Has this ever happened to you? You get your Chinese takeout home, open up all the packages, lay out the egg rolls and hot mustard and duck sauce, spread out the lo mein and Hunan pork and garlic shrimp and Happy Family special – and then you start with the wonton soup. And the broth has gotten a bit cool. And you wrestle that first wonton onto your spoon and try to bite into it and it is tough. Slippery. Doughy. You either end up with a bite of very al dente noodle or perhaps some chilly ground pork. Not delicious at all!
Yes, as you have probably surmised, this has happened to me.
Point #2. Who likes dumplings? Heck, who doesn’t like dumplings??? Nobody I know. We love dumplings! Steamed, pan-fried, dipped in that slightly sweet cloying sauce or just slurped down. Even my vegetarian friends love dumplings and the meat-free versions are dee-lish.
So one night, disappointed yet again by my wanton love of wontons from my subpar neighborhood Wonton-ery, I hit upon a brainstorm. Why not doctor them up? So I dumped the whole plastic container of soup through a strainer, reserved the broth, threw the porky dough-balls into a stick-free frying pan and fired the whole mess up. Lo and behold, my wonton soup morphed into the most fabulous plate of fried dumplings! And then I had another revelation.
Why does a large wonton soup cost about four bucks, while the pan-fried dumpling appetizer sets you back $7.95 and more? Economy is the mother of invention and I realized I had something. Not only have I mastered the art of the repurposed wonton, but there is more good news. That leftover soup goes right into the freezer and the collateral cubes make for excellent enhancers to every kind of sauce and gravy you can imagine.
Dumpling houses have sprung up across America like specialty funghi in damp woods, but my answer to the common wonton has filled my cabinet with chili products and my insatiable appetite for All Foods Chinese with a warm culinary glow.
Pan Fried Dumplings
• One large container of your neighborhood Chinese wonton soup
• A green onion or two
• A couple of tbsp of Canola or vegetable oil
• Soy sauce to taste
• Chili garlic sauce
• Chili oil
–Dump the whole container through a large strainer, making sure to reserve the broth in a bowl placed beneath it
–Heat oil in a large stick-free frying pan
–Chop scallion into tasty little thin rounds and stir fry briefly (keep them green and crunchy, not too soft)
–Add the wontons and fry them up until just a little browned on each side (if they start to stick, add a bit of the reserved broth and boil it down. It bolsters the flavor)
–Right at the end, stir in chili garlic paste or soy sauce to taste
–Plate your dumplings née wontons into a wide pretty bowl
–Feel free to give them a chili oil bath if you dare. A few shakes makes the dish look very pretty and gives you a zingy new dish
TIP: You can add the broth to a sauce pan and reduce it under medium heat for maybe 3 minutes? That ramps up the flavor for later use. Let it cool and into the freezer it goes!