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Few times a year I spend the better part of a Saturday assembling wontons. I try to go seasonal with the fillings, but if not, I fall back on the classic fillings: usually a combination of ground chicken, ground pork, diced shrimp, fresh ginger and scallions, and finely chopped water chestnuts. Ever since I took the “Wonders of Wontons” class at the Civic Kitchen in San Francisco, I’ve felt super empowered to experiment with wontons and potstickers. They are easy to assemble (time consuming, sure, but oh so rewarding), easy to freeze, and if you fold them a certain way, can double as boiled wontons as well as potstickers.
This year I tried adapted a recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine, which suggests adding sesame oil as well as vegetable oil to the filling and whisking (almost beating) it till the fat is fully incorporated in the filling. When cooked, it makes for a really lush wonton. I switched the pork for chicken so maybe mine weren’t as fatty as the ones from the original recipe, but still very comforting and delicious!
I usually drop my wontons in a quick chicken broth, but I really loved the Sesame Sauce here – a quick little sesame paste condiment that takes less than a minute to assemble, and I imagine will be delicious with a great number of things. You can always substitute tahini or even peanut butter if you don’t have sesame paste on hand.
The filling is very easy to make – mix everything (except for the egg together), then beat in the egg and give it a really vigorous “beating” until the mixture looks pale. Chilling the mixture for a bit makes it easier to handle and fill later.
You can use this time to quickly make the sesame sauce, and get ready for wonton assembly and cooking!
Assemble the wontons (see recipe below for ideas and tips) the best you can; the folds and the shapes need not be fancy or intricate for these wontons to be delicious! Boiling them is a great equalizer, and the only thing that will matter in the end is that they are tightly sealed and not too overfilled!
Spoon the sauce over the hot wontons, and dot with a bit more chili oil and chopped scallions for freshness.
Or, make a quick broth by bringing chicken stock or broth to a boil along with smashed ginger, chopped scallions (maybe some mushrooms, too). Ladle into bowls, and slide in the hot wontons, followed by a drizzle of chili oil and soy sauce.
Check out other Chinese recipes I’ve made over the years!
Chicken Wontons with Sesame sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
Makes about 50 wontons
1 pound ground chicken
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil (toasted sesame oil, if available)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tablespoon rice wine or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
About 50 wonton wrappers (thin or extra thin, square or round)
For sesame sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil (toasted sesame oil if available)
4 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame paste or tahini (or peanut butter, if neither are available)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons chili oil (use more, or less, to taste)
Thinly sliced scallions
More chili oil
Using a fork, mix chicken, scallion, soy sauce, sesame oil, vegetable oil, ginger, wine and salt in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Make a shallow in the center and crack an egg into it. Using a wooden spoon combine all the ingredients and mix vigorously for 2-3 minutes until the mixture looks a bit lighter in color.
Cover with a plate and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes. Mixture can be refrigerated for 24 hours in an airtight container.
While the mixture is chilling, make sesame sauce
Whisk oil, sesame paste, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl. If the sauce seems too thick, whisk in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you can achieve the desired consistency (sauce should be easy to drizzle but should not be watery). Stir in the chili oil. Set aside.
Prepare a large baking sheet by lightly oiling it or covering in parchment or wax paper. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of a wonton wrapper and fold into desired shape:
If it’s a square wrapper, folded over itself along the diagonal to make a triangle. Or fold it in half to make a rectangle. You can stop at this, or, use the far ends of the triangle/rectangle and pull them to the center and seal them together to make a nurse’s hat.
If it’s a round wrapper, fold it in half to make a semi-circle. You can stop at this, or, pleat the center of the circular part right-to-left, front-to-back, to make a potsticker.
You can get creative as long as you make sure:
> you don’t overfill the wonton
> you push excess air out of the wonton before sealing
> you keep the filling restricted to the center of the wonton
> you seal the wonton tight
While working with wonton skins, make sure you keep the remaining skins covered and moist to make sure they do not dry.
Seal edges with a few dabs of water (this works just fine for me, but if you want extra assurance, please add some cornstarch to the water to make a “glue” and use that instead). Place on the prepared baking sheet.
To store for later
You can freeze the wontons on the baking sheet itself by placing it in the freezer for 1-2 hours. Once (and only after) the wontons are hard, place them gently and carefully in a freezer-safe box (not in a ziploc bag, especially for the thin-skinned wontons), label, and freeze for 3-4 months. They can be cooked directly from the freezer by just adding a minute or 2 to the cooking time. If making wontons for freezing, it is best to stick with simple shapes (for example, a rectangular wrapper folded in half and sealed shut) that will not easily shatter or break in the freezer.
In a medium or large saucepan, bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil. Add 4-5 wontons at a time and give them a gentle stir once or twice so they don’t stick to the bottom.
With the thin wrappers and 1 teaspoon filling, it takes an average of 2 minutes for each batch of wontons to cook. For thicker wonton wrappers or more heavily filled wontons, it may take a minute longer. In any case, when the wontons float to the top, they’re ready.
Use a strainer or spider to transfer them to warmed bowls with a slick of hot water or broth. Don’t hold these for too long or they start sticking together and congeal because of all that starch. Since they take only a few minutes to cook, its better to cook them when you need them.
Divide cooked wontons among bowls and spoon the sesame sauce over; top with scallions and more chili oil if desired.