Chilled Wontons with Peanut-Vinegar Sauce
by Molly Chen
350g grounded pork,
1 bunch shanghainese greens (bok choy’s fine), 1 large egg,
2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 2 teaspoons salt,
2 teaspoons sugar,
1 garlic clove,
4 slices of ginger,
3 stalks of green onions
(~ 2 packs)
1/2 cup peanut butter or sesame sauce,
1/4 cup Ching Kiang vinegar, 1 tablespoon chili oil,
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
Chilled wontons are what we eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in 30-degree summers in Shanghai. The wonton wrappers are extra smoother after being chilled in cold water, and with a peanuty-tangy sauce, it brings back all the appetite.
As I stood in front of the veggie aisle in SeeWoo at Chinatown, I recalled the traditional greens used in the filing is a type called Ji Cai (荠菜). It’s not the most used greens so I wasn’t even sure what it looks like. It does have a particular herby and bitter taste though as I recalled. I naively hoped that it was in front of me somewhere so I googled - no, it’s a green that grows in the wild, on the side of
streets, and yes, I used to pick them in parks with my mom when I was little. Isn’t it so precious? A wild green still being used as a main ingredient in a time of abundance and all things organic. A habit that certainly grew out of the famine years in the 1900s, which was also a time when people were brought back to the purest relationship with the nature - not to think of what we can grow out of it, but to appreciate everything that the nature gives. The history has passed, but in the form of Ji Cai, we acknowledge and thank for the nature for what they are, and are always reminded of our position.
(1) Make ‘spice water’: Smash 1 garlic clove, thinly slice 4 pieces of ginger, chop the green parts of the green onions. Combine them in a small bowl, pour 2 cups hot water, stir slightly, set aside, let the smell emerge and infuse into the water.
(2) Make the filling:
• Place the grounded pork in a bowl, add oyster sauce, white pepper, salt, and sugar, mix well with a fork.
• Add a large egg, mix well again.
• Add the ‘spice water’, 2 tablespoons each time and mix well before you add again. Add in total of approximately 10 tablespoons.
• Finely chop the greens. Squeeze the water out of chopped greens by hands. Use 0.8:1 greens to pork portion. Mix well.
(3) Wrap the wontons: see instructions next page.
(4) Boil a pot of water. Add wontons in when it’s actually boiled. Be patient so that you wontons don’t stick to the bottom of pot!
(5) Prepare a pot of cold water. Transfer the cooked wontons into this pot and let them sit for ~3 minutes until they are lukewarm. Get the wontons out and drain with a colander if available.
(6) While waiting for the wontons to be ready, make the sauce:
• Place peanut butter or sesame sauce into a medium bowl, add 2 tablespoons vinegar each time, stir hard, mix well. The peanut butter or sesame sauce should absorb the liquid but also get looser.
• Add chill oil and sesame oil in a similar way.
• When all sauced stirred in, add 1/4 cup water into the mix. Mix evenly. The texture should be drippable but not watery.
(7) Assemble: either drip a heavy layer of sauce on top of wontons or place a layer at the bottom of wontons. Do latter if you want to taste more of the wonton filings.