How to make the best Wonton soup by Kwoklyn Wan
Kwoklyn Wan grew up in the kitchens of Chinese takeaways and restaurants with his brother Gok, now a style guru. Kwoklyn’s Chinese Takeaway Cookbook is the holy grail of trade-secret recipes, so you can create your favourite Chinese takeaway and Cantonese restaurant dishes.
If one dish summed up our family's food history, this would be the dish. As a teen, Dad worked in a wonton bar in Sha-Tau-Kok, in the New Territories of Hong Kong, which borders China. This is where Dad first learnt his trade and skill, a skill that would be later passed to me. Won-ton translated literally means 'swallow cloud' because after the wontons have been cooked, the dumplings float in the soup, resembling small clouds.
Prep: 15 minutes.
Cooking: 10 minutes.
For the wontons:
100g (3½oz) minced pork
100g (3½oz) raw king prawns (tiger shrimp), peeled, de-veined and finely chopped
1cm (½in) piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
½ tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tsp rice vinegar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
1-2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch), only if mixture is too wet
24 wonton wrappers
For the soup:
3cm (1¼in) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
800ml (3⅓ cups) chicken stock
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 spring onion (scallion), finely sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
1. First make the wontons. In a large mixing bowl, combine the minced pork, chopped prawns, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper and sesame oil and thoroughly mix all of the ingredients together. The filling should be slightly sticky but if it seems too wet, mix in 1-2 teaspoons of cornflour to thicken it.
2. Crack the egg into a bowl and beat with a fork.
3. Place a wonton wrapper on a chopping board and position it so that it faces you like a diamond. With your fingertips or a spoon, spread a thin layer of the egg wash along the top two edges of the wrapper.
4. Place a quarter of a teaspoon of filling in the centre of the wrapper, fold the bottom tip to the top tip to form a triangle and pinch along the edge of the filling to seal the wonton, squeezing out the air.
5. Wet the tip of one of the long ends of the triangle tips and fold into the centre, then fold the other tip into the centre and join the two together. Repeat until you've filled all the wrappers and used up the filling.
6. Now make the soup. Put all the soup ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to simmer for 5-8 minutes.
7. Fill another large saucepan with water and bring to the boil.
8. Carefully drop the wontons into the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes. Once the wontons float to the surface they should be cooked thoroughly but please check before eating. There should be no pink meat.
9. Divide the wontons between four soup bowls and sprinkle with chopped spring onions and a drizzle of sesame oil. Pour over the soup and serve.
Steamed Bao buns
The history of Chinese steamed buns goes back to the eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-255BC). According to Ming Dynasty scholars, the original name for these buns, 'mantou', meant 'barbarian's head'! These steamed, soft white buns are often served with Chinese tea.
Prep: 1 hour 15 minutes.
Cooking: 9 minutes. Makes 6
20ml (½ cup) warm full-fat milk
10g (¼oz) caster sugar
5g (⅛oz) dried yeast
200g (1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
5g (⅛oz) baking powder (baking soda)
1½ tsp olive oil
For the pork filling: 80g (3oz) Chinese Roast BBQ Pork (see panel left)
½ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp yellow bean sauce
1 tsp Chinese five spice
2-3 tbsp water
Natural red food colouring
½ tbsp vegetable oil
1. Measure the milk in a jug and add the sugar and yeast. Stir and leave to ferment for 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and baking powder, make a well in the centre, then pour in the yeast mixture and mix thoroughly to form a dough. Knead for 5 minutes.
2. Lightly rub ½ teaspoon of olive oil over the surface of the dough and leave in the bowl, covered with a damp cloth or cling film to prove for 30 minutes, until doubled in size.
3. Meanwhile, chop the pork into 5mm (¼in) cubes. Mix the remaining ingredients (except the oil) in a bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the pork for 30 seconds. Add the sauce mixture and stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Tip the filling back into the bowl and leave to cool.
4. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead the air bubbles out of the dough, keeping your work surface dusted with flour.
5. Roll the dough with your hands to form a long sausage shape, then divide into 6 equal pieces. Using your fingers, form each piece into a 7cm (2¾in) flat disc. Add a tablespoon of filling into the centre of each disc and gather up the edges to form a round parcel, twisting the top to form a seal.
6. Place the filled dough balls onto perforated baking parchment in a bamboo steamer with a lid, cover with a damp cloth and leave to prove again for 30 minutes.
7. When you're ready to cook, place the bamboo steamer over a pan of boiling water and steam the buns for 9 minutes. Serve while still hot.
8. Unfilled buns can be made by placing the equally cut pieces of dough directly into a lined steamer and cooking as for the filled bao.
9. Other popular fillings are lotus seed paste and custard & red bean paste - not overly sweet but very moreish!
A mixture of char siu pork, chicken, beef and seafood served with mixed vegetables in a rich, aromatic gravy, this is an American-Chinese recipe founded in Chinatown, San Francisco, by Chinese immigrants who had moved to the USA to work in the mines and on the railways.
Prep: 5 minutes.
Cooking: 7 minutes.
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 onion, diced
40g (1½oz) chicken breast fillet, sliced
1 red (bell) pepper, de-seeded and diced
1 carrot, sliced
40g (½ cup) small broccoli florets
40g (½ cup) sugar snap peas, cut into bite-sized pieces
30g (¼ cup) tinned bamboo shoots
3 baby corn cobs, halved lengthways
40g (¼ cup) tinned water chestnuts, cut into bite-sized slices
8 king prawns (tiger shrimp), shelled and de-veined
40g (1½oz) Chinese Roast BBQ Pork cut into bite-sized slices (see panel below)
40g (1½oz) fillet steak, sliced
1 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
120ml (½ cup) chicken stock
1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 2 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
1. Heat the groundnut oil in a wok over a medium-high heat, add the garlic and onion and fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken and fry for 2 minutes, then add the remainder of the vegetables and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
2. Add the prawns, pork and the beef, stir-fry for a minute and then add the soy sauces, oyster sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and stock. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
3. Stir in the cornflour mixture to thicken the sauce, then remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.
Chinese Roast BBQ pork
In Hong Kong, char siu is usually purchased from a Siu Mei establishment, which specialises in meat dishes - char siu (BBQ pork), soy-sauce chicken, roast goose, crispy belly pork. These shops usually display their merchandise by hanging them in the window and, as a result, char siu is often eaten with one of these other meat dishes in a 'rice box' meal.
Prep: 2 hours.
Marinade: 2+ hours. Cooking: 1 hour. Serves 4
800g (1lb 12oz) pork shoulder or loin
1 tbsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine
2 slices of fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp yellow bean sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
3 tbsp white sugar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp honey, plus 2 tbsp mixed with 2 tbsp hot water for glazing
1. Put the pork into a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients (except the honey-water glaze) and massage the ingredients into the pork.
2. Cover, transfer to the fridge and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
3. The next day, remove the pork from the fridge and allow to come back up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
4. Sit the pork on a baking tray (reserving the marinade separately), cover in foil and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn and baste with marinade, then cook for a further 10 minutes, covered. Check the pork is cooked by inserting a skewer to ensure the juices run clear. Baste the pork with the marinade for a second time and return to the oven to cook, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes. You want the pork to be a deep amber colour and the marinade should be sticky and dry.
5. Remove the pork from the oven and brush with the honey and water mixture to glaze, then flash under the grill for 2-3 minutes or until the edges have scorched. Leave the pork to cool to room temperature, then slice and serve.
Extracted from The Chinese Takeaway Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan (Quadrille £15) Photography: Sam Folan