Wonton wrappers are wonderful things.
Though mostly associated with Asian cuisines, wonton wrappers are versatile enough to go global. And talk about amiable. Bend them to your will for appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts.
At their most basic, they are simply stretchy sheets formed from eggs, flour and water. But depending on how they are cooked (fried, baked or boiled) and what they are paired with (savory or sweet ingredients), they could be served every day of the week as something different in both taste and shape.
You'll find wonton wrappers in the produce section of most grocery stores, usually near the tofu and vegetarian cheeses. Most commonly, they are about 3 inches square and come in packs of plenty. Egg roll wrappers, about 6 inches square, are nearby. Don't confuse either with rice paper wrappers, which can't be used in exactly the same way.
Wonton wrappers are meant to be filled, but they can also be used as the sturdy foundation for other dishes. For example:
• Coat muffin tins (mini or regular) with nonstick spray and push one wrapper into each cup, leaving a fluted opening. Give the wrappers a spritz, too. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. The cooked cups can be filled with crab or chicken salad, pudding or lemon curd garnished with whipped cream, or smoked salmon topped with creme fraiche and fresh dill (shown in the photo on the cover of this section). For a party, make the cups a day before, let cool and store in a sealed plastic bag.
• Fry skins in an inch of oil and use the crispy sheets as the building blocks for single-serving nachos, first-course stacked crab salads or sweet napoleons studded with raspberries and swirled with chocolate sauce (see recipe). Cut the wrappers into strips before frying and use in salads like croutons or float in creamy soups. Once the oil is hot, it will take less than 20 seconds for the wontons to turn golden. (Flip halfway through.) Be warned, they overcook in a flash. Plan on ruining a couple before you get the hang of it. Fry them in batches, about 3 to 4 at a time.
• Make pockets — call them raviolis if you'd like — with savory or sweet fillings. Put canned pie filling between two sheets, fry and dust with confectioners' sugar. Make more traditional raviolis and simmer in water before saucing. Raviolis made with wontons will be lighter than those made from traditional pasta sheets. Pumpkin Ravioli With Peppered Gorgonzola Sauce (see recipe) is a lovely first course for an autumn dinner. Fashion circles from wonton squares with a glass or cookie or biscuit cutter.
• One of my favorite dishes using wonton wrappers is baked Filipino lumpia (see recipe). These gