Wontons are one of the most popular and oldest types of dumplings in Chinese cuisine. There are hundreds of types of dumplings filled with many combinations of meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables, but wontons have been enjoyed all over Asia for 1,000 years. Wontons vary in shape, flavors and serving methods from region to region. For instance, Cantonese style wontons have an irregular shape and are served in noodle soup while Sichuan wontons are triangular and are dressed with chili oil. They are not terribly difficult to make and the ingredients are easy to find.
PORK AND SHRIMP WONTONS
1/2 lb pork, moderately fatty
1/2 lb cleaned and peeled raw shrimp
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 minced garlic clove
1 tbsp sweet Chinese rice wine, such as Mirin
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green portions
salt & pepper to taste
1 package wonton skins
The day before I made wontons, I made a big pot of stock from the chicken bones and veggie remnants that were in my freezer. To give it an Asian flavor, I added a couple nubs of fresh ginger and a bunch of scallion tops while it was simmering. Before I started making wontons, I took the stock out of the fridge, put it in a big pot on the stove and added some shredded Napa cabbage, bok choy greens, thinly sliced carrots and celery and some snow peas, just so the veggies could begin to cook in the broth. Then I turned my attention to the little bundles of deliciousness.
When I cook, nothing goes to waste and since I had a pork bone and a bunch of shrimp shells, I decided to make a quick broth that I could add to the soup for an extra punch of flavor. I put the shells and pork bone into a small pot with a chopped green onion, a nub of ginger and a garlic clove and turned the burner to medium high. I sauteed the shells briefly before adding water and turning the heat to low. This small pot slowly simmered away while I made the wontons.
As the weekend approached, I moved the filling and wrappers from the freezer to the fridge in anticipation of making dumplings by the following weekend. By the end of the week all the soup was gone and when I got home from work on Friday evening, I took the filling and wrappers out of the fridge.
I wanted to see how these dumplings performed both steamed and fried, so opted to steam half the dumplings and fry the other half. I put about an inch of water in a large pot, put my steamer basket in the bottom and laid several cabbage leaves on the steamer to keep the dumplings from sticking. In a small pot, I put about two inches of vegetable oil and turned both burners to medium high. As I was making the dumplings, I tried a few different shapes. For the steamed dumplings, I pinched the corners of the wrapper, then wrapped them around the side, leaving the filling exposed. For the fried dumplings, I made triangles, little bundles and tiny little cylinders that looked like mini egg rolls. I put the open-top dumplings on the steamer basked and put a lid on the pot. Two by two, I fried the other dumplings in the hot oil until they were crispy and dark brown. We enjoyed our dumplings with a little soy, hoisin sauce and sriracha. And they were a wonderful, tasty Friday night treat. There are lots of different types of fillings and cooking methods to experiment with, but this filling is a great all-purpose wonton and dumpling mixture that I know I'll make again and again.