Yogis have their mats. I have my wontons.
Whenever I’ve had an italicized, capital D-A-Y day, I turn to what I jokingly call my favorite kitchen asana. There’s something about the repetitive action of stuffing, folding and pinching these tasty, tiny dumplings that quiets my cascading mind. I can breathe in the space of preparation; meditate in the small, simple movements of feeding my family. By the time dinner is on the table, I’m a calmer, happier person.
It wasn’t always this way. The first time I made wontons, I crashed and scurried through the process. I overstuffed. I under-folded. I sighed impatiently and vowed I would never make these things again. (Much like my reaction the first time I attempted shoulder stand…)
But my family loved them. Even my picky big boy gobbled them up, which meant I needed to make my peace with wontons.
Turns out, all I needed to do was slow down. Wontons are not a 30-minute meal. Yes, they’re easy to make. Yes, they’re pantry-friendly. But they take well over an hour from beginning to the dinnertime bell.
Still, what a lovely hour. Besides, if you make a batch of wontons when you have the time, you can always freeze the packets. Later, you can steam the frozen wontons in about 20 minutes. (Voila! A fast meal from slow food.)
Stuff. Fold. Pinch. Stuff. Fold. Pinch. For my over-taxed and -stimulated mind, it’s the sound of kitchen “om.”
You can make wontons with any combination of ingredients you like. I use ground turkey in mine, but you could use ground chicken, chopped shrimp or cod, or vegetables alone. Likewise, you can use any vegetables you have handy. Just make sure to chop them finely so they cook within the allotted time.
I usually steam my wontons, but last night I used the technique for potstickers (spelled out in The Gourmet Cookbook). Both versions taste divine; the potstickers are higher in calories.
I don’t use measuring cups or spoons when making these, so the measurements given are approximate. Please don’t stress out about being exact. Wontons are made for kitchen play, which is another of their many charms.
- 1 1/2 cups Napa cabbage, cut into thin strips
- 1 package ground turkey (12 ounces-1 pound; white meat only)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled & grated
- 1/2 a red pepper, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon basil, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1-2 tablespoon dry Sherry (do not use cooking sherry!)
- 1 package wonton wrappers (I use Nasoya brand)
Filling: Place the Napa cabbage in a colander and sprinkle it with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix well and set aside.
Place the cabbage in a clean towel and squeeze to remove any liquid. Add to the bowl.
Mix in the egg, soy sauce and sherry. (Start with 1 tablespoon each; if your mixture isn’t too wet, add the additional soy sauce and sherry.)
Assembly: Fill a small bowl with water. Working at a table, place 1 wonton wrapper on waxed paper:
Place a teaspoon or so of the filling in the center of the wrapper:
Bring the remaining two corners together and seal all 4 corners to form a packet:
Place the wonton on another sheet of waxed paper and continue until you’ve used all your wrappers. If you have extra filling, save it for another use.
If steaming: Fill a large pot with 1 1/2- to 2-inches of water. Coat a steamer insert with nonstick cooking spray. Place the insert into your pot and cover everything with a tight-fitting lid. Bring the water to a boil, then uncover the pot. Add 9-10 wontons to the steamer insert. Cover the pot with the lid again and steam for 15 minutes. Repeat with as many wontons as you want to serve, making sure to refill the pot with water as necessary and to bring the water to a boil before you load the insert with wontons.
You can freeze any uncooked wontons. When you’re ready to use them, cook them — frozen — this same way, increasing the steaming time to 20 minutes.
If frying for potstickers: Using a medium-high flame, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a 9- to 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add 9-10 wontons. Fry for 2 minutes, until the bottoms are golden:
Add 3/4 cup of water to the skillet. Cover and lower your heat to medium. Cook for 7-10 minutes, or until most of the water is gone:
Drain off any remaining water. Place the skillet back on a moderately-high flame and drizzle 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into the sides of the pan. Cook for 2 more minutes:
Remove the wontons from your skillet and place them on a platter, covered with foil, while you repeat the process with the remaining packets.
(All that’s missing is a mat.)