Shanghainese wontons 菜肉蝦仁餛飩

These are yet another kind of dumplings - basically another variation of meat/seafood/vegetable fillings wrapped in pasta sheets. Compared to JiaoZi, the other kind of Chinese dumplings made with round wrappers, wontons are made with square wrappers. Honestly these are slightly less work to wrap, I think. The steps are very similar to making Italian ravioli and tortellini. Different Chinese regions also make different wontons, and they vary in the filling and wrapper and wrapping style choices. The FuJian/Taiwan style wontons have very thin skins and wrapping is just a matter of free-style gathering and pinching the wrapper into a little purse. I learned how to wrap these Shanghainese wontons from my aunt back in 1995. But it was later that I learned how to put the soup together. You see, the Shanghainese wontons are typically served as a soup. The soup base should be a flavorful stock spiked with a little soy sauce. The accompaniment in the soup should include panfried egg "skin" (basically just scrambled egg but thinly pan-fried into a thin sheet and then cut into strips), seaweed, chopped pickled mustard green ZhaCai (榨菜), chopped scallions, and baby shrimp skins (蝦皮). I skimped on the baby shrimp skins and added chopped celery. The contrast in texture - silky pasta, crunchy mustard greens, soft meat filling, toothsome vegetable fillings - and the combination of many flavors - savory meat and shrimp, briny seaweed, spicy celery and scallions, salty mustard greens - make this such a wonderful dish, and not to mention a complete meal!

The vegetables must be rid of their high water content before they are added to the meat filling. The high water content would have made the filling too watery, and some of the bitterness can be removed by squeezing out the water. The napa cabbage was chopped and salted and the Shanghai bok choi was blanched in water and then chopped. I found the potato ricer to be such a handy tool to remove the water from the vegetable fillings. I used to always use my hand to squeeze the vegetables, but it always left too many bits and pieces on my hands, and there would have been too much wasted. You can see the difference in the volume of the vegetables (Lower left and upper right are the bok choi and napa cabbage before water was removed. Lower right is all the vegetables combined with water removed.)

Another handy tool is my KitchenAid mixer! The meat and shrimp should be stirred long enough to develop protein strands, which help to retain additional liquid. I normally would have added water that's got ginger and scallions mashed up and strained. But I happened to have ginger and scallion oil sauce in the fridge, so I just added a big spoonful of that. I also added salt, white pepper, and some mirin. 

Aren't they cute? They look like little cute packages!


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