After weeks of not cooking, I have renewed my interest in cooking again…I hope. At least I haven’t let one month go by without an entry, even though they have been slowing down greatly. I have just been super busy with…life and enjoying other things that I haven’t had the time to cook.
Well, for Christmas, A’s mom gave me/us a black 4.5 quart Le Crueset french oven. She gave us a choice between that or a large pasta cooker. The 4.5 quart is the perfect size! I put it to use today by cooking some wontons.
There are a couple of things my grandmother taught me when I was little and spent my summers with her. One was knitting, which I do now and then, even in Hawaii! The other is wrapping wontons. There are different wonton styles found in Chinese restaurants and mostly you will find the Cantonese version. My grandmother, who was born in Shanghai, made the yummier Shanghainese version. Well, it was yummier to me! Plus it was always fun making them.
When my grandparents made wontons, they would chop up the meat and vegetables with meat cleavers. I remember hearing the noisy pounding of the knife and wondered what they were up to in the kitchen. Of course my grandfather did the heavy lifting (and pounding) and it was always chopped to the finest consistency. It was very labor intensive and definitely a labor of love. Luckily, nowadays, instead of a meat cleaver and wooden block, I can turn to my trusty Cuisinart hand mixer that does the chopping for me with the push of a button.
I only used the mixer for the bok choy and diced the shrimp myself. Fortunately, Foodland had ground pork. Yay!
My Aunt Lulu mentioned to me that traditionally, Shanghainese wontons are only filled with pork, but my grandmother put shrimp in her wontons. Maybe she was influenced by years of living in Hong Kong amongst Cantonese cuisine.
The hard part about this filling is that since everything is RAW, you can’t taste it to see if it is seasoned well enough. So, Aunt Lulu (who gave me the recipe), suggested I wrap one wonton, cook it, and taste it before wrapping the rest of them. Excellent tip!
Next is the BEST part! Wrapping the wontons! It takes practice but I love it when it comes out perfectly like my grandmother’s. The first step is to take a wrapper in one hand. (Note about wrappers: the thinner, the whiter, the better. It was a challenge finding wonton wrappers in Hawaii for some strange reason. I don’t normally shop in Chinatown but I will check there next time. Also, for wontons, the wrapper must be square.) Then fork a good heap of filling into the center of the wrapper. The tricky part is knowing how much filling to put. I would say about a tablespoon, however, the more you wrap, the better idea you will have. You don’t want too little filling or there will be too much wrapper and not enough flavor. Too much and you run the risk of filling squirting out of the wrapper.
Make sure to have some egg wash nearby in a bowl. This will help seal the wrapper like glue. Once there is filling in the center of the wrapper, use a finger and lightly dip into the egg wash. Then run your eggy finger along the bottom side of the wrapper. Next, fold the wrapper in half by bringing the eggy edge to the top and firmly press together.
Then turn the wonton upside down so that the folded edges that you just pressed together are facing the floor. This is tricky so pay attention! Fold the bottom up to meet the filling while simultaneously using both hands to fold each side in towards the middle.
Make sure not to drop the wonton in the process. If you need to, place a finger (probably the middle finger) in the middle of the filling to form a hole before bringing the ends together and pressing them together.
Pinch the ends or corners together and voila! A Shanghainese wonton!
Makes about 40-50 wontons
1 1/4 pounds ground pork
3/4 pounds shrimp (shelled and deveined), diced into small pieces
4 bunches of baby boy choy
2 eggs (1 for the filling and 1 for the egg wash)
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1. Blanch the bok choy in hot water over the stove for a few minutes. (Blanching is to get the vegetables soft without cooking them through)
2. Place the bok choy in cold water (preferably ice water) to stop the bok choy from further cooking.
3. Wring the water out of the bok choy with your hands. Place the bok choy (and garlic, which is optional) into a food processor or hand mixer and pulse it a few times to chop up the vegetables without pulverizing it.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat one egg and mix in oil and salt.
5. Add the bok choy to the mixture and stir until coated.
5. Add the shrimp and stir.
6. Add the pork and stir until mixed well.
7. Wrap the wontons (as instructed above).
8. Place wontons in a large pot of water. Stir around so the wontons do not get stuck to the bottom of the pot. The wontons will float to the top after a few minutes of cooking. Let cook for another 5-7 minutes in the boiling water, while stirring frequently. The wontons should be ready in another 5 minutes.
9. Enjoy the wontons plain or with chicken soup and garnish with green onions before serving.