Friday, May 25, 2012

Wontons From a Microwave

I love, love wontons! I've had this all consuming nostalgia for them ever since Peru when we tried the chifas - peruvian "chinese style" restaurants (which I appreciate). On our last night in Tacna, Peru I ordered a bowl of wonton soup. Although the broth was delicious, the wontons were sad looking - cardboard curtains filled with q-tip sized meat. I ate the soup, while longing for a memory.

Wontons were my favorite growing up. Gathered around the kitchen table, I'd help mom make them. She loaded each wonton with a generous dollop of filling - the smell of sweet shrimp, ginger, scallions and white pepper. Between dexterous fingers, she created round, plump pillows. Then, over the boiling pot of water, after lining up several plates full of loving labor, mom would call out, "how many do you want sweetie?" to which dad and I would call out lucky numbers like customers in a casino - 11, 7!

wonton factory

Shazam to the present moment - in my tiny rooftop kitchen in Chile, equipped with a microwave and toaster oven, I attempted what seemed an impossible culinary feat. Homemade wontons from scratch cooked inside a microwave oven. If you can make hot water in a microwave, why not use it to cook wontons? 

So, why from scratch you ask - might we be a little too ambitious Mai? Well, for the life of me, I couldn't find wonton wrappers in my new hood of Vina del mar. And we searched and searched. Soy sauce (and the most delicious I've tasted - Pearl River Bridge - note to self to find it back home) and sesame oil - yes, readily available but no dumpling wrappers.

As it turns out, the wrappers are super easy to make if you like to play with flour and water (which I do). As for the filling, instead of the traditional mix of ground pork and shrimp - ground turkey had to do.

As you're probably asking yourself, will these wontons a la microwave merit such a faux pas - wontons the likes of rubber wellingtons? On the contrary, dear amigos, they came out splendid. A miracle. Comforting, convivial, homecoming.

Here's to technology - microwave ovens - what wonders!

wontons from a microwave - yes you can
size does matter - wontons that is...

Recipe - Wontons from a microwave
Wonton Filling
Chicken broth
Chopped cilantro and scallions for garnish
Lemon wedges for garnish
Sesame oil for garnish
Good soy sauce for garnish

To assemble, add a teaspoon of filling to the center of wrapper. Dot edges with water. Press down and seal wontons. Let rest for a 15-20 minutes before boiling. To cook, fill a large microwave safe bowel with boiling water (from an electric kettle or stove top). Delicately add wontons (5-7 for a regular serving). Make sure the water covers the top of the wontons. Cover with a plate and cook in the microwave on high for 5 minutes or until the wontons float to the top (an indication when they are cooked). To serve, in a bowl, place cooked wontons, cover with hot chicken broth, garnish with cilantro and scallions. Place a plate of lemon wedges, soy sauce and sesame oil for individual taste.

simulating a boiling pot - place in microwave for 5 mins until they float

Turkey Filling or Traditional Wonton Filling (shrimp and pork is the best for wontons if readily available)
1 package of ground turkey 
2 medium scallions thinly sliced 
1/2 c chopped onions
3 tablespoons good soy sauce
2 eggs
A couple dashes of good pepper
1 small knob or 3 slices of ginger - chopped finely

Put everything in a plastic bag, mix and let it rest in the fridge.

Wonton Wrappers (makes 24) - Adapted from
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup water, as needed

Beat the egg. Add salt, water 1/2 c water. In a large bowl, mix in the flour. Add as much of the remaining water as necessary to form a dough. (Add more water than the recipe calls for if the dough is too dry).

Form the dough into a ball and knead for about 5 minutes, or until it forms a smooth, workable dough. Wrap dough with plastic wrap, let rest for 1 hr in the refrigerator. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a doughnut, then break the circle into a long strand. (For the technique, check out this video at 1:52) Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Roll out with a wine bottle or rolling pin until very thin, and cut into 3 1/2-inch squares or with a large coffee mug. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

use a coffee mug to cut out the circles
...and an empty wine bottle to roll out the dough (mom would be proud)
store bought you ask? why no - I made these...not too shabby

-For the filling, gravitate to wet vs dry. You want a moist filling. And these wontons will be nuked after all. Add a couple tablespoons of chicken broth if you need to add moisture.
-Cook a little of the filling to taste in order to make sure the seasoning is on point.
-Let the dough rest in a cold place. Makes it easier to roll out and for the wrappers to keep its shape.
-Once wontons are wrapped, sprinkle with a little flour and allow to rest for a good 20 minutes until the skin is slightly dry. Don't cook wontons immediately after they are made - they are likely to burst when cooking.
-To add extra flavor to the chicken broth, infuse (for an hr) with a couple slices of ginger and a sprig of scallion.
-Don't over cook wontons. As soon as they float - they are done. You can also allow them to rest for a couple minutes before serving - they will continue to cook.
-Make sure there is plenty of water covering the wontons before placing them in the microwave.
-I find that cooking 6 wontons at a time in a large bowl inside the microwave is best, preventing over crowding and uneven cooking.

allow for ample rest before the final boil

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