BY Joan Namkoong
Special to The Advertiser
Editor's note: Sunday Night Suppers is a monthly feature prepared in cooperation with www.ShareYourTable.com, a Hawai'i-based culinary Web site. Its premise: to bring cooking back as a family activity, and to turn one night in the kitchen into several nights of meals. Find recipes for a rich homemade broth for won ton soup and additional recipes at www.shareyourtable.com.
There's nothing like a bowl of won ton soup for a comforting meal. During these hectic days, it's the kind of meal that can relax you while satisfying your need for nourishment. And during this season of cooler evenings, won ton soup is the perfect warm food to make for a Sunday Night Supper.
Won tons are a Chinese specialty served daily but also significant for holidays such as the lunar new year, which is coming up soon. In Chinese, won means clouds and ton means to swallow. Imagine puffy dumplings floating in broth amid leafy greens as fluffy clouds suspended in the sky. Swallowing clouds is what you do when you're eating an ethereal bowl of delicious won tons!
We especially like the idea of making won tons for a Sunday Night Supper because it's a meal that everyone in the family can help create. Once the filling is made, gather helpers around a table to shape the dumplings. Many hands will make light work of the task and in the process, good conversation and fun will no doubt make it enjoyable. Folklore says that only positive thoughts should be expressed while making won tons so that no ill fortune would befall the makers.
The key to any good dumpling is a tasty filling. Using the freshest of ingredients is so important: fresh ground pork, tasty morsels of shrimp and fresh water chestnuts, if available. Use a light hand in seasoning, allowing the flavor of the ingredients to shine, but season the filling well so that it complements the blandness of the wrapper. Folk wisdom advises that when you make won ton filling, you should mix the ingredients in a counterclockwise direction for best results.
Pi (pronounced "pee"), the square wrappers for won tons, should be chosen carefully. The pi should be thin but substantial enough to hold the filling without breaking. If you go to one of the many noodle factories in Honolulu, you can sometimes get wrappers of different thicknesses, some for soup won ton, some for fried won ton. Supermarket varieties are generally interchangeable but some are thicker or thinner than others.
Another key element to a good bowl of won ton soup is a flavorful broth. Start with a homemade chicken stock (go to www.shareyourtable.com to learn how to make this) then embellish it with some aromatics like ginger, green onion and sesame oil. Season your stock well. If you're using canned chicken or vegetable stock, it will taste even better when you add some fresh ingredients for flavor.
Garnish the bowl of won tons with blanched vegetables such as bok choy, kai choy (mustard greens), watercress or spinach. Fresh Island-grown mushrooms, cooked soybeans, finely sliced bamboo shoots, whole shrimp, slices of char siu, green onions and cilantro can all top off a steaming bowl of won tons for a great meal in a bowl.
When you make won tons, make a ton of them. They freeze well and can be used whenever you need a quick meal, just boiled and served with soup. Won tons can be served without a broth, topped with a stir-fry of vegetables for a nutritious meal in a bowl. Or fry won tons for a pūpū, everyone's favorite appetizer. The golden crust of fried won tons symbolizes gold or good fortune.
While we're talking about delicious dumplings, how about Korean mandoo? Or perhaps a vegetarian dumpling to add to the soup bowl?