This is a recipe passed down to me from my Shanghainese grandmother. Every year when I visit her in the San Francisco Bay area, she welcomes me with wontons. No matter what time I arrive, say, past midnight, she still cooks for me around 20 wontons. That is honestly too much, but knowing how much love and effort she has put in making them for me, and being a traditional Chinese who has been taught to place filial piety above everything else, I have to finish all the food placed in the bowl in front of me.
My grandmother is proud of her wontons. She adds shrimps to hers. But I usually skip the shrimps because it is really time-consuming to wash, dry, remove the shell and pick out of the shrimps their intestines. Either way, the wontons still taste awesome.
On certain days, my grandmother has to mass produce these pretty parcels for lunch with her mahjong friends. My mother and I, along with my grandmother's helpers, then help out under the direction and supervision of my grandmother. Making wontons is so calming and satisfying that it is almost therapeutic. It is, I must say, a great family activity too! I have tried my best to draw for you the steps to wrap these pretty parcels. Hope this helps and don't laugh! ;p
We call these little parcels "nurse's caps". The Shanghainese wonton wrappings are slightly different from those of Guangdong wontons. The Shanghainese ones are milk in colour and trapezium in shape. So make sure you buy the right ones for this recipe!
My grandmother only boils the wontons and serves them in chicken broth as in the picture below. For a naughtier and crispier version, which is greatly endorsed by my mother, you may pan-fry them and serve them with Zhejiang vinegar. They are sooo good, I eat them for breakfast, for lunch and even for dinner! So, enjoy!
Shanghainese Wonton 上海雲吞
(Servings: 80 wontons)
- 500g finely chopped already-cooked Chinese spinach 齊菜/ pak choi 白菜
- 600g minced pork
- 80 pieces of Shanghainese wonton wrapping*
- 8 tbs sesame oil
- 4 eggs
- 3 tbs soy sauce
- 3 tbs liquid chicken concentrate (this is interchangeable with soy sauce)
- 2 tbs corn flour
- 1/2 tbs of salt
- 1/2 tbs sugar
- ground white pepper (I really don't know how much, I put quite a lot, I guess around 1/2 tbs)
- Zhejiang vinegar 浙江醋 (optional)
- toban sauce 豆瓣醬 (optional)
Instructions (Preparing the filling)
1. (If you use freezed already-cooked Chinese spinach, which will save you a lot of trouble and time) Defrost the Chinese spinach, squeeze out all the excess water and finely chop the vegetables. I bought these freezed already-cooked Chinese Spinach from Shanghai New Sam Yung 上海新三陽 on Hau Wong Road, Kowloon City.
2. (If you use fresh vegetables) Add the vegetables to boiling water until they are barely cooked but tender. Then quickly drain the vegetables and submerge them in ice water. Once cool, squeeze out all the excess water and finely chop the vegetables.
3. Place the minced pork in a large bowl. Mix in the corn flour, soy sauce and sugar.
4. Add in the chopped vegetables, sesame oil, chicken concentrate, salt and pepper. Mix to combine the ingredients.
5. Crack in 4 eggs, one at a time. Stir like a merry-go-round to combine the ingredients after cracking each egg. Your filling should now be quite moist and ready for wrapping.
Instructions (Wrapping wontons)
Okay, it is really hard to explain the procedures without any illustrations. I have tried my best to draw the steps as clearly as possible. Hope this helps!
6. Add the wontons in boiling water. When they float, they should be done. But to make sure they're fully cooked, I usually add in a cup of tap water and when that boils too, the wontons are sure to be ready. You may serve the wontons clean or with chicken broth. They taste great too with chili paste.
7. Alternatively, you may pan-fry the wontons. To do so, you must first boil the wontons as directed above. Then, drain the wontons and leave them to cool on a tray. When the wontons turn warm, put them in the fridge for at least half a day, this will help dry up the wontons and make them more suitable for pan-frying.
8. Heat then pan. Add a little bit of peanut oil and when it gets hot, pan-fry the wontons over small fire. Don't keep turning the wontons. I usually leave them the way they're placed for 3-4 minutes to make sure the sides turn crisp and golden. Only flip once to crisp the other side for another 3-4 minutes. Serve the wontons with Zhejiang vinegar.
*Instructions (Storing wonton wrappings and wontons)
--> The wonton wrappings can be stored up to 3 days in the fridge. If the wrappings get a little dry and crack easily during the folding, you may cover them up with a damp tea towel for 30 minutes. The wrappings will then become soft and suitable for folding.
Alternatively, you may store the wrappings for up to a month if you put them in the freezer.
--> After wrapping the wontons, you may gently line up the uncooked wontons in a ziplog bag and put them in a freezer. These wontons will stay fresh for more than a month.