Won Tons

Hun Tun

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: UniqueMeal: Almost in Advance, BoiledMeal: One-Dish

    Szechwanese Won Ton Soup bears no resemblance to the pallid affair found in Chinese-American restaurants. Mrs. Chiang remembers that “at home it was a whole meal. On dark winter evenings, when I was cold and tired from playing too long in the snow, I loved coming home to a big bowlful of steaming broth filled with won tons. My mother stuffed her won tons with a highly seasoned mixture of ground pork, preserved vegetables, and dried shrimp. The same ingredients went into the soup, as well as a colorful helping of spinach and scallions.”

    About fifteen of these little noodle pouches in a large soup bowl makes a hearty supper. A smaller portion can be served as a regular soup. And plain won tons, fried in deep fat, make a delightfully crunchy appetizer or snack. They freeze well, too.

    Ready-made won ton skins are usually available in Chinese grocery stores. They vary greatly in quality, the thinner and fresher the better, but one rarely has many options.

    Method

    Preparation

    cup dried shrimps

    1 cup hot water, approximately

    3 pork chop bones (optional)

    4 cups water (optional)

    ½ teaspoon salt, approximately (optional)

    Put the shrimps into a small bowl and cover them with hot water, then set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes.

    This step is optional; it is the preparation of the broth in which the cooked won tons are finally served. You may easily and Mrs. Chiang usually does — substitute any delicately flavored clear soup, such as canned chicken broth, for a homemade stock. If you do want to make your own, simply boil the pork bones, or any other suitable soup bones, in about a quart of water for about 30 minutes. Skim off the fat, remove the bones, and add a little salt to taste.

    2 ounces fresh spinach, approximately Count out about 6 large leaves of spinach for each individual serving of won tons. Wash the spinach carefully and break off the tough stalks.
    1 piece Szechwan preserved vegetable, roughly the size of a ping-pong ball

    Rinse the Szechwan preserved vegetable very carefully under cold running water to wash off all the spices and red pepper in which it was preserved. Then slice it into shreds ⅛ inch wide, about the width of a wooden matchstick; you should get about ¼ cup of shredded vegetable.

    Measure out about 1 tablespoon of the shreds and put the rest aside. Chop the tablespoon of preserved vegetable very fine, until it reaches the consistency of coarse bread crumbs.

    Scant ½ pound ground pork (chopped preserved vegetable) Put the ground pork in a small bowl and add the chopped preserved vegetable to it.
    ½ inch piece fresh ginger Peel the ginger, then chop it until it, too, reaches the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. Add the chopped ginger to the pork.
    (dried shrimps) Remove and drain 10 of the dried shrimps, then chop them very fine, until they reach the same consistency as the ginger and preserved vegetable. Add them to the pork. Let the rest of the shrimps continue to soak.
    3 scallions Clean the scallions, then chop one of them, both the white part and about half of the green, into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head. Add to the ground pork. Slice the remaining scallions, both the white part and most of the green, crosswise as fine as possible; set aside.

    ½ teaspoon ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1-½ teaspoons cornstarch.

    1 tablespoon soy sauce

    1 teaspoon sesame oil

    1 egg white

    Add the ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns, salt, cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil and egg white to the pork. Mix well.
    1 egg

    Crack the egg into another small bowl. Beat it and set it aside.

    You are now ready to begin wrapping the won tons.

    Wrapping

    1 package ready-made won ton skins

    (beaten egg)

    Place about ¾ teaspoon of the meat mixture in the corner of one of the won ton skins. Roll the won ton skin diagonally over the filling until you reach the center of the skin. Then take up the two rolled ends of the skin and twist them around until they cross each other on top of the filled part of the won ton. Moisten the place where the two ends meet with a little of the beaten egg and pinch the ends together.

    (There is another method of filling won tons that is easier to master, though less classical in form. Put the meat mixture squarely in the center of the won ton skin and gather up all the edges to form a little pouch. Pinch the won ton skin very tightly together at the top of the pouch.)

    You should end up with about 50 won tons; they are now ready to be cooked. (At this point, they can keep for several days in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen. The only problem is that the won ton skins are very delicate, and I have never managed to store any filled won tons without having their brittle edges break off.)

    Cooking

    (won tons) Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Don’t try to cook too many won tons at one time; drop about 20 gently into the pot. Wait a few seconds, then use a slotted spoon or Chinese strainer to stir them very gently, in order to loosen any that have stuck to the bottom of the pot.
    ½ to 1 cup cold water, approximately

    When the water boils again and the won tons have risen to the top of the pot, let them boil for 2 or 3 minutes, then pour in enough cold water to stop the boiling. Wait until the water comes to a second boil and let the won tons cook for 2 minutes longer.

    Remove the won tons gently with a slotted spoon or strainer. Drain them slightly, then place them in large soup bowls for serving. Fifteen won tons usually comprise an individual portion.

    Repeat the steps above until you have cooked as many won tons as you need. When you are finished boiling the won tons, do not pour the water out of the large pot; you will need it for cooking the spinach.

    While the won tons are boiling, you should begin assembling the rest of the dish.

    Assembling and Serving

    (4 cups broth or canned soup stock) Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan.
    (dried shrimps) Drain the dried shrimp and wash them off carefully, then chop them into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head.
    (spinach) When all the won tons have been boiled, add the spinach to the large pot of boiling water. Let the spinach boil for 1 minute, then remove’ it from the pot, drain it, and put about 6 leaves in every bowl of won tons.

    (broth)

    (preserved vegetable shreds)

    (remaining scallions)

    (dried shrimps)

    1 tablespoon soy sauce, per serving

    ½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes in oil (optional), per serving

    Pour enough of the boiling broth into each bowl to cover the won tons, then add 1 tablespoon each of the preserved vegetable shreds, remaining scallions, dried shrimps, and soy sauce to each bowlful of won ton soup. If you would like a spicier soup, add ¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes in oil to each portion.
    ½ teaspoon salt per serving, or to taste (optional) Stir the soup gently, taste for salt, and, if necessary, add a little to each bowl. (You will probably only need to add salt if you have made your own soup stock; commercial broths are usually salty enough.)