Wonton Soup

My husband makes three types of Chinese soup when any of us are sick. One of them is Chinese Winter Melon Soup or tung qwa soup, which I’ve shared in the past, the second is Moqua Soup or Fuzzy Melon Soup (post forthcoming), and the third, which is my absolute favorite, is Wonton Soup.

While it seems seasonally inappropriate to share a hot soup recipe amidst our warmer and sunny Southern California weather, last week when I was feeling quite awful from bronchitis, my husband asked if I would like some soup. I only thought about this for a second before I immediately replied in my hoarse, weak voice, “YES! Please make me wonton soup.” I followed this with my sad face and pleading puppy-dog eyes, “if it’s not too much work…”

When I met my husband, I could tell that his cooking repertoire was somewhat limited and differed from my own. We shall refer to this repertoire as “one or two steps above bachelor dining”. While there is nothing wrong with the following repertoire, this included spaghetti, ground beef burritos, frozen fish sticks, frozen pot pie, frozen french fries, steak, ham, and a very small handful of nearby take-out specialties.

However, my husband surprised me with a few dishes which included (click for recipes) hoisin baby back ribs, sautéed baby bok choy, sautéed gai-lan (Chinese broccoli), wontons, and his three Chinese soups. He is also very good with BBQ. Not surprisingly, he learned these dishes from his parents, namely my mother-in-law. Thank you Yin-Yin for teaching your son these dishes!

Wonton Soup

for wontons:

See recipe post for Chinese Wontons. Instead of frying the wontons, they will be boiled and added to the soup recipe that follows.

for soup: (serves approximately 4)

  • 4 – 6 baby bok choy
  • 1 cup reserved shiitake mushroom liquid (from Chinese Wonton recipe)
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt, to taste (optional)
  • Sliced green onions for garnish (optional)

1. Make wontons according to recipe. We usually allot 6 to 8 wontons per one soup serving. The remaining wontons are usually fried, or the wonton meat (with no wrappers) is frozen.

2. In a large stock pot, combine 1 cup reserved shiitake liquid, 8 cups of chicken broth. If you prefer, beef broth may be substituted. Add tablespoon of soy sauce and dash of salt as needed. Bring to a boil.

3. Slice baby bok choy lengthwise in half, and then into large bite-sized pieces, if necessary. Add baby bok choy to the broth and cook until tender.

4. In a separate medium-sized pot, and this MUST be done in a separate pot and not the same pot as the broth, bring water to a boil. Add a handful of wontons and allow these to cook for about 8 to 10 minutes until the pork is cooked through. Because these are bite-sized portions of meat, they cook relatively quickly.

NOTE: The wontons must be cooked in a separate pot from the soup broth because the wonton wrappers are quite starchy and causes the water to become a thick, starchy, icky mess.

5. In a large soup bowl, add 6 to 8 boiled wontons then ladle the soup with baby bok choy over the wontons. Garnish with chopped green onions (optional).

Even though you don’t read my blog, thanks hun for making me my favorite wonton soup, in addition to your two other Chinese soups, taking care of the girls, packing lunch, doing laundry, buying groceries, running out late at night to get me Sucrets and cough syrup, picking up my antibiotics, entertaining Bebe E so I can get some rest, picking up the toys strewn all over the house, making Bebe E breakfast, doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen and picking up take-out dinner. I understand why, every day, you kept begging me to “PLEASE get better soon”. :) – – – Love, your wife | recovering bronchitis patient.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Judy

P.S. – Hideki’s photo of my yaki nasu | grilled Japanese eggplant made it onto FoodGawker! And my chyuka kyuri tsukemono | Chinese style pickled cucumbers made it onto TasteSpotting! Note: If I can figure out how to get a FoodGawker or TasteSpotting icon with link onto my homepage I will stop making these little announcements. Until then, you’ll just have to bear with me as I overcome yet another technology challenge. :)

P.S.S. – Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you stop by my blog. I enjoy hearing from folks!

Advertisements

Chinese Wontons

There’s something about fried wontons that are addicting.

Inherently, we all know fried foods aren’t necessarily the healthiest of foods, yet you can’t stop at just one wonton. You eat one, and then you want another, eat another, and then you want yet another, and another!

