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.
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, coarsely chopped (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
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 in the stock for about 1 minute, and remove to the chopping board or bowl.
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.
Add the diced celery and turn off the heat.
This is the souped up version with artificial crab and cuttlefish balls.