Does your family have any recipes that you’ve been making forEVer? They’re the best, aren’t they? It seems like a lot of those recipes are often connected to a family’s heritage, like a great Italian gnocci recipe or a Swedish Christmas dessert.
One of the recipes passed down from my mom to my husband to my kids is a recipe for Wonton soup, which begs the question as to WHY since we’re not Chinese.
Well, my mom and dad met in San Francisco where there is a very large Chinese population and the most authentic Chinatown outside of China. While living in San Francisco, my mom had a friend who taught her how to make this soup, and I’ve always been so glad because our family loved (and still loves) wontons! As kids they were like special occasion food and we didn’t know anybody else who made them. It also seemed as if no Chinese restaurant ever made a wonton soup that was as good as ours.
As an adult I briefly worked south of San Francisco in a city called Menlo Park and sometimes bought my lunch from a nearby grocery store’s deli. There was a very tall, very skinny, very quiet Chinese man behind the counter who, on request, made what, by all counts, seemed to be my mom’s wonton soup.
I was in love.
With the soup–not the deli guy.
Many good relationships end, as did mine with the deli soup because I moved away, but my family still makes wontons and wonton soup. We’ve subsequently altered the recipe of the soup base to make it lighter and added more veggies to the wontons to lighten them up in flavor and texture.
Chinese New Year is an important traditional festival and celebration for families. This year is the Year of the Monkey, and since my husband was born in a Year of the Monkey, it’s a good reason to make wonton soup.
You can use ground chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, or even a meat substitute in your wontons. We once made vegetarian wontons with a meat substitute which is when we decided adding grated cabbage to the mix would improve the texture and flavor whether using real meat or making a vegetarian version.
My husband and kids can make this recipe from memory and tweak it as they see fit as they go, but this version is pretty stripped down. People use many different flavors in their wontons like sesame or chili oil or rice vinegar. Other people use egg instead of cornstarch. In the soup people use anything from water chestnuts to basil (we used it this time but weren’t in love with it like we once were) to spinach, tofu, carrots, mushrooms, miso paste, and sugar snap peas! We’ve tried all these tasty ingredients at one time or another. Once you’ve made the recipe a couple of times, you’ll know what you like best. You can also buy a wonton soup base instead of making it and it’s not too bad, so you’ve got lots of options.
If you don’t know how to fold wontons, there are lots of posts and tutorials to teach you how. My family folds two ways–the right way and the wrong way–but, in the end, they taste the same. Remember to use water to help seal the wrappers closed.
We also always make fried wontons and dip them in sweet and sour sauce. Hopefully you will enjoy this wonton recipe as much as we do!