During hot weather, however, a better way to enjoy wontons is to serve them cold without the broth. In fact, cold wontons (冷馄饨) , together with cold noodles (冷面) which I introduced before, are among the most popular summer dishes in Shanghai, my hometown. Every household makes them, every noodle shop serves them. Even high-end restaurants add them to their summer specials, or risk losing customers.
When it’s hot out there, who wouldn’t want a plate of refreshing cold wontons coated with an aromatic sauce?
The most important step of preparing cold wontons after boiling them is to drain well and spread them out on a large plate to cool down. I like to use a fan to help with the cooling process. Once they are cool enough, you can further chill them briefly in the refrigerator before serving with a sauce, typically made with sesame or peanut paste, vinegar, and flavored oil, to add layers of flavor and aroma to the dish.
You can make the wontons with any fillings you like. One of my previous posts (click here) shows you how to make a meat and vegetable filling and how to wrap wontons in a typical Shanghainese way.
My recipe below introduces a vegetarian filling using tofu, bok choy and dried mushrooms. You will also find a different way of wrapping wontons (the way they do it in Sichuan): by first folding the wrapper into a triangular shape, followed by bringing the two ends of the triangle to overlap each other, resembling a person with “folded arms”, or “Chao Shou” in Mandarin.
Shanghai-style cold wontons
Makes 24 wontons
24 Shanghai-style white wonton wrappers
1 scallion, thinly sliced
4 oz (115 g) pressed tofu, cut into 1/6-inch (4 mm) dices
6 oz (170 g) bok choy
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz (60 g) dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
1 large egg
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce, regular or vegetarian version
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon sesame paste
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Zhenjiang (aka Chinkiang) vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil or chile oil
- Roughly chop the bok choy and mix them with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a colander. Let stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze the bok choy to remove the liquid, finely chop, and squeeze again.
- Squeeze water out of the soaked shiitake mushrooms and remove tough stems if any (they are great for making stocks). Cut the mushrooms into small dices. In a large bowl, mix well the bok choy and mushrooms with the rest of the ingredients for the filling, and let stand for 10 minutes for the flavors to blend. Cook ½ tablespoon of the filling in the microwave to taste the seasoning and adjust as needed.
- On a work surface, lay out a wonton wrapper with one corner pointing at you, as shown in the picture. Place ½ tablespoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Moisten the two edges closer to you with water. Fold down the top corner to overlap the bottom one. Press to seal the edges.
- Moisten the right corner with water. Holding the wonton in your hands, slightly lift the center while bringing the two corners around to overlap, right corner underneath. Press to seal. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
- Cook the wontons in boiling water until they stay afloat and fully cooked, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the wontons from the water and drain well; spread them out on a large plate to cool down. Use a fan to expedite the cooling process.
- To make the sauce: in a bowl, mix the sesame paste with the water. Add the other ingredients for the sauce and mix well. A small whisk does a great job.
- Briefly chill the cooled wontons in the refrigerator for 10 minutes right before serving. Drizzle the sauce on top, garnish with the scallion, and enjoy!
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