Perhaps it’s the light, crunchy fried wonton skin. Or perhaps it’s that tasty wonton center of succulent ground pork mixed with subtle bursts of flavor from the shiitake mushrooms or scallions. Or perhaps it’s my favorite ingredient, chopped water chestnuts, that add an unexpected little crunch that makes wontons addicting. They make me happy, right down to the core of my soul.

Yes, good food makes me happy.

I grew-up eating what I will refer to as “Japanese wontons” because my first generation Japanese Mom made our wonton filling with ingredients that differed significantly from the Chinese wontons my husband grew-up with. Don’t get me wrong, I love Japanese wontons and there’s nostalgia associated with the wontons I grew-up with, but these days, if I’m in the mood for making wontons, I make my husband’s family wontons that he learned from his Mom.

Once in a while, Yin-Yin (Bebe E & Nene’s paternal grandmother | my mother in law) makes us wontons when we go over to watch a USC football game together or just to hang-out for a relaxing lunch on the weekend. Obviously, I never go to watch the game (perhaps you’ve missed my previous mentions of my dislike for football), I go to eat! But I’m always hopeful that Yin-Yin made wontons for us, and when I see the cute little fried wontons on a plate on the dining table, I’m simply, happy.

Yin-Yin’s Chinese Wontons

  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1/2 8-oz can chopped water chestnuts (about 2 heaping tablespoons)
  • 3 – 4 medium dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, finely chopped
  • 1 green onion stalk, finely chopped (optional, but I prefer to add)
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 packs wonton wrappers
  • 2 – 3 cups canola oil for frying
supplies:
  • wax paper
  • water
  • teaspoon
  • butter knife

1. In a medium bowl, add hot water and dried shiitake mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to reconstitute for about 20 minutes or until tender. Discard stems and chop finely.

2. In a large bowl, add ground pork, chopped shiitake mushrooms, chopped water chestnuts, and chopped green onions. Season with a dash of salt, pepper and soy sauce. Use your hands to mix the meat and vegetables until all the ingredients are well-incorporated. I don’t recommend using anything but your hands; it’s just the easiest way to get everything all good-and-mixed.

3. Prepare your work station for assembling the wontons. I usually place a large piece of wax paper over a cutting board, then lay about 10 – 15 wonton wrappers in assembly line | mass production format. In a mug, add cold water and place your butter knife in there. I like using a mug vs. bowl because the knife, and or bowl, won’t tip over when you leave your butter knife in it.

4. Next, using a teaspoon, scoop heaping spoonfuls of the wonton meat and place each scoop in the center of each wonton skin. It’s tempting, but don’t use too much filling or else your wonton will: a) not seal properly; b) tear.

5. Wrap your wontons, Chinese style. The reason I specify this method as Chinese-style, is because the Japanese wontons I grew up with are shaped differently (plain triangle), and are not as fancy. My husband taught me how to wrap wontons properly. :)

• I find it’s easier to pick-up the wonton wrapper with the meat in the center, and place it in the palm of your left hand (if you’re right handed, like I am), rather than leaving it on the wax paper.
• Using a butter knife (or your finger), wet the edge of two connecting sides of the wonton wrapper, then fold over to seal and make a triangle (see top left photo in the collage below).
• Next, face your triangle pointing down, and wet the top the of the left corner. Then, gently bring the right corner over to the left side, and rest it on top of the left corner. Pinch together. By doing so, you’ll achieve the nice little wonton-pouch shape you see in the bottom left photo of the collage. You’re done! Now repeat, about 50 more times.

6. I like to fry my wontons in a deep cast iron pot, but I only use enough oil to completely cover the wontons. Fry for about 2 or 3 minutes on each side, turning over once. The wontons should have a nice golden color when they are removed from the oil. Allow the wontons to drain on a paper towel.

If necessary, add more oil if it seems as though it’s running low. If you do this, just make sure that your oil reaches the appropriate cooking temperature once again. I never measure the temperature of the oil but I read somewhere that about 375°F is appropriate.

