The Wonderful Wonton

There is no English equivalent to the noodle known as wonton. It translates literally as “swallow clouds,” and when made properly, the description is apt. It is important to know that the wonton is a noodle, not a dumpling, as is often supposed. Years ago, wontons were served only in noodle shops, never in restaurants or dim sum parlors. It remains a filled noodle, and a very versatile one at that. When it is boiled, as in this recipe, it can be eaten as is or it can be added to soups, its most popular use.

Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons chicken broth powder
1 1/2 teaspoons white rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons finely sliced scallions
 {white pepper}, to taste
12 ounces coarsely ground pork
6 ounces shrimp, cleaned, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1/2-inch pieces
5  scallions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon minced {garlic}
3  fresh water chestnuts, peeled and finely diced
2 teaspoons white rice wine mixed with 1 teaspoon ginger juice
1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
 {white pepper}, to taste
1  jumbo egg
2 tablespoons {cornstarch} for dusting
40  wonton wrappers
3 quarts water
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 teaspoons sesame oil
To make the dipping sauce, in a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Set aside to rest to blend the flavors while you make and cook the wontons.

Using a wooden spoon or 2 pairs of wooden chopsticks, mix the filling ingredients together, stirring them in one direction. Stirring in this way ensures the mixture will become a cohesive filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. Do not, however, refrigerate longer than overnight.

To fill wontons, dust a baking sheet with cornstarch. Place the stack of wonton wrappers on the work surface, and cover with a damp cloth. Work with only 1 wrapper at a time, and keep the rest covered, or they will dry out and become brittle and unusable. Hold the a wrapper in one hand and place 1 tablespoon of the filling in its center. Dip a blunt butter knife into a bowl of water and dampen the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half, creating a rectangular envelope shape. Crimp edges of the wrapper together with a forefinger and thumb. Dampen one corner of the folded bottom edge of the wrapper, and gently pull the side ends together, overlapping the wet corner slightly with its opposite dry one, pressing them together to adhere, creating a bow-like shape. The folded wontons will somewhat resemble a tortellino. As the wontons are finished, place them, not touching, on the prepared baking sheet.

In a large pot, bring the water, salt and peanut oil to a boil over high heat. Add half of the wontons to the pot and allow the water to return to a boil. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the wontons float to the top and their skins become slightly translucent, with the shrimp of the filling showing pink through them. Turn off the heat, remove wontons with a Chinese strainer, and drain them over a bowl. Transfer them to a bowl, add 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil, and mix well to coat evenly and prevent sticking.

As soon as the first batch of wontons is removed from the water, return water to a boil and cook and drain the remaining wontons the same way, then mix with the remaining 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Divide dipping sauce among individual sauce dishes. Serve wontons warm with the dipping sauce.

Ease of Preparation: Challenging

Preparation Time: 30 min
chill 6 hrs to overnight

Cook Time: 30-40 min

Servings: makes 40 wontons

Recipe By: Eileen Yin Fei-Lo

From:  Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
Used with permission of Chronicle