by Kate Heyhoe
Did you know that when you're served wonton soup, you're actually eating an old and venerable dish?.
Wonton soup dates back as early as 7th century China. At that same time, the Chinese introduced their savory stuffed dumplings to Japan. The Japanese word "udon"—meaning noodle—actually derives from the Chinese word "hun dun," meaning wonton.
Chinese wrappers, made from wheat flour, water and egg, come in varying thickness and shapes. Supermarkets generally sell the traditional wonton squares (3-1/2 inches on each side), the larger egg roll wrappers, and the round potsticker or gyoza wrappers. Chinese markets sell these, but they also sell extra-thin and thicker varieties.
Wonton wrappers can be stuffed and boiled, as for wonton soup, fried in hot oil until crisp, or lightly fried then steamed to make potstickers. Shao mai dumplings, served as a variety of snacks known as dim sum, are wrappers stuffed with ground meat (usually pork) then left open at top and steamed.
When making wonton soup, don't be tempted to boil the wontons directly in the broth—you'll end up with an unpleasant, gooey mess. The texture turns out much better if you first boil the wontons in water until they float, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain them, then add them to the hot soup.
Stuff wontons with ground meat, seasonings and vegetables, or for vegetarians, omit the meat and use tofu or beans instead. Chefs can be quite creative with these little pasta wrappers, stuffing them with such mixtures as goat cheese and greens, pumpkin, mashed potatoes, and salmon and cream cheese, usually serving the wontons fried or boiled with a sauce. The variations are as endless as your own imagination.
With a little ground meat, some chopped green onion and napa cabbage, you can whip up this Hearty Wonton Soup in less than 30 minutes. It's a preview of the recipes you'll find in my book Cooking with Kids for Dummies, due out in March, 1999.
By the way, don't get wonton wrappers (the kind used by the Chinese) confused with rice-paper wrappers, which come from Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The latter are paper-thin and taste entirely different. Look for rice-paper wrappers and ways to use them in a future Global Kitchen column.
Made from the reserved chicken and broth from Succulent Chinese Chicken, this recipe is another example of meal morphing—in which a leftover dish is reincarnated into something totally new and exciting. This soup makes you feel healthy just smelling it. It's hearty without being heavy and is as enjoyable in the summer as it is in winter.
Preparation time: 20 minutes, using precooked broth and chicken from Succulent Chinese Chicken (or use canned low-salt chicken broth)
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 hearty servings.
Ingredients and steps:
1 cup (about 1/2 pound) ground turkey, chicken or pork
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dry sherry
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
20 wonton skins
1 small dish of water
4 cups chicken broth (from Succulent Chinese Chicken)
3 cups packed shredded napa cabbage
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup shredded cooked chicken meat
1 green onion, sliced on the diagonal
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1. While you fill the wontons, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Set out 4 large soup bowls.
2. Mix the turkey, green onion, soy sauce, sherry and pepper together to form a smooth paste.
3. Separate and place several wonton skins on a sheet of waxed paper. Using 2 teaspoons or a teaspoon and a melon baller, scoop about 1 teaspoon of filling onto the center of each skin.
4. Dab your finger in water, then run it around 2 adjoining edges of each wonton skin to dampen. Do this to all the skins you've set out.
5. Fold the wonton skins over to form triangles. Press the edges firmly all the way around to seal. If edges don't seal shut, add more water. Set filled wontons aside (don't let them touch or they'll stick together). Repeat with remaining wonton skins until all are made.
6. Gently lower all the wontons with a slotted spoon into the boiling water, dropping them in successively one by one, so they don't stick together. Boil until the meat is cooked and the wontons float; about 4 to 5 minutes.
7. Remove with a slotted spoon and distribute equally in the soup bowls (5 wontons per bowl), or drain in a colander.
To make the soup:
8. While the wontons are cooking, heat the chicken broth until boiling.
9. Stir in the cabbage and sesame oil. Cook for 1 minute, until the cabbage softens.
10. Ladle the soup evenly into the bowls. Garnish each bowl with equal amounts of chicken, green onions and sesame seed. Serve hot.
If there's not enough broth left over from the Succulent Chinese Chicken, supplement with canned reduced-sodium chicken broth. You could use canned broth for the whole amount, but the flavor just won't be the same.
Add your favorite vegetables to the soup, like mushrooms, carrots, celery. For the wontons, replace 1/4 cup meat with 1/4 cup finely chopped vegetable. For egg-drop soup, rapidly stir one beaten egg into the hot broil; the egg cooks almost instantly into fine strands.
Recipe copyright 1998, from Cooking with Kids for Dummies, by Kate Heyhoe. (Release date: March 1999, IDG Books). All rights reserved.
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