Cooking with Kids: Wonton Mein Noodle Soup

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My best mommy friend and I were talking about our fond memories making wontons and dumplings with our parents as children and suddenly realized, our kids only memories of these delicious treats are from the local restaurants we order from. They have no memory of the time spent around the table, mass producing these morsels of joy, unknowingly connecting us to every other household that makes dumplings at home. We decided we were going to start getting together to make traditional, albeit labor intensive, traditional foods so that the kids would have a connection from our tables to their grandparents' tables to their greatparents' tables. Because let's be honest, food is the gateway to culture, ya'll. 

And it's Lunar New Year, prime dumpling making time. (Checks one more tradition off the list.)

This was my first time making it in my own home without the help of my genius-in-the-kitchen mother. I wanted to do this super traditionally, made the broth from pork bones, dried fish and shrimp, and shrimp heads and shells. I bought whole head on shrimp that I had to peel and de-vein. I twice boiled and washed the pork bones for a clear broth. This was a two day affair and totally unnecessary. The recipe below will be full of modern day shortcuts for the average American household, that unlike the multi-generational Chinese household with the multiple hands to help and well distributed division of labor, can accomplish in one evening. 



What was totally necessary was having BB and his friends help make these for the experience. Not all kids are going to take to the time intensive nature of folding these. I happen to be a very lucky mommy with a big boy who loves to help and has a penchant for cooking. He made 4 or so before he went back to playing with his friends. The best part was when he ate his fill of wontons, declared them his favorite food and beamed proudly when I thanked him for helping make dinner. This has invigorated my need to spend more time in the kitchen at home and less time in restaurants. I have big plans of guiding my kids through a sense of confidence and cultural identity through their stomachs. 

A note on folding. We picked wontons as our first dumpling attempt because when boiled, wontons are ugly and imperfect. There's no stressing over the perfect creases or folds. In fact, the way the wonton is folded is generally up to how the maker enjoys the skin. Personally, I like a gathered tail that is creased just enough to get a good bite on the flap. Some like a delicate flat fold, preferring other folds with less creasing. 

For the kids, we had them sit in front of plates, allowed them to remove one wrapper from the package each and gave them spoons to scoop a little bit of filling onto the wrapper. We showed them how to trace the edgings with wet fingertips and fold the wrapper from a square to a triangle and then trace the edges again with wet fingertips.  Then they pinched and creased the best they could and their wontons were added to the growing platter of ready to boil dumplings.


I decided that painstakingly making broth is unnecessary. Chicken broth simmered, with some pork bones, onions and dried shrimp and seasoned to taste, for however long it takes to make the wontons would likely have been acceptable. Without the need for shrimp peels, shelled and deveined shrimp would have been just fine as well. 



Ingredients


For wontons:
  • 1 package wonton wrapped (approximately 60 count)
  • 1/2 pound shelled and deveined shrimp, chopped and washed with salt and baking soda
  • 1 pound ground pork (20% fat)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
For broth:
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 lb pork neck bones, boiled and rinsed to remove scum
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 tablespoons dried shrimp 
Accompaniments:
  • 1 package thin Hong Kong style egg noodles
  • 2 heads baby bokchoy, quartered
  • Chopped green onion for garnish
  • White pepper to taste
  • Chili oil to taste (optional)

Directions 

  1. Bring chicken broth, pork neck bones, medium onion and dried shrimp to boil and reduce to a simmer. 
  2. Mix pork, shrimp, soy sauce, sesame oil, shallots, chives, fish sauce and white pepper. 
  3. Fold pork mixture into wonton wrappers using preferred method. Fold until running out of filling or out of wrappers. 
  4. Bring a stockpot full of water to boil while forming the wontons.
  5. Divide the egg noodles and bokchoy by bowl and boil egg noodles and place into serving bowls. 
  6. Boil a dozen wontons at a time, removing from the water when they rise to the top. Place around 6-8 wontons in each bowl. 
  7. Remove the pork neck bones and onion from the broth. Pour ladles of hot broth into the wonton noodle bowls until noodles and wontons are submerged. 
  8. Garnish with chopped green onion and white pepper. And chili oil if desired.
  9. Watch the kids devour the dumplings. 


Freeze any leftover wontons well spaced on a cookie sheet before placing them in a storage bag. 


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3 comments:

  1. This is fantastic!

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