Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wonton Soup

Nothing tastes better than a steaming hot bowl of wonton soup on a frigid day. Wontons are not hard to make, but they are slightly labor intensive because they are on the small side and you have to make so many of them (just 1 lb. of ground pork will yield 50-60 wontons, which is about the number of wrappers you'll get in a typical package of wonton wrappers). If you have a couple hours to spare, though, it's totally worth the effort. Come to think of it, that's probably why my mom decided to have kids. I have 'fond' memories of my sis and I, back in the day, having oodles of fun doing kitchen grunt work, such as destringing snow peas or green beans, cleaning & trimming veggies like water convolvulus (Kong Hsin Tsai) and sweet potato leaves, making huge quantities of pork & cabbage dumplings, or rolling out a gazillion mochi balls for a sweet dessert soup. Being a pet parent, though, I have no manually dexterous human children to use as conscripted labor for cranking out hand-made wontons, so had to make these all by meself. 

My recipe for wontons is pretty standard: ground pork, a couple beaten eggs as binder, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, rice wine, chopped scallions & a tiny bit of ginger. The soup base is very Taiwanese in flavor, using chicken base, sesame oil, fried shallots, white pepper, chopped scallions, cilantro & finely diced celery. I also added a couple tbsp. of Bullhead brand shallot sauce, which is basically fried shallots in soy bean oil, red rice yeast, and a blend of secret spices. It is super fragrant and adds an extra authentic state to the soup reminiscent of what you would get from a street vendor in Taiwan. If you can't find the shallot sauce at your local Chinese market, just add some extra fried shallots to the soup base. 

Soup Base:
4 quarts (16 cups) water
1/2 cup Chinese fried shallots
2 tbsp. Bullhead Shallot Sauce
5 tbsp. chicken base
1/2 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup finely diced Chinese celery (or 2 stalks regular celery, finely diced)
3-4 bok choy (optional)

Wontons (makes 80-100, depending on how much filling you put into each one)
2 lbs. ground pork
1 lb. shrimp, chopped (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. salt
3-4 scallions, chopped
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger root
2 pkgs. of wonton wrappers (should be 55-60 wrappers per package)

For the wontons:
1. Combine all ingredients (except for the wrappers, of course) in a medium bowl. Mix together first by hand to get the ingredients incorporated, then, use a large spoon or fork and stir vigorously in one direction until the pork mixture is very well blended. 

2. Set up a wonton wrapping station with the following on hand: medium or large chopping board, a small bowl of water, the dumpling wrappers, bowl of pork filling, and a teaspoon for measuring out the pork filling.

3. Wrap the wontons as illustrated below and place each one on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

For the soup base:
1. Combine all ingredients except for the celery and bok choy in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until stock is slightly reduced and well flavored. Add diced celery and cook about 10 minutes. In the meantime, blanch the bok choy (leave whole) in the stock for about 1-2 minutes, then remove to the chopping board or bowl. Slice into lengthwise pieces and set aside.

2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add 20 or more wontons (figure 5-10 wontons per person, depending on the person) and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of room temp tap water to the pot and bring back up to a boil. Add a second cup of tap water to the pot and once the water comes back up to a boil, the wontons should be done (don't remember where I read about this method, but it's not my invention). 

3. At this point, you can drain and add the wonton to individual serving bowls and ladle the soup over, or you can add them all to the soup base. I prefer the first method, so that the wontons don't get too mushy by sitting in the soup base. Garnish each serving with some of the blanched bok choy, if using. Season with additional sesame oil and/or white pepper as needed.

Seasonings for the wonton filling: rice wine, soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil.

Combine ground pork with filling ingredients.

Mix together by hand blend ingredients.

Next, use a fork or spoon and vigorously stir the filling in one direction until ingredients are well-incorporated.

Wonton wrappers.

Place a wrapper on a chopping board and add 1 tsp. of filling to the center.

Dab your finger in water (I keep a small bowl of water on the side) and wet the upper two sides of the wrapper.

Fold the bottom half of the wrapper to the top and seal the edges, making sure to remove any air pockets. 

Roll the wonton from the bottom up until the top part of the triangle forms a kind of 'hood' over the filling portion. Dab the lower left hand portion of the wrapper with a little water. 

Cross the right bottom part of the wrapper over the left and press to seal. If this sounds confusing, just try it a couple times and you should get the hang of it. Hopefully...

Place wontons on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Btw, wontons freeze well: just place them single file like this on a paper towel-lined baking tray or dish, put in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour until they are frozen solid, then pop them all into a freezer/Ziploc bag for freezer storage. 

For the soup base, add all ingredients except for the celery and bok choy. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 1 1/2 hours. This is the basic stock, but if you want to punch up the flavor, add the next few ingredients. 


1 lb. artificial crab.

8 oz. cuttlefish, shrimp or fish balls.

Add the artificial crab and cuttlefish balls to the soup base. Simmer, as noted above, 1 1/2 hours.
These are the flavoring ingredients for the soup base: Fried shallots, sesame oil, chicken base, white pepper.

Bullhead brand shallot sauce is a great addition if you have it.

Finely diced celery.

 I used to cut up the bok choy into large pieces before blanching, but it's easier to just blanch the whole cabbages in the stock, drain, then slice before garnishing on the finished soup.

Add the diced celery and turn off the heat. 

Cook the wontons separately in a pot of water.

Here's the trick to timing the cooking of the wontons: add wontons to boiling water. When water comes back up to a boil, add 1 cup of tap water, bring back up to a boil, add a 2nd cup of tap water, bring back up to a boil, and they're done.

Drain wontons and add to individual serving bowls. Ladle soup stock over the wontons and garnish with the reserved bok choy. This one is the regular version with just straight wontons and veg.

This is the souped up version with artificial crab and cuttlefish balls. 


  1. Love the step by step pictures and instructions. The pictures of the products are great ss well. Awesome bloc Arlene!