This dish uses two ready-made items to great effect won ton wrappers and packet dashi broth. Won ton served in even very good Cantonese dim sum restaurants tend to be rather coarse and basic both in terms of taste and appearance. Here, using the best raw Tiger prawns and carefully balanced flavourings, a much more refined and subtle result is achieved.
Won ton wrappers are sold in packs of fifty or one hundred, but you can freeze what you don't use for up to six weeks - after that they become brittle. Tiger prawns, which have green shells, can be bought frozen from Oriental food markets. If you can't get a hold of dashi you can serve a light chicken or clear fish broth instead.
First prepare the filling: peel the defrosted prawns. Using a very sharp knife, slice down the back and remove the intestinal thread. Rinse the prawns under running water, then put into a bowl of cold salted water for 20 minutes. Swirl around with the fingers, rubbing the prawns gently. Drain through a colander and rinse again under cold running water. This procedure will make the prawns taste much sweeter and removes any musty taint from the flesh • Finely chop the ginger and shallot or garlic • Pick over and destalk the coriander. Coarsely chop about 1 tablespoon of leaves into the food processor and add the prawns and all the other filling ingredients. Process to a coarse paste: ideally you want pieces of prawn bound together rather than an over-worked paste. Season.
Put a large saucepan of salted water on to heat and make the dashi according to the instructions on the packet using
Make the won ton: shake some flour on the baking tray to prevent the won ton wrappers sticking and tearing. Put some cold water in a cup or small bowl. Dealing with the wrappers one at a time, place each on the floured tray and brush round the edge with a little water to moisten. Be careful not to make it too wet Put a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into the middle of the wrapper. Draw up two opposite comers and pinch together. Now take the third comer up to the middle and pinch at the top and along the edges to seal. Repeat with the fourth comer. You will now have a neat dumpling that looks like a priest’s biretta. Depending on the size of each spoonful of stuffing you should end up with 24–30 dumplings. If not cooking immediately, you can chill them in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours. Do not freeze as the prawns have already been frozen.
Always cook the won ton in lots of water. If you cook them in the broth, the flour will cloud it. When the water has reached a fast boil, put in all the won ton and return to a simmer. They will bob to the surface. Check none have stuck to the bottom. If any have, push them gently with a wooden spoon to release. Poach for 3–4 minutes. Drain the dumplings using a spider or a slotted spoon.
Serve in large plain warmed soup bowls with the hot dashi poured over. Scatter a few coriander leaves over each and offer more soya sauce at the table.
© 1993 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.