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Shanghai-style Wontons

At our house, we are never without wontons. I have eaten and enjoyed these my entire life, and now my kids and hubby are enjoying them too. At our house, you will never hear, “awwww, wontons again?”. It’s the perfect meal wrapped in a neat little package. Once a week, my mother will hand chop the greens that go into these wontons and wrap a few hundred for the freezer. On our busy nights, this is our favourite go-to meal; just boil and serve in less than 30 minutes.

There are few things better than a bowl of freshly made, piping hot wontons. You can’t buy this in a store or order from a restaurant — you’ve got to make them yourself. It’s really not difficult at all, even my kids can wrap these – maybe not as perfectly, but they still taste just fine.

Now I know a lot of you aren’t going to wash, blanche, and hand-chop your fresh greens (we use baby bok choy or yu choy). For beginners, I’d stick to using frozen chopped spinach. My friend Lindi was over for a wonton lesson, so we ended up making two separate batches, one with spinach (Lindi’s), and one with the fresh baby bok choy (my mom’s).

Lindi squeezing thawed chopped spinach for her batch of wontons. To the right is a bowl of blanched baby bok choy that my mom was preparing for her batch.

Add your chopped spinach, chopped shrimp, and ground pork into a large mixing bowl.

Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. That’s it, simple huh? I love cooking with very few ingredients.

The best way to mix all of this thoroughly is to use your hands.

Mix till the meat is well married to the greens. It should smell lovely. You can tell if something is well seasoned when it smells really good.

About wonton wraps. Sometimes they come in one big thick stack like your see here. Or sometimes it comes as two smaller stacks to a package. Whatever you buy, just make sure you buy TWO packages. Sorry to confuse you,…heck, if you’re confused and unsure, buy more. They keep in the freezer and thaw pretty quick. Another thing about wontons…make sure they are the thicker wraps, not paper-thin flimsy ones that are used in cantonese-style wontons.

So separate a sheet and place about a teaspoon-sized dollop in the centre.

Dip your finger (have a small dipping bowl beside you) in some water, and run it along three edges. This will glue your edges together.

Fold over and press from the centre and keep pressing around the edges till both your fingers reach the fold. Make sure to squeeze out the air, avoid trapping air pockets inside the wonton. If you leave air inside, it will burst during cooking, letting water in and flavour out.

Bring the two corners where the folds are together.

Now don’t worry if they don’t look perfect. The important thing to remember is that they are sealed all around so no water gets in to dilute the flavour. Also, don’t use a ton of water where you end up with a really sticky mess and they end up sticking together on the board. My dad had made these light-weight stacking wooden trays especially for wontons and dumplings. You can also use a tray, cutting board, or cookie sheet. Just line with parchment or plastic wrap to keep from sticking.

Okay, so now my mom is now going to demonstrate how it’s done. Add filling to middle and run wet finger along three sides.

Bring one side over to fold in half. Hint: if the folding thing is really challenging, just leave it folded in half and forget about making the corners meet. It will still taste good! (as long as it’s sealed).

Press in the middle, and keep pressing to seal the edge all around, making sure that no air bubbles are trapped inside. Gently push them out with your fingers.

Giving it a bit of a fold will help the corners meet.

Use a tiny dab of water to seal the folded corners together.

Pinch the two corners firmly together.

It will look like a tortellini or nurses cap.

Line them all up and keep in the fridge till you are ready to boil (same day), don’t keep overnight in case the bottoms get soggy. We often will cook about half the same day and freeze the rest.

To cook, fill a large pot HALFWAY with water. You need to leave room for displacement, and also more water which will be added later. Once water comes to a boil, add your wontons, gently giving it a stir so they don’t sit and stick on the bottom. Keep on high heat with the lid off; once the water starts to boil again, add about a half cup of water, just enough to keep it from boiling.

Gently push down wontons that float to the surface, being careful not to break them. Repeat this process with adding water and pushing wontons down about 3-4 times. You can take one out and cut open to test that it’s done. Always watch that the pot never comes to a full boil or the wontons will burst open and be water-logged. When done, lift out with a slotted spoon rather than draining into a colander (they will break and stick together).

These wontons have just a bit of soy sauce on it for the kids, without the chili sauce & vinegar.

It may seem like a lot of hand work wrapping these, but it’s as simple (folded in half) or as complicated (perfect corners) as you want it to be. Sit with friends, or get your kids to help. The time passes quickly, and in an hour or two, you’ve got the most delicious dinner made, plus a pile in your freezer.


SHANGHAI-STYLE WONTONS
A delicious & simple family recipe, makes about 120-130 wontons.
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. lean ground pork
  • 1/2 lb. chopped raw shrimp (optional but yummy!)
  • 2 packages frozen chopped spinach (defrosted with liquid squeezed out)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 packages of wonton wraps (either fresh or frozen)
  • small finger bowl of water as the “glue” for wrapping wontons
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (except the water). Keep a fingerbowl of water beside you to dip your fingers in for sealing the wontons together.
  2. Mix and blend really, really well.
  3. Follow the step-by-step photos above on wrapping and boiling wontons. Don’t worry if they look wonky, the most important thing is to make sure all edges are sealed and water doesn’t get in.
  4. Place wrapped wontons on a parchment/plastic wrap-lined cookie sheet/tray. Can be boiled right away from fresh, saving the extra uncooked wontons for the freezer.
  5. To freeze, put the whole tray of wontons in the freezer. Once it’s frozen solid, store wontons in large ziplock bags. You will yield about 2 freezer bags full.

Dipping sauce (optional):

  • 1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce (or whatever you’ve got in the fridge)
  • Equal amounts soy sauce and chinese soy vinegar, start with 3 tablespoons of each.
  • 3-4 drops sesame oil

In a small bowl combine these three ingredients. Taste, adjust for salt/sour/and spice to your liking. Lightly drizzle with a spoon over the wontons.

Lisa Cain - They look so yummy. If I was to try your mother’s version how much baby bok choy do I need??

Jill - I’m guessing a pound. The more vegetable you have, the lighter the wonton (less dense with meat). There is no wrong, entirely up to you how you like your meat to veggie ratio. Blanche in boiling water for a few minutes and throw into the sink filled with cold water. Squeeze and wring out the veggies, then finely chop by hand (or a few quick pulses in the food processor). Both versions are good, you can also experiment with other veggies and meats like ground turkey and watercress. It’s all low fat, full of greens, simple clean food that is utterly delicious! I make the bag of wontons go further by using only a few in a meal> supplemented with a bowl of ramen noodles in chicken broth. Fresh wraps can be purchased at most grocery stores, and frozen like the one seen here from the chinese grocer.

Jill - The pale green stemmed shanghai bokchoy is also great in the wontons. Also available at most regular grocery stores.

Lisa Cain - Chopping my baby bok choy for my first batch of wontons. Can hardly wait. The sesame oil smells sooooo good.
I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Lisa Cain - They are delish. I’ve only wrapped less than half the filling though. Is it okay if I leave it in the fridge until tomorrow night when we get back from skiing? I’ve got another pack of wraps to use but I think I’ll need a third to finish.

Meredith - Since you made these for us after Jon’s surgery they have become a household favourite. My girls love to take them to school in a thermos for lunches! We have made them with tofu/spinach/green onion and with yves soy meat (protein) instead of pork. Both are really good, although not quite as authentic…

lisa - making these again only this time without the shrimp. love the simplicity of the ingredients. and that sesame oil smell is to die for….

Basement Aquaponics: January Update » FreestyleFarm - […] Get the recipe for Shanghai-style Wontons here. […]

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