It's taken me a while to realize this, but I do believe wonton soup is my ultimate comfort food.
Having eaten wonton soup my whole life, I took it for granted. It was the soup I had when there was nothing else exciting to eat. It's also one of those foods that I was a little bit embarrassed to admit I ate for breakfast. Or, I'd get a little bit irked about the way people would pronounce it. I've always grown up with the pronunciation as "wunton (like one ton)" but I always hear "wanton". It's both maddening and confusing to hear one of your childhood foods pronounced in a way that is not how you recall it being pronounced. Often times, I doubt myself and think maybe I just have a family that pronounces things weirdly. Now, I've sort of let it go because these soup dumplings are too delicious to have to repeatedly listen to robotic dictionaries phonetically pronounce wontons over and over again.
I don't realize I crave wonton soup until after the fact. I vividly remember the first time I felt food homesick. I had spent the week between Christmas and New Year's skiing for the first time with with an old boyfriend's family. It was cold, and wet and all I really wanted to eat was wonton soup. It wasn't possible to eat wonton soup in that moment but I craved it so badly. There's just something about the combination of salty, warm broth, the silkiness of wonton wrappers and the juiciness of the filling that can cure just about any bout of bad feeling.
When I was younger, folding wontons seemed like a laboriously long process that took forever. I wasn't all that good at it either. There was either too much filling and it would squish out or they wouldn't stick together. This never really mattered in the long run because folding wontons is a methodical process that all has the same end result of soup dumplings in hot broth.
It wasn't until photographing this post that I actually enjoyed what it takes to get from ingredients to soup. There's the whirl of the food processor, the noodle-y smell of wonton wrappers, the soft scrape of the chopstick against the bowl, the squeakiness of cornstarch on your fingers and the swift twist and press motion of forming the wontons that are all part of the experience.
For the wonton I grew up on, the filling is made of ground pork, shrimp, dried (and rehydrated) Chinese mushrooms, green onions, a leafy vegetable like bok choy and seasonings. To make things super easy, use a food processor to blend the filling. For the wonton wrappers, there are a variety of brands and thicknesses to choose from. I'm partial to the thin wonton wrappers both out of habit and because the thick ones can be too chewy. When folding wontons, there are many different kinds of methods. To make the wontons stick together, use either a mixture of cornstarch and water or just the tiniest dab of filling as the glue.
Here's a little video tutorial to show you how I grew up folding wontons.
Can't view it? Here's the link to the video on Vimeo.
If you're intimidated by the technique, don't be. A whole package of wrappers yields about 100 wontons. By the end of that, you'll be an expert. And better yet, they all taste the same, uniform or not.
As a solo endeavor, folding wontons can be quite therapeutic and relaxing, once you get a rhythm down. As a social gathering, it's a way to keep your hands busy during conversation. Either way, it's completely satisfactory to perfect your technique with each fold. You'll be done before you know it.
There's also fried wontons, but I'm saving that for another day.
Yields: 100-150 wontons
Feel free to eliminate the shrimp if you are allergic to shellfish.
Wontons freeze extremely well. Place all folded wontons in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Remove from the pan and carefully place in a Ziploc bag.
The amount of filling below makes more than is enough for 1 package of wonton skins. The extra filling can be used for more wontons, plain soup meatballs or another application like noodles or fried rice.
8 shrimp, defrosted, peeled and deveined.
1¼ lb. ground pork
4-6 dried Chinese mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water
1 bok choy, trimmed
2-4 green onions
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
For Folding Wontons
1-2 packages wonton wrappers
1 tablespoon cornstarch plus 2 tablespoons water
Prepare the filling. If you are using frozen shrimp, defrost, peel and devein them. Rehydrate the dried Chinese mushrooms by soaking them in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Trim the stalks off of the bok choy, leaving only the leaves. Mince the garlic and ginger. Place all filling ingredients in a food processor and blend until thoroughly combined.
Using one wonton wrapper at a time, place a teaspoon of filling in the bottom corner of the wrapper. Tightly roll the filled side to the opposite corner leaving a ½-inch space at the top. On the left side of the rolled wonton, place a dab of the cornstarch and water mixture or a little bit of filling. Twist the right corner over so that the side that is facedown is now face-up. Firmly press into the left side so that the wonton stays together.
Repeat this process with the remaining wrappers and filling.
To cook wontons, bring water to a boil. Place wontons in the water and simmer until the wontons float the the surface of the water, about 2-4 minutes. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of broth. Garnish with green onions and soy sauce if desired. Eat immediately.