For as long as I can remember, I have loved wonton soup. If I close my eyes and wrinkle my nose in deep concentration, I think I can recall the first time I tasted it, sometime in the late 1960s, about the same era that I tasted my first ever 'potato scallop'. But that's another story.
The first wonton or 'short' soup that I ate came from a Chinese restaurant at the same suburban shopping centre where my father had his barber shop, Budapest Hairdressing Salon, which was tucked away at the back of a newsagency. The newsagent and Chinese restaurant are still there. Sadly, my darling daddy is long gone, and he was never one to try Chinese food in any shape or form.
In one of my most treasured books, The First Happiness - Chinese cooking for Australia, chef, author and teacher, Elizabeth Chong, writes 'Won tons are little dumplings filled with pork or prawns and are enjoyed in a bowl of clear chicken soup. Sometimes they are deep fried and make terrific party food. They are made from very thin noodle pastry dough, which is readily available in Chinese stores.' Indeed, the store bought wonton skins are such good quality, I am loathe to make the dough myself. That could change at some stage, if you happen to have a great recipe, let me know.
Ms Chong continues — and this is my favourite part of her introduction to wontons: '"Won" means cloud and "ton" means swallow, since won ton wrappers are so light and fragile, the experience is like swallowing clouds! Chinese poetic licence, but then why not? They are guaranteed to bring a Chinese out of hiding any time!'
Such a delightful description, no? It is those cloud like pillows of deliciousness that I like so much, together with the clean chicken broth, which reminds me greatly of my own mother's chicken soup — so heartwarming and delicious that it always made me feel better no matter what. Perhaps that explains why I'm craving these freshly made wontons and clear broth lately.
I'm sharing here my own recipes for pork and chicken wontons, together with two individual recipes for the broth. One is a simple yet delicious chicken broth, prepared with home made chicken stock and only a couple of additions. The second is an aromatic broth with Thai influences. Both are delicious and nourishing. And the wontons, well they are really good too!
FOR THE WONTONS
40 wonton skins
250g diced pork
250g diced chicken
(OR use 500g store-bought pork mince and chicken mince)
2 teaspoons soy or tamari sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 short lengths of spring onion, the green part, very finely chopped
3 dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water, squeezed out, then finely chopped
If you are making your own mince for this recipe, use either a food processor, a meat grinder or a Tefal Cuisine Companion with the ultrablade, to process the meat into mince.
Combine the minced pork and minced chicken in a large Pyrex bowl. Add the soy or tamari sauce, the sesame oil, the grated ginger, the chopped spring onion and the chopped Shiitake mushrooms. Mix all of the ingredients together with your hands, until well combined. Pop the bowl into the refrigerator until you are ready to continue.
To make the wontons, have a small dish of water at the ready. You will use this water around the edges of the wrapper. Dust a dinner plate or chopping board lightly with plain flour. Your wontons will be placed onto this prepared plate, as you work.
Now, place a wonton wrapper in the palm of your hand and scoop a ball of the meat filling with a teaspoon. Transfer the mixture to the centre of the wonton wrapper. Using the tip of a (clean) finger (or a small pastry brush), brush the outer edges of the wonton square with water. Next, bring together the four corners of the wrapper, encasing the filling. Then gently pinch together the wrapper to form a little purse (see my images). Continue with the remaining filling and skins until all done. Place each finished wonton on the floured board or plate. Makes 40.
For keeping, your wontons can now be transferred to a baking sheet lined with parchment and then frozen, before being stored in the freezer compartment in an air tight container. Or, you can cook them and use them immediately, in my short wonton soup (below), or steam them (in a bamboo basket for 15-20 minutes), or deep fry them until they are golden.
To prepare your wontons for my wonton soup, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and drop some of the wontons into the simmering water. Lower the heat slightly, and cook for up to four minutes, just until the wontons float to the top of the saucepan. Using a slotted spoon or mesh scoop, remove the cooked wontons and place them into soup bowls, which you will top up with hot broth.
WONTON SOUP BROTH
1 litre good chicken stock
2 teaspoons soy or tamari sauce
ground white pepper, to taste
2 spring onions, finely sliced, for garnish
Bring the chicken stock to boil in a medium sized saucepan, then add the soy or tamari sauce, and season to taste with a little ground white pepper. Pour the boiling broth into small soup bowls over the pre-cooked wontons (see above) and garnish with chopped spring onions. Serves 2.
AROMATIC WONTON SOUP BROTH
1 litre good chicken stock
3 kaffir lime leaves
6cm piece lemon grass, bruised
4cm piece fresh galangal, sliced and bruised
1-2 bird's eye chillies, sliced
100g button mushrooms, sliced
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce, to taste
juice of 2-3 fresh limes, to taste
2-3 teaspoons palm sugar syrup, to taste
16 pre-cooked wontons
Pour the chicken stock into a medium sized saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Place the kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, galangal and chillies into a wide tea infuser or spice egg (or tie them into a piece of muslin, which can be easily removed from the soup) and immerse into the boiling stock. Simmer briefly, then add the mushrooms, simmering gently. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar syrup and salt, then check for flavour and add a little more lime juice, palm sugar or salt if required. Remove the tea infuser, spice egg or muslin. Ladle the soup into bowls, along with the cooked wontons and mushrooms, and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Note and disclaimer: I made my mince using the Tefal Cuisine Companion fitted with the ultrablade. To my absolute delight, the meat was minced to perfection in less than three minutes. I am genuinely proud to have been selected to be a founding member of the Cuisine Companion Club and to have received a Cuisine Companion appliance of my very own for the Good Things kitchen. I should point out, however, that this is not a paid or sponsored post.
Tell me dear friends and fellow cooks, do you enjoy wonton soup? Perhaps you have eaten it as street food in China? Do please share your stories. I love hearing from you!
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.