This dish, so familiar to patrons of Chinese restaurants in the West, is an authentic Chinese classic that somehow managed to avoid being corrupted beyond recognition. Why this is so is unclear. Of course, wontons are small dumplings, and dumplings in any form, whether fried, poached or steamed, are universally popular. Perhaps it is simply that they sell themselves as they are, and Chinese chefs wisely stayed with the original.
At their best, wontons are filled with savoury meats, vegetables and seasonings. The light, sheer dough that serves as a wrapper can be easily purchased in Chinese grocers and sometimes in large supermarkets. Gently poached and floating in a rich, clear chicken stock, they make a dish that is at once exotic and familiar. And the soup is delicious. Poaching, incidentally, removes excess starch, which would tend to cloud the chicken stock. Those who prefer their wontons fried are making a mistake.
The Chinese compulsion to make sense of the world in its food metaphors is well represented here. ‘Wonton’ derives from ‘hun-tun,’
Put all the wonton filling ingredients together in a large bowl and mix well. Allow to marinate for about 20 minutes.
When the wontons are filled, bring the stock to a simmer, stirring in the soy sauce and sesame oil.
In another pot, bring salted water to the boil and poach the wontons for 1 minute. Remove them with a strainer and put them into the simmering stock. Continue to simmer for 2 minutes. Ladle the wontons and soup into a large soup tureen or individual bowls. Garnish with spring onions and coriander leaves and serve at once.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.