Three Wonton Dipping Sauce Ideas

1. Duck Sauce:

These wontons taste delicious on their own, but if you’re interested in a dipping sauce, my in-laws sometimes use duck sauce (available at the Chinese supermarket). It’s pale orange in color (almost looks like apricot marmalade), sweet, and has just a touch of heat. It’s quite delicious, and it’s a great shortcut for wonton sauce.

2. Yin-Yin’s Sweet and Sour Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup ketchup (or use equal parts ketchup to pineapple juice)
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • Brown sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon corn starch (add more if you prefer a thick sauce)
  • 1/2 tablespoon water

Boil ketchup and juice over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar to taste. In a separate bowl, dilute corn starch with water. Add to pan and whisk until the sauce thickens.

3. Mom’s Ketchup & Tonkatsu “Japanese Wonton” Sauce:

I typically don’t keep duck sauce in the refrigerator, so when I serve wontons at home, I make a quick and easy sauce that I grew-up with. It is one part ketchup to one equal part tonkatsu sauce (available at Japanese supermarkets). Occasionally, I will use okonomiyaki sauce (also available at Japanese supermarkets), which is sweeter than tonkatsu sauce. Gently incorporate the ketchup and sauce together.

Mourning the Lakers,

Judy

… Let’s just not talk about last night’s horrid game. There was nothing pretty about it at all. Nothing.

Dote-Nabe | Miso Hot Pot

We’ve been experiencing bipolar weather in Southern California. One day it’s warm and sunny, with hints of summer just around the corner. The next day it’s cloudy and cold with Spring showers and hail. A mere 40-mile drive also makes a big difference in our weather. When I left Orange County this past weekend, it was warm and sunny, but when I arrived in Santa Monica, it was overcast, I needed a sweater and the next morning it was sprinkling and the ground was damp.

Not long ago, over one of our cold weekends, I made buta shabu-shabu, which is a Japanese hot pot made with pork, tofu, napa cabbage, spinach, shiitake mushrooms and ito konnyaku. To some, shabu-shabu might seem like an elaborate dinner, but in reality, it is one of the EASIEST and quickest meals to prepare, and I love me a quick-n-easy-dinner! Now I understand why my Mom often made shabu-shabu for us when we were growing up. :) Continue reading

Fried Rice

At one time or another, all of us are probably guilty of throwing out leftovers and senselessly wasting food. I know I’m guilty, unfortunately, on more than one occasion.

I recently read a post by a foodie friend at Kimchi Mom which reminded me that I needed to renew my efforts to not waste food. I’ve been trying to change my ways for a while. For example, since Bebe E and I are typically home for lunch during the week, we usually eat leftovers (or other easy lunches that I should start posting at some point). I also try to use small portions of random produce or leftovers in the fridge, by making soup, stir-fry, casserole or fried rice.

On a bad day, we have what I refer to as, “bad buffet night”. This involves each family member eating a different dish or a miss-mash of various leftovers to help clean the fridge. This happens at least two to three times per month. Continue reading

Chinese Egg Rolls

Chinese New Year arrived quite early this year on Monday, January 23, 2012. I wasn’t prepared for it as I was still recovering from Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year’s) and dealing with life’s curve-balls.

I debated whether I would cook this year or not; whether I would write a 2012 Chinese New Year’s post.

Last year, I was highly motivated and made two dishes: Chinese – style egg rolls and Jai (or Buddha’s Delight), a traditional Chinese New Year dish.

Ultimately, this year, I decided not to cook (ordered two small dishes from our local Chinese restaurant), and instead, post the Chinese – style egg rolls that I never got around to sharing over the past year. (Sadly, I still have an entire archive of food that I’ve cooked, over 60 items, but haven’t shared.)

I asked my husband if he ate egg rolls growing-up, and he told me that he ate them occasionally at restaurants, but not at home. He said, “egg rolls are too much work”.

I completely agree.

Any food that requires wrapping up little bites of food in small individual flour or egg wrappers is WAY too labor intensive, and even more so if you have a lot of mouths to feed. In my opinion, gyoza and wontons (another post that’s been sitting on my “to do” list, but my taco wonton post is available here) also fall under this category.

However, last year, I was ambitious. I decided I was going to make egg rolls, in addition to Jai. Crazy? Most definitely.

