Friday, October 09, 2009


Habitual readers will already know how much I love ravioli, dumplings, and most other variants of food-stuffed-inside-other-food. It’s surprising, then, that it’s taken me so long to attempt to make my own wontons. I guess I was waiting for the right recipe—one that contained foods I really liked, and didn’t sound too fussy or have too many ingredients. When I saw this one, originally from Food & Wine, at The Bitten Word, with the reassurance that it was actually pretty easy, I finally decided to take the plunge.

I’ve made these twice now, and I can confirm that it isn’t too hard. It’s just on the verge of being too taxing for a weeknight meal, but once I discovered that I could make the filling a day or two ahead of time and chill it in the fridge until I was ready to form the dumplings—and then I could even freeze those until I was ready to cook them—that became a nonissue. These are fun to make (I find folding them rather meditative) and really delicious, and knowing exactly what’s inside them (pork, spinach, and seasonings) makes them seem more wholesome to me than dumplings usually do. They might not win any beauty contests (mine cooked up sort of blobby), but a bowl of them makes an excellent dinner. Even though we eat more (12) than the recommended serving size (7.5), I feel OK about it—that’s only 2 ounces of pork, not much more fat to speak of (just the sesame oil), and at least a cup of spinach.

Lots of recipe notes:
  • After reading the comments, I went ahead and doubled the original filling recipe, which was supposed to fill 30 wontons, and got just enough to fill 48 wontons, the exact size of the package of wrappers I’d bought. And that’s not even using heaping teaspoons, so I’m not sure why the proportions of the original are so off. I recommend using the quantities below—if you have too many wontons (is there such a thing?), just freeze them for later; I cook 24, which is two servings for us, and freeze the other 24.
  • The recipe originally called for 2 (doubled, 4) cups of spinach. The second time I made it, I went ahead and used the whole bag of spinach I’d bought, which said it contained about 6 cups, because I didn’t want extra spinach sitting around the fridge and I figured spinach shrinks down so much anyway. It didn’t make a noticeable difference in the quantity or taste of the filling, and it was a good way to squeeze in a few more nutrients, so I’m going to continue doing it in the future.
  • I didn’t have sherry, so I didn’t use it. Still tasted good.
  • The second time around, I put the garlic inside the wontons instead of in the sauce (more on that sauce below). Because I love garlic. It was good, so I’m modifying the recipe to include it.
  • I thought the original sauce seemed sort of pointless—the first time, I just used a little extra soy sauce with some red pepper flakes sprinkled in, and it was fine. Then A found Gyoza Dipping Sauce at Trader Joe’s, which is delicious and contains pretty much the same ingredients as the sauce the recipe asks for. Either way, I think it’s a good idea to drizzle the sauce over your bowl of wontons, because it keeps them from sticking together, and they’re a bit delicate to try to dip into sauce anyway. But A prefers to dip, so do whatever you like. Regardless, the garnish of chopped cilantro is key.
4–6 cups baby spinach, rinsed
3 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons dry sherry (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ pound ground pork
2 scallions, minced
1½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 small garlic cloves, minced
Cornstarch, for sprinkling
48 thin wonton wrappers
Chopped fresh cilantro
Extra soy sauce or other Asian-style sauce for dipping (I recommend Trader Joe’s Gyoza Sauce)

1. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the spinach with a few spoonfuls of water, covered, stirring occasionally, until wilted; transfer to a colander, let cool, and squeeze dry. Finely chop the spinach.

2. In a bowl, combine the 3 teaspoons soy sauce with the sesame oil, sherry, salt, sugar, and pepper. Mix in the pork, scallion, ginger, garlic, and spinach. Chill for 10 minutes. (You can chill it, covered, for a day or two if you’d like to make your wontons later.)

3. Dust a large baking sheet with cornstarch (you can skip this if your wonton wrappers already seem plenty cornstarchy, as mine did). Arrange 4 wonton wrappers on a work surface, keeping the other wrappers covered with plastic wrap. Brush the edges of the wrappers with water and spoon 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each. Fold the wrappers diagonally over the filling to form triangles; seal. Bring the two opposite corners of the triangle together; press to seal. Transfer to the baking sheet and cover. Repeat. Any wontons you don’t want to cook right away can be frozen (freeze them on the baking sheet until they harden, then transfer them to an airtight container and freeze until ready to cook; you don’t need to defrost them—just drop them directly into boiling water as in Step 4, but give them a little more cooking time). I usually cook 24 and freeze 24.

4. In a large saucepan of boiling water, simmer the wontons over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. When they float, cook for 3 minutes longer. Drain the wontons well (they can be delicate, so I find that it works better to transfer them one by one to the colander—or directly to serving bowls—with a slotted spoon, rather than pouring them out with the water).

5. Place the wontons in serving bowls and sprinkle with the cilantro. You can toss the wontons with the dipping sauce (I prefer this, because it’s neater and keeps them from sticking together) or dip them into the sauce individually (A prefers this, because it’s fun).

Serves: 4–8
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Not good if already cooked (they stick together and fall apart easily), but it’s great to freeze uncooked wontons for a quickie meal later.

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