"Yours are always too aggressive." —Sis
Flashback to 1999—Sis and I are sitting around the small kitchen table folding wontons and she sees the filling exploding out of the wrapper and looks at me with disdain. I always went heavy on the filling whereas Sis made petite ones that hardly had any meat, making them wayyyy less satisfying to eat TBH (sorry if you're reading this, Sis). Hers never fell apart, though, so there's that I guess.
Folding wontons might be one of my favorite childhood memories. During my formative years, it would be something Mom, Sis, and I did together and I would always try to get really creative with my fold—making heart shapes and envelopes. As I got older, it became just me and Mom or just me, as Mom worked on other things. But there's something really meditative about using your hands to fold the wontons one by one. It's how I feel about cooking in general—it's the one time where I can turn off my brain completely and truly be in the moment.
Despite being one of my favorite dishes (growing up, I was borderline obsessed—on a three-week trip to China I ordered only wontons, seriously), I haven't had wontons in years. And it had been even longer since I took a small bit of pork and shrimp filling, rolled it up in a ball, placed it on the wonton wrapper, folded it twice to form a triangle, picked it up, dipped one end of the triangle in egg yolk, and twisted it, forming one perfect wonton. Nine years to be exact.
I've wanted to learn how to make them from scratch but have put it off for whatever reason. Maybe I didn't want the mystique of the filling to disappear—that somehow it would taint some of my happiest childhood memories. But I had an intense craving, caved in, and called Mom.
With the filling made and my station prepped, I stood at the counter and stared. The chopping board on my left had a bowl with the filling, next to it lay the wonton wrappers, and next to them sat a bowl of egg yolk. The chopping board on my right sat empty and dusted with flour, ready to receive the finished wontons. I panicked. How do I fold them? I completely forgot.
But my hands took over and moved with certainty and fluidity. Before I knew it, I had folded the perfect wonton. The beauty of muscle memory had me a little choked up because folding wontons is something unique to my childhood and upbringing—even my own cousin has never folded wontons, and it's really nice to know that no matter what has happened and how much I've been through, I'll never lose that part of me.
Prep: 1 hour active + overnight marinade | Cook: 20 mins.
INGREDIENTS (FOR 2)
|1/3 lb ground pork||1 egg yolk|
|1/4 lb shrimp||+ wonton wrappers*|
|2 tsp soy sauce||+ salt|
|2 tsp oyster sauce||+ choice of stock|
|1/2 tsp sugar||+ choice of leafy green**|
|2 stalks of scallion|
*We go with the traditional "Hong Kong style," which you'll easily find in any Asian grocery store.
**I used Tuscan kale, but really any will do, i.e. bok choy, yu choy, swiss chard, etc.
1. Combine the pork with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Leave in the fridge overnight.
2. Before you begin working with the physical wontons, start with some stock on the stove. I used chicken feet, ginger, scallion, and salt in my first iteration of testing the wontons and I used Better than Bouillon for the second iteration and both were great. Bring that to a boil and then you can keep it on a low simmer until ready to eat. I usually make about two quarts. You can also make the stock beforehand and reheat when you're ready to serve.
3. Devein the shrimp and chop into small pieces, almost like you're mincing the shrimp. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top and roll that into a large ball. Set aside.
4. Finely chop the scallion. Take the pork out of the fridge and mix in the scallion. Roll that into a large ball and place next to the shrimp.
5. Take a wonton wrapper and place it in front of you so that you're looking down on a diamond shape rather than a square.
6. Grab a small bit of pork, about the size of a thumbnail, and a small bit of shrimp and roll them together into a ball. Place that on the corner of the wrapper that's closest to you.
7. Take that same corner and fold it up so that it hits the halfway point of the other two sides of the diamond shape. Press down gently on the wrapper to flatten the ball of meat. Then fold once more so that it hits the half way point past the two sides of the diamond shape.
8. Pick up the soon-to-be wonton and dip the back corner of the right side of the triangle into the egg yolk—this will help bind the wonton because egg is a natural glue.
9. Lift and twist the un-egged side so that it faces forward, then lift and twist the egged side so that it's behind the un-egged side and press the corners together until it holds.
10. Repeat steps 5–9 until you've run out of meat. You'll probably have leftover wonton wrappers, and that's okay. They freeze nicely for the next time you want to make wontons.
1. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. At the same time, in a different pot, reheat the stock if you made it ahead of time.
2. Gently place the wontons in the pot of water, then stir to make submerge. Cook for 3–5 minutes, or until the wrapper becomes slightly transparent and you can see the meat is no longer pink.
3. As the wontons cook, chop the leafy greens and toss into the stock.
4. When the wontons are done, strain and place them in your serving bowl. Ladle the stock over the wontons, making sure you get those leafy greens in the bowl too!
Chopped scallion and cilantro are great finishing herbs for the dish. On the side, I like having a hoisin and chili garlic sauce mixture to top off each wonton. I'll place a wonton on the soup spoon and use my chopsticks to dab the sauce on top of the wonton to create the most magical bite.