Friday, February 19, 2010

homemade vietnamese wontons

When I discovered Andrea Nguyen’s vegan wontons recipe on design*sponge not too long ago, I had already embarked on this “from scratch” kick that’s been occupying me in the kitchen lately. So I thought it was about time I tried something a bit more advanced. Something a little intimidating. I view these little nuggets as advanced. And like homemade spaghetti or Grammy's gnocchi, it certainly intimidated me.

But unlike some pastas of the long strand variety, no fancy machinery is required for these wontons. Unless you count my favoritest thing in the world right now
Bear in mind, a KitchenAid mixer isn't technically required, but it's so fun & makes a very easy task even easier. (And really, what’s easier than flour & water for making simple dough?)
This recipe, more formally known as Poached Vegetable and Tofu Dumplings with Spicy Oil (yum), is really surprisingly simple. The steps & all measurements are so precise & really so small – I was shaking my cynical head as I composed a teaspoon of this & a half teaspoon of that. I’m normally a big handful of this & a lump of that type of gal. But these seemingly microscopic ingredients add up to one mighty tasty morsel.

The end result – my first try! - was fantastic. So impressed with myself! You could easily make a ton of these & freeze them for future quick meals (as a main course or dropped into soup).
Light-yet-filling, low-fat, so tasty & just darn to pretty to look at. Well, maybe not in this lighting, but check this out for proof of tastiness
Mmmm. Lovely gingery, garlicky, with a hint of heat, perfectly textured crumbled tofu (read: not squidgy, cause Neilo doesn't do squidgy). Dashes of soy with toasty sesame add even more layers to this unsuspecting little dumpling.

We served ours with my own version of fried rice: brown rice stir-fried with bits of egg, more sesame oil & wilted bok choy.
{Note to defensive meat-eaters, who might otherwise bypass a vegan recipe, mistaking it for a pile of sprouts - don't. This isn’t a watered down vegan version of something else. Yeah sure, you'll find it stuff with pork in other places, but this recipe is so satisfying with its harmonious, aromatic flavors & made simultaneously light & somehow hearty by using nutritious tofu to fill it out.

Poached Vegetable and Tofu Wontons in Spicy Oil
From Andrea Nguyen {modified slightly to suit what we had on hand}
Serves 4 as a snack, 6 to 8 as a starter - we kinda lost count to be honest!

1/4 pound tender leafy greens, such as mustard leaf, baby bok choy, or spinach {We went with spinach}
3 ounces firm tofu
3/4 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small scallion, finely chopped, white + green part
Generous 1/8 teaspoon salt {How exactly do you measure 1/8 tsp? I just did a pinch}
1 pinch white pepper
Scant 1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/4 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry {I left this out completely}
1 teaspoon sesame oil, plus extra for garnish
24 wonton skins, homemade or store bought **See easy wonton skin recipe that follows
1 to 2 tablespoons chilli oil {or a lovely little fresh green chilli like I used! Just seed as needed, chop & let steep in oil of your choosing)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small clove garlic, minced + crushed into paste
3 or 4 sprigs cilantro, coarsely chopped {Left this out too}

1. Fill a saucepan with water & bring to a boil. Add the leafy greens & blanch until tender. Drain immediately, flush with cold water & drain well. Finely chop & then put in a dishtowel. Squeeze to remove excess moisture. You should have 1/4 firmly packed cup.

2. Put the tofu in the dishtowel & squeeze to remove excess moisture. {I usually put the whole block on a paper towel on a dish, cover with another paper towel & lay something heavy, like a pot, on top, then leave until lots of moisture comes out.}
Transfer tofu to a bowl, mash, then add the chopped greens, ginger & scallion, combining well.

3. In another bowl, combine the salt, white pepper, sugar, 1 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce, rice wine (if using) & the sesame oil, stirring well. Pour over the vegetable & tofu mixture, and then vigorously stir to create a compact mixture. Cover the filling with plastic wrap & set aside. Makes about 1/2 cup. Mine measured more than 1/2 cup!

4. Fill each wonton skin with about 1 teaspoon of the filling, creating triangles or nurse’s caps (form a sealed rectangle, then bring the two folded corners together, cross then seal). Remember to moisten the edges with water before folding & seal well. As you work, put the finished wontons on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with cornstarch. When done, loosely cover with plastic wrap or a dry dishtowel to prevent drying. {I didn't do the cornstarch thing, or the plastic wrap & all was fine + dandy}

5. To cook the wontons, fill a large pot half way with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add all the wontons to boiling water, gently dropping each one into the water. Use a wooden spoon to nudge them to prevent sticking. Return the water to a gentle boil & then lower the heat to medium to maintain it. After the wontons have floated to the top, let them cook for another 3 minutes, until they are translucent.

6. While the wontons cook, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, chilli oil, canola oil & garlic on a serving plate or shallow bowl. Taste & make any flavor adjustments. Add a touch of sesame oil for nutty goodness, if you like. Set near the stove.

7. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to scoop out the wontons from the pot, pausing above the pot to allow excess water to drip back down. Put the wontons in the dish with the sauce & toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro & serve immediately.

Unbelievably simple wonton skin recipe from Recipezaar here. Enjoy.

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