with enough time on heat to be cooked through.

I’ve included a recipe for a basic wonton filling made with ground pork and shrimp, seasoned with grated ginger. These are delicious served in seasoned chicken stock and garnished with scallions. Alternatively, you can cook the wontons in boiling water and then serve them in a slightly sweet soy glaze garnished with sesame seeds (see photo for serving idea). By the way, these certainly satisfied my craving.

Shrimp & Pork Wonton Soup


1 chopped scallion
6 C chicken stock
1 t toasted sesame oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 t white pepper

Wonton filling:

1/2 lb ground pork
2 scallions
8 shelled, deveined shrimp
1 inch peeled ginger
1 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 T cornstarch
1 package wonton wrappers

Place the chicken stock in a large pot and add the chopped scallion. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Stir in sesame oil, salt and pepper. Cover pot and keep at a very low simmer. Place the pork in a mixing bowl. Thinly slice the 2 scallions and add, reserving some of the green pieces for garnish. Cut the shrimp into a fine mince and add to the bowl. Grate the ginger into the bowl. Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and cornstarch, mixing thoroughly to combine. Open the package of wonton wrappers and place near your work surface; cover with a damp paper towel. Fill a small bowl with water and place near your workspace. While you make the wontons, bring a large pot of water to boil. To make the wontons, hold a wrapper in the palm of one hand. Scoop about a teaspoon of filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Dip your finger in the water and use it to moisten the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half on the diagonal, pressing out any air and sealing the edges. Moisten the two thinner points and curl them around the filling and press them together; set aside on a sheet of waxed paper. Continue making wontons with remaining filling. Too cook, boil the wontons 5 or 6 at a time in the pot of water for about 3 minutes. Remove the wontons with a slotted spoon to a platter; continue until all the wontons have been cooked. To serve, place 6 wontons into each soup bowl and ladle in stock. Garnish with reserved scallions.

Soy Glaze for Wontons

1/2 C soy sauce
1/2 C rice wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1/2 C water
1 grated garlic clove
1 t grated ginger root
1 t sesame oil
1 minced scallion
red pepper flakes, to taste

Combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and water in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Stir in remaining ingredients. Use as a dipping sauce or serving sauce for wontons. Keeps in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a week.

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