Lisa See’s Won Tons
Author Lisa See’s delicious family recipe for wontons
with shrimp, pork, ginger and water chestnuts, served with a tangy dipping sauce.
PEONY IN LOVE
Food and the Chinese language are the two most important things in Chinese culture and to the Chinese people, so it’s no wonder that food plays an important role in all my books. In Peony in Love, food has a greater significance than usual. I don’t want to give anything away, but it has to do with the nature of the lovesick maidens and what they were doing (or not doing) in life, as well as the ravenous desires of hungry ghosts.
There aren’t any won tons in Peony in Love, but there are plenty of other types of dumplings. You can make the won tons before the book group meeting or you can make rolling them and cooking them an activity to do together.
We’ve always made won tons in my family. On Thanksgiving in my family,everyone rolls their own won tons. We have a lot of fun, everyone gets their fingers messy, and we come up with some odd shapes. Not to worry though. As long as the won ton is properly sealed, it will cook up just fine.
You can add anything you want to the filling—chopped Chinese mushrooms or garlic, for example—but these are my favorite ingredients. I love fresh ginger and the crunch of the water chestnuts.
Also, if you have extra won tons, you can always make won ton soup. For won ton soup, boil the won tons for a couple of minutes to wash away the flour, drain, and then add them to your soup just before serving.
Lisa See’s Won Tons
Prep time: 1 hour
Note: The number of won ton wrappers varies from
package to package, but usually they have between 36 and 60 wrappers. I’ve included an extra package of wrappers in this recipe because a lot depends on how plump you make your won tons.
You can serve won tons hot or at room temperature. Won tons also travel well as long as you don’t put them in a sealed container. I put them loose in a brown paper grocery bag lined on the bottom with a few paper towels. This helps to soak up any extra oil, keeps the won tons from getting soggy, and you don’t have to wash your traveling container!
For an additional dipping option, you can serve ready-made sweet and sour sauce.
For the won tons:
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1/2 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and minced
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, minced
3 scallions, minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 packages won ton skins (set aside one wrapper for testing) (see note)
1 egg, beaten
Peanut or safflower oil for frying
For the dipping sauce:
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
dash of Siracha chili sauce
1 scallion, chopped
- To make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine pork, shrimp, water chestnuts, scallions, ginger, and soy sauce.
- To assemble the won tons: Place won ton wrapper in front of you so that a corner is facing in your direction. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in that corner. Roll this corner toward the middle. Moisten the side corners with a drop of the egg mixture and fold those two ends together to lock the won ton in place. There should be a single layer of won ton skin that curls out the back, like a jaunty scarf. Make sure the filling is sealed inside or the won tons will fall apart during cooking.
- At this point you can store the won tons in the refrigerator until cooking. When storing, make sure the won tons don’t touch each other or they’ll stick together.
- To make the dipping sauce: Combine ingredients in a small bowl.
- To fry the wontons: Pour 1 to 2 inches of oil into a pot or deep-sided skillet. Heat oil over medium heat. Test the oil temperature by tearing off pieces of one won ton wrapper and dropping them in the oil. The wrapper should turn brown quickly but not get too dark. Fry a few won tons at a time in a single layer until golden and crispy. Make sure they don’t touch each other, and use tongs to flip them. Don’t overcook! Drain on paper towels. Serve with dipping sauce.
Yield: Approximately 48 won tons