Wonton, or Chinese dumpling, is a staple food popular throughout China. As a Cantonese I am proud to say that the word Wonton comes from Cantonese rather than Mandarin, as the dumplings were likely introduced to the West by early settlers in Chinatown, who came primarily from the Cantonese-speaking coastal cities in Southern China.
In Chinese, wonton means “swallowing clouds“. If you are familiar with Chinese art you may also find that the wonton, floating in the soup, resembles the traditional “spiral cloud” motif in Chinese handicrafts. One famous example: The Torch for the Beijing Olympics is known as the “Lucky Cloud Torch” in Chinese.
Wontons are slightly different in various part of China. May I give you an introduction?
The Cantonese wonton has a yellow wrapping (made from flour and egg: think pasta sheet) typically filled with minced pork and shrimp. The dumplings are usually served in egg noodles, a type of thin, very chewy (almost like rubber band) noodle prevalent in Southern China.
Interestingly, the preparation of the broth is an art in itself — all the best wonton shops have their own secret recipes for the soup base; but in general, shrimp shells is believed to be a major ingredient.
This type of Chinese dumpling has a white, thicker wrapping (made from flour only) and the filling includes minced pork and Shanghainese bok choy. In some variations chopped leeks and spring onions are added.
For the soup, the soup base is usually made from mixing soy sauce, water and a bit of seasoning, mostly to give color to the unappealing white appearance. (White is a taboo color for traditional Chinese because it is associated with death).
While minced pork remains the most popular ingredient, international cuisines have inspired a lot of new varieties: chicken with mushroom, carrot, beans with corn, preserved vegetables with black fungus… exciting!
Known as “Chao Shou” (crossed hands), they also have a white, relatively thick wrapping. Chao Shou is boiled and served in very, very spicy sauce, as in almost all Sichuan cuisine.
As to why this particular dumpling is called Chao Shou, I think its name originates from how it is wrapped: the wrapping is first folded into a triangular shape and the two sides of the triangle is brought to the front, overlapping each other, resembling a person folding his arms.
The Shanghainese wonton is also folded into a triangle, but a slight twist in the second folding gives it a lovely shape. For the Cantonese style, the wonton is simply wrapped by bringing the four corners together and squeeze. Cantonese wontons first appeared as street foods, and hawkers got to find the quickest way to wrap up the wontons.
You may have noticed that I never mention fried wontons. Yes, we never fry our wontons. They are boiled, then served in plate or in a bowl of broth. That’s why they are also known as the Wonton Soup.
What’s the Difference Between Jiaozi (Gyoza) and Wonton?
Oh, they are different. Jiaozi, or Gyoza in Japanese, are basically potstickers: they have a thicker wrapping, with texture similar to thick ravioli wraps. They also take a longer, flatter, horn-like shape (”Jiao” sounds like “horn” in Mandarin).
Depending on the provinces in China you can taste jiaozi made from pork, beef, lamb, chicken or fish mixed with a wide variety of vegetables. They can be boiled, steamed, or pan-fried, and are served with dipping sauce. Red vinegar, soy sauce and chili sauce are among the most popular.
Want to make your own wonton now?
七月 4, 2011 No Comments
This delightful meal is great for the summer! Children love it — as long as the pork chop is tender enough. The trick is to pound it using the back of the Chinese chopper.
Ingredients and Measurement
- 2/3 lb pork chop
- Spring onions, chopped
- Chicken broth as soup
- Good for 1-2 adults and 2 young kids
Pork Chop Marination
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 2/3 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp rice wine
- 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 egg (or 1 small egg will do)
- 1.5 Tbsp corn starch
Tip #1: Get Fresh And Premium Pork Chop
I mentioned all over my site that you need good ingredients to make a good meal. Having said that, good ingredients doesn’t need to be expensive, and pricy ingredients may not equal good quality.
In the case of pork chop, or pork in general, it’s be best if you can get a piece that looks freshly cut i.e. the cross section should have a very thin layer of moisture on it. The meat is to have a natural pink color, the fat portion creamy white and the surface should shine with a healthy luster. If the fat looks yellowish, it means the meat has been cut for quite a while.
