I’ll herald in this month of examinations with something that counteracts stress: wontons! Wontons in broth are one of my favourite comfort foods; I can eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and making wontons is fun and therapeutic.
Ingredients can be whatever you fancy. Shitake mushrooms, chillies, ginger, coriander, etc. These all work well in wonton fillings. Just bear in mind that vegetables are wet (so squeeeze the liquid out of them before mixing in with the meat etc.). Mixing in prawns with meat will make the mixture stickier and therefore hold together. I shall leave it to you to judge the proportions and portion size. Worried about leftovers? Wonton pastry squares go in the freezer; filling mixture in the fridge; already wrapped wontons in the freezer.
These are the ingredients I normally use in my wontons:
- Pak choi
- Salad onions (spring onions would be even better but regular supermarkets in the UK do not stock them) – set aside a piece to chop for the garnish
- Wonton pastry (found in Chinese supermarkets)
- White pepper
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
There is a lazy way (mine) and a better way (my Mum’s) of doing this. I’ll give you both, and you can choose one depending on how much time and kitchen equipment you have. You can slightly over-season the filling, because the wonton pastry will balance out the saltiness. The important thing with both methods is the chopping, which is best done with a cleaver as everything needs to be tiny and stick together for a good mixture. Some people use blenders but we never do as the mixture becomes too fine and more like a paste than a recognisable filling. Feel the food, and craft it with your own bare hands.
Method A – my lazy way
Prepare the filling:
- Chop everything you want to go into your filling into tiny pieces.
- Mix the ingredients together. The cleaver and your hand is your best friend here. Chop and mix, press. Chop, and mix, press.
- Add white pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil (or your choice of condiments).
Once you’ve done the filling, boil stock in a saucepan: I use a stock cube (or a packet of stock powder that you sometimes get when you buy Chinese noodles – I use this when I don’t have stock cubes in the cupboard). Then turn the hob on and while it heats up fold your wontons (see below for section on how to fold wontons).
Once you’ve folded your wontons, drop them into the saucepan of boiling stock. If you have made more than you can eat, store them in the freezer for another meal. Cover with a lid for 5 minutes or so. Once your wontons have floated to the top, bite into one to test whether the filling is cooked. Serve and garnish.
Method B – my Mum’s better way
During the preparation of ingredients, boil the vegetables (but not fresh mushrooms) to soften them, before squeezing the liquid out. Then chop the vegetables. And squeeze some more. Prepare the filling according to Method A.
Once you’ve done the filling, boil stock in a saucepan and boil water in another saucepan. While the two hobs warm up, fold your wontons (see below for section on how to fold wontons).
Once you’ve folded your wontons, drop them into the saucepan of boiling water. If you have made more than you can eat, store them in the freezer for another meal. Cover with a lid. Lift lid and pour in a little cold water. Wait for water to boil again. Lift lid and pour in a little cold water. Wait for water to boil again. The wontons are, by now, cooked. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the wontons to the serving bowls.
Ladle in stock from the saucepan of stock into the serving bowls. Garnish the wontons-in-broth.
How to fold wontons
Have the bowl with the filling, the stack of wonton pastry squares, and a small bowl of water beside you. The water will act as glue.
Dip your finger in water and run your finger along 1 edge of the pastry square. Then fold the dry edge so that it covers one-third of the square. And roll that over the remaining third (onto the wetted edge). This is an unhealthy analogy, but think of it like rolling a cigarette? In any case, this is way cooler…
Dip your finger in water and wet one end (on the side of the tube that faces upward). Then twist the tube so that the other end overlaps the end that is wet. Press the overlapped ends a little to glue them more tightly. And there’s your wonton wrapped!
If you just fold the pastry in half before you glue the ends together, you will get a larger, flabbier, uglier wonton. If you fold the pastry in the proper way as described above, you will get a smaller, neater, rounder wonton. They are equally tasty.