The Northern Chinese named meat-filled dumplings 'hun dun', after historic Hun invaders, so they could symbolically consume their enemy. There are regional differences in wontons served throughout China but the most familiar is perhaps the Cantonese version, served with soup and often noodles.
Step 1: Skins
The skins should be thin and near-translucent. To do this, rest the dough several times during the kneading process so the gluten can relax, making it more pliable. Dust your surface and dough with cornstarch instead of flour, as extra flour will make the skins tough.
Step 2: Filling
The traditional Cantonese filling of pork and prawn should be tight and springy. To achieve this, the pork should be hand diced rather than minced, and use a fatty cut, such as pork belly. The meat then needs to be mixed sufficiently — I use a mixer, adding dry seasonings first and oil last. It should become sticky to the touch.
Step 3: Shaping
There are many ways to shape, such as folding the wrapper diagonally into a triangle, then crossing the two bottom corners; or folding diagonally and pleating to seal. Expel any air by pinching the wrapper as close to the filling as possible, giving the final pleat a tight squeeze, so the filling almost stretches the skin.
Step 4: Cooking
Cook in gently boiling water. As the skins are so thin, too rapid a boil can cause them to overcook before the filling is done. If cooking frozen wontons, bring to the boil, then add an espresso cup’s worth of cold water to the pan. Repeat this step twice more.
Step 5: Serving
Cantonese wontons are served in a soup made with pork bones. This takes time, so chicken stock with white pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil is an alternative. If you’re time stretched, swap soup for a dressing of vinegar and chilli oil. A garnish of chopped spring onions is essential.
Amy Poon is co-owner of Poon's sauces and Poon's Wontoneria.
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