We bought 1 lb of pork chop for our family of four – J, myself, Big M (6 years old) and Little M (2.5 years old).
Preparation Before The Cooking
If you buy pork chop from a Chinese wet market, some nice vendors will offer pounding the pork chop you. However, I prefer to do my pounding at home because it is better to wash the meat first before pounding (and with my own nice and clean chopper).
Quickly wipe the pick chop with paper towel.
Tip #2: Pound And Slap!
Pound pork chops well. How? Using the back of the Chinese chopper, hammer each pork chop vertically first (about 0.5cm apart for each “pound”), then repeat horizontally…
… and finish with a big slap using the side of the chopper. Try it and you will notice that the weight of the Chinese chopper makes it an excellent hammer.
Do take some time to do the pounding properly, because this is the most critical part of this recipe. The rest is quick and easy.
Marinating The Pork Chop
Now, marinate the pork chop based on the measurement above.
Tips on an even and thorough marination:
Sugar is very hard to dissolve under room temperature. It is better to put salt, sugar, and light soya sauce in a measuring cup and the microwave it for 10 seconds (don’t over heat the soya sauce or else it will be spoiled). Stir until the salt and sugar dissolves.
Wine evaporates quickly, so I wouldn’t include it in the microwave heating.
After the marination is done, let the meat sit for at least 15 minutes (can be longer if weather isn’t too hot).
Cooking The Noodle
While we let the meat sit, let’s cook the noodles first. I like to use the Shanghai-nese rice noodles which is shown here, because its mild taste goes well with the savory pork chops. But many other types of noodles, even spaghetti, are good choices.
I usually prepare:
- 4 oz for J
- 3.5 oz for me
- 2 oz of Big M
- 1 oz for Little M
But I run out of white noodles today so we settle with 8 ounces. Which is fine because we tend to eat less on hot summer days.
Bring water to boil with a pinch of salt so the noodle will stay firm. Note: white noodles need to be attended because it easily overboils. It should be stirred occasionally as well so the noodles won’t get stuck to the bottom of the pot.
After cooking for 8-10 minutes (for white noodles — for other types you can pinch the noodle to test the firmness), wash and soak in cold water for a refreshing bath. This will prevent the noodle from getting too sticky and soggy.
Drain well, then mix with some oil (same reason: so the noodle won’t stick together). Dish on bowl.
It’s Pork Chop Time
Take out your drying pan and deep fry in hot oil until well-cooked. I normally don’t use the big wok because I tend to waste a lot of oil using that. But if you don’t mind the wastage it works just as well, if not better.
After the pork chop turns golden in color, take out and drain. Cut into smaller pieces if preferred.
Boil up stock and season to taste. You can use any soup such as chicken broth or left-over Chinese soup you had the day before. I simply boil some veggie (with some salt and oil) and retain the water for a light veggie soup.
Pour in soup, and add pork chop. Sprinkle in spring onions and if preferred, spice up with a dash of sesame oil.
Here Is The Pork Chop Noodle — Pleasing To The Eyes… And The Taste Bud!
Final tip: the pork chop itself makes great afternoon snacks!
七月 4, 2011 No Comments
Steamed broccoli is one of the healthiest food you can take. But sometimes, steamed broccoli just don’t look appealing when it turns into this sickly yellow color… is there anyway to keep the delightful green and the nutrients?
My Solution Is: Poach The Vegetable, Not Steaming Them!
This Is All You Need
- A few good pieces of broccoli
- Olive oil, salt, water
- A regular pot
No steamer and no other fancy utensils your TV and Amway friends ask you to buy.
Let’s Start With… How To Choose A Good Piece Of Broccoli
First of all, it has to look good. What I mean is, it has to look refreshingly green — if it is already yellowish there is nothing you can do about it.
I personally like the ones with small and compact flower buds. Not only that it usually means it is young and tender, broccoli with bigger buds tend to have bugs hiding in it. On a similar note, don’t be greedy and pick the biggest piece — it usually means it is the toughest.
Then, look for any traces of soggy parts, black spots and mold.