Pictured above is my first attempt in 2011 at making Jai.

Continue reading

Buta-No-Shogayaki | Japanese Ginger Pork

As a kid, I never used to like pork much. Especially pork chops. These days, I seem to like pork more, not just because lean pork is lower in calories and fat than beef, but because I like it’s versatility. However, I still don’t make pork chops very often, in fact, I rarely make pork chops although Bebe Dada would enjoy it if I did. Instead, I’ve been using thinner bite-sized cuts of lean pork typically found at Japanese supermarkets such as pork for shabu-shabu and yaki-niku.

Some of my favorite pork dishes include oven roasted kalua pork (not necessarily lower in fat and calories) and buta shabu-shabu. Both dishes will provide at least two to three leftover meals, so that’s always a motivating factor to make these. My mom used to make buta shabu-shabu for us when I was younger, but I always preferred beef. These days, especially during the Fall and Winter months (and also on gloomy June nights), I make buta shabu-shabu as an alternative to beef shabu-shabu. We can eat three nights of buta shabu-shabu. Seems excessive, doesn’t it? But during a busy week, shabu-shabu is one of the easiest and fastest and most satisfying dinners that I can prepare and best of all, no one in my family complains about eating shabu-shabu for three nights. THREE. I’m pretty lucky that I have an easy-going family AND they love shabu THAT much.

An afternoon of lavender-picking… despite the fact that Bebe E doesn’t have a lavender flower behind her ear. :)

So what about buta no shogayaki? Continue reading

Mom’s Japanese Mabo Tofu

I’m a victim of fraud!

This isn’t how I wanted to start my day nor my post on mabo tofu but that’s just how it is. I never thought it would happen to me, but apparently it’s not uncommon. I use my Bank of America issued pink and white Hello Kitty debit card everywhere. I love my cute Hello Kitty card… I usually don’t carry much cash with me and rely on my debit card for even the smallest $3 purchases. I use it for groceries, gas, restaurants, and almost all financial transactions, even online purchases, which might not be the smartest thing to do in hindsight.

The good thing, is that every few days I go online to review our accounts and this morning I noticed an ATM withdrawal in the amount of $480. The amount itself was odd, since I rarely ever withdraw more than $20 in cash, but when I read the details of the transaction, it appeared a thief withdrew cash from an ATM in Camden, New Jersey yesterday! As many of you know, I am in Southern California and basically haven’t left the area since I was pregnant with Bebe E! I immediately checked my wallet to make sure I still had my Hello Kitty debit card in my possession and I did indeed.

Next, I called the bank to notify them of this fraudulent transaction and they were savvy enough to deny subsequent ATM withdrawals immediately after the initial withdrawal. Yes, the thief attempted to withdraw even more cash but the bank declined their request. Apparently, the thief also attempted to make purchases but the bank also declined these requests.

According to Bank of America, thieves make fake cards all the time. The issue, however, was 1) how did they get my debit card account number and 2) how did they get my PIN number?!? I was asked a series of questions by the bank representative, but he asked me three times whether my PIN number was written anywhere. I told him that I’ve had the same PIN number for the past 10 years and I’ve never had a need to store it anywhere but IN MY HEAD! I asked if I should change my PIN number periodically, and he said that wasn’t likely the problem. *Sigh.*

While the bank will refund the money that was stolen from my account within 24 to 48 hours, this experience has left a bitter taste in my mouth and makes me think twice about all of the electronic transactions I make, and it also makes me a little paranoid about entering my PIN in public. You never know whose looking over your shoulder, even from a distance, or possibly even cyber-snooping around looking for information to steal!

Be aware!

Don’t be a victim of credit/debit card fraud or identify theft. Sometimes, even if you’re careful, which I thought I was, you can still become a victim. I’ve been reading some articles that I Googled about fraud protection and I’m definitely going to be more paranoid and even more careful in the future, despite the fact that my story ends positively since the money that was stolen is insured by my bank. Monitor your accounts regularly for unauthorized use of your credit or debit cards!

Let’s move on to the post I originally intended to share with all of you about my mom’s mabo tofu recipe….

*****************************************************************

Continue reading