Sunday, July 25, 2010
If you know me at all, you probably know that I have a serious soft spot for homemade pasta. The fresher and eggier, the better. But within that category, filled pastas are probably my favorite. I can’t imagine not ordering a plate of handmade ravioli, agnolotti or tortellini at a good Italian restaurant, or Chinese dumplings, Himalayan momos or Afghan ravioli at their respective establishments. So naturally, when it comes to soup, I’m a big fan of the wonton.
Talley and Beryl are some of our best foodie friends and since they just got married (!!) and will be moving away in about a week (sob..), we wanted to squeeze in one last dinner party. Earlier in the week, the Thai-style Chicken Legs and Mango Slaw recipes on Smitten Kitchen caught my eye, which made choosing a main course all the easier. It also presented me with the perfect opportunity to make wonton soup, which I had been daydreaming about for over a year, as the starter course.
We began our dinner outside at the picnic table in the garden. Even though it was a warm, balmy evening, the hot soup somehow tasted refreshing and light. It left me wanting more, which is precisely the goal of the first course. But I also think that a large bowl with some baby bok choy would serve as a really nice main course.
Since this soup has a delicate, clear broth, I would advise that you take the time to make your own stock. It sounds daunting but only requires dumping a few ingredients into a large pot, covering with water, and letting simmer for a couple of hours. Our neighborhood Whole Foods has a little freezer chock full of chicken, lamb and beef bones just for that purpose. Otherwise, you can always buy a package of wings or use the leftover carcass from a roasted chicken. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Shrimp Wonton Soup
The following recipe is very clean and light. If you’d like more intense flavors, feel free to add a ½ teaspoon or so of freshly grated ginger, a pinch of sugar and a few minced water chestnuts to the filling. Wontons filled with both pork and shrimp are delicious, too.
For the stock:
3 pounds chicken backs, necks, wings
6 slices ginger, each about ¼-inch thick
3-4 green onions, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
10-12 cups water, enough to just cover
Salt and white pepper to taste
For the wonton soup:
1 lb raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar or dry sherry
Pinch of salt
Good pinch of white pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives, plus more for garnish if desired
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish if desired
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 package wonton wrappers (you’ll need between 30 and 45 wrappers)
6 cups stock
Toasted sesame oil to taste
Place the bones, ginger and green onions into a large stock pot. Add enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil, skim off the gunk that floats to the top, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Note: I was greedy and added too much water, which left me with a weaker broth. This can be remedied by simply boiling the stock, uncovered, until it reduces down a bit.
Rinse the shrimp under cold water and pat dry; chop them coarsely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the fish sauce, sesame oil, salt, pepper, chives, cilantro and corn starch; toss well and let marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour.
There are numerous ways to form the wontons. Regardless of your chosen method, you will only want to place a slightly rounded teaspoon of filling in the middle of each wrapper, then wet your finger with water and run it around the wrapper edges. From here you can fold as desired.
Here's how I folded most of mine
And here are a few other ideas
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the wontons and simmer, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through and float to the top (the shrimp will turn pink/opaque), about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer wontons to serving bowls. Ladle hot broth over the top; garnish with chives and/or cilantro and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Serve hot.