Cutting And Soaking The Broccoli
After you’ve pick your perfect piece of broccoli, you’ll have to wash it and cut it into smaller pieces. There is a chance that part of the stem is quite hard. Typically it is problem with the out-est layer of cellulose and you can keep the inner part which is still soft and tender.
It’s a good idea to soak the veggie with slightly salted water to “push” the bugs and worms out, if any. My mom said the salty water keeps the vegetable feel fresh to touch and helps retain the greenness. 10 minutes of soaking is enough or else some of the nutrients will be drained.
This is very simple, but you have to do it right to create your delicious dish of steamed (or poached) veggie.
First, get your pot and bring the water to boil. Sprinkle in some salt. I would say around 1 teasp.
Then, add some oil. I use olive oil but you can use any vegetable oil you prefer.
The oil helps keep the surface of the broccoli shiny even after the boiling, and the oil can help you achieve a slightly higher boiling point, the importance of which is described below.
You Need Hot Hot HOT Water!
Please wait until you get to the highest boiling point before throwing in the broccoli. This is a very important step to keep the veggie in its green color. Why? I am no scientist, but I would think that the high heat helps to seal in the green color and the corresponding nutrients right under the skin of the broccoli.
In order words, not only it looks better, it should be healthier too.
Then, cover the pot with a lid — it is not necessary, but it takes less time to cook, and by by covering the pot it is easier to estimate the time, as discussed below.
A question: How long should we cook the broccoli?
If you prefer a crispy bite, a minute or two is enough for the boil. The rule of thumb is that once you see the steam leaking out and that you can smell the aroma of fresh veggie, it’s time to take it out. This is one of the reasons why you want to cover the pot with a lid.
If you would like to have it softer (e.g. for young kids) then 2-3 minutes is great.
Note: Please take out and drain the broccoli before it is completely cooked, because it will “cook” itself with the heat even after they are taken out and put on a dish. The vegetable will turn yellowish if you wait until the very end.
Poached Broccoli: Even Young Kids Find It Delicious
My 2-year-old is blowing on the veggie — he can’t wait to have the first bite!
七月 4, 2011 No Comments
Chinese Steamed Fish is a delightful and healthy dish for the whole family. It’s super easy to prepare as well — if you know these golden rules:
Steaming Fish In Chinese Way: 3 Golden Rules
- Pick the freshest fish you can find
- Learn how to retain the natural flavor of the fish
- Remember how to remove the fishy taste and smell
We will go through the steps and talk about the tips along the way.
Steamed Fish Recipe: That’s All You Need!
There is no secret for a perfect steamed fish recipe. Even the soya sauce that tastes so good…? It’s no magic as well. I will tell you how to prepare it at the end of this article.
1 fresh fish
2-3 pieces of ginger
2 pieces of spring onion, shreded
Soya sauce, sugar and water
How To Steam Fish In Chinese Style
First, you’ll need to know how to pick a fish. Two things to keep in mind:
1. The freshness
2. The size
Let’s talk about how to pick a fresh fish. First of all, it has to look fresh!
If you don’t have the luxury of watching the fish caught live from the vendor’s water tank, then you should look for fish with clear eyes, skin that looks shiny and feels firm, and a body that “jerks” occasionally.
In terms of how big a fish you should get for the dinner, if it is for a typical family of four (2 adults and 2 kids) then a catty i.e. 12 oz would be good for a hearty meal with rice, steamed fish and a dish of green vegetable.
Steps Before The Steaming
Your vendor will mostly likely remove the scales for you, but you may want to check the area around the dorsal fin and the pectoral fins to ensure all the scales are removed.
Then, clean the fish with one super quick rinse — the trick is not to wash the fish under running water or the taste of the fish will be washed and lost.
Use a paper towel to gently soak off the extra water from the body of the fish.
Once the fish is properly prepared, place the fish on the plate, and slide in a few pieces of spring onion (chopped to about 5-8 cm long each) so the fish does not stick directly to the plate.
The reason for doing this is to let the steam reach the back side of the fish to ensure thorough cooking.
If spring onion is a scarcity in your area, or you simply want to save up, you can replace the spring onion with the spoon as shown above. That’s what we do at home.
