by Kate Heyhoe
I can make fresh pasta if I want to. Honest. I have all the equipment—rolling machines (manual and electric), mixer attachments that extrude the dough, ravioli cutters, and more. As a dedicated foodie, I also have the creative spirit, a stockpile of semolina flour and other specialty ingredients, and thousands of cookbooks for inspiration and advice.
But what I don't have is time.
So instead of making pasta from scratch, I started playing around with Asian wonton and spring roll wrappers. These sheets of wheat or rice dough aren't quite the same as the fresh semolina pasta I used to buy in Italy. In fact, they're more versatile, quite delicate, and remarkably easy to use—immediately ready to stuff and be cooked. Whereas Italian pastas are primarily boiled, these handy helpers take on wonderfully different dimensions when fried, boiled, steamed and even baked. They can be crisp and crunchy, springy and slightly chewy, or soft as clouds.
Raised by my Korean mother, I grew up on mandu, the Korean version of Chinese potstickers. Both are made using wonton wrappers. But wonton wrappers and their rice paper brethren can also be used to make other international dumplings and finger foods—Russian piroshki, Mexican taquitos and even Italian ravioli. No wonder professional chefs like Jacques Pépin, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Ming Tsai use wonton skins and rice paper to wrap up such exotic fillings as crab and goat cheese, chestnuts and mushrooms, or foie gras and halibut.
Creativity unleashed! Once I became familiar with the versatility of Asian wrappers, the endless possibilities drove me forward. What I truly love about wonton and spring roll recipes is that they're quick, tasty, and fun to make and eat. They can be finger foods, soups, salads, main courses or desserts. Cooks always seek new inspiration, and some may even attempt a Charlie Trotter recipe at home. However, Asian wrappers encourage culinary creativity, even within the confines of busy lifestyles and average cooking skills.
Another advantage of using pre-made wrappers is consistency: they're always the same. Anyone who's ever made fresh pasta for the first time, or even experienced pasta makers who are a bit out of practice, know that it takes some skill to get the dough just right-not too dry or moist, evenly thin but durable, and not overcooked. With wonton and rice paper wrappers of decent brands, the cook can be confident that their pasta sheets are perfect every time. There should be no guessing or variances in cooking times, dough flexibility or durability. What a relief!
Copyright © 2003, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created February 2003
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