Take out your wok, pour in water and bring it to boil. The water should not touch the plate itself, as we are trying to steam a fish and not boil a fish.
But then, make sure you have enough water for a steaming for 10 minutes. It depends on the shape of the wok, but in general if you pour in around 1-2 inches of water it should be enough.
Once the water is in high boil, put the plate on the steamer, close the lid tightly, turn the timer for 8-10 minutes of cooking, and that’s it!
Keep at high fire throughout the cooking so the fish gets lots of steam for a good and thorough sauna.
Can you be more precise on the cooking time?
I wish I could, but it really depends on the size and the thickness of the fish. For the fish shown above (one catty, with relatively thin shape), 9 minutes is good. But then for a bigger and thicker fish you will need 1-2 minutes more.
If you buy fish from a Chinese wet market, the vendor will tell you the time. But a general rule of thumb is that if your fish is measured one “fish tail” longer than the above, add one minute.
I heard that we should slice the fish on the side?
Not necessary if you can manage the cooking time well. If you are a beginner, I do encourage you put in a few slices because the fish will be more evenly cooked.
Once you have a better feel on the cooking time, I would recommend you skip this step because the flavor of the dish will be drained. Except for reason of gutting, the fish should be kept uncut as much as possible for the same reason.
I don’t have a wok. What can I do?
The one featured above is a classic but modern version of a Chinese wok. While I highly recommend you get one, you can use any pans or pots for steaming as long as it is:
- Big enough to hold the plate
- Deep enough such that the dish does not touch the boiling water
- Has a fitting lid i.e. the steam does not leak out. Otherwise it is very difficult to measure the time.
Perfect time to work on the garnishes!
If the fish is really fresh, these ginger and spring onion are mere decorations (or side dishes, as Chinese loves to eat them). But then if the fish is not as fresh, these two ingredients are your best friends in removing the fishy taste and smell of the dish.
Simply cut the ginger into thick but long pieces, and for the spring onion, you can chop it to about 5 cm long each. There are fancy way to make the “flowery” shape which I will show you in another post.
Some people may insist on include the ginger and spring onion in the steaming. I don’t find it necessary as long as the fish is fresh. Too much spices will in fact overpower the natural flavor of the fish. Also, overcooked spring onions look soggy and don’t taste good.
After The Steaming
Critical step: drain the water on the dish. You might have thought that it is tasty… it’s actually very fishy. Taste if if you don’t believe me!
This is the most important step to remove the fishy taste from any steamed fish.
Now, place the ginger and spring opinion on the fish.
A question: Should I slice the ginger and shred the ginger?
If you shred the ginger (or at least slice it into longer shapes), it helps to release the aroma. I understand that some of you may find the taste of the ginger too strong. If this is you, just use fewer pieces of ginger.
Finally, two ways to finish up:
Put the fish back in the steamer for one more minute so the ginger and spring onion will be slightly cooked. Then, pour in the slightly heated oil and soya sauce.
Pros: my mom-in-law doesn’t like to eat raw spring onion (she got a bad stomach ache once) so that’s how we steam the fish sometimes.
Cons: since the fish is slightly re-steamed, a portion of the meat may become tough.
Heat up the oil with a pan and pour on the fish direct. Then, pour the soya sauce on the pan so the sauce is slightly (but not overly) hot. Pour the soya sauce on the fish.
A couple more steps, but I think this is the better way.
How to make the soya sauce for steamed fish
Very easy — no secret and no magic!
Mix 1 tbsp light soya sauce + 1 tbsp water + 2 teasp sugar and stir. Pour it in a pan that was just heated (for the oil).
Tips: don’t overheat the soya sauce because the taste will be spoiled.
And Here Is One Easy And Healthy Dish Your Family Can Enjoy… All Done In 10 Minutes!
How to retain the natural flavor of the fish
- Minimize the washing. One very quick rinse is good enough
- Don’t slice the fish on the side once you get a knack on the cooking time
- Don’t overuse ginger, spring onion and other spices (unless your fish is not too fresh)
How to remove the fishy taste and smell
- Most important: learn how to pick only the fresh fish!
- Remove the water on the dish after steaming
七月 4, 2011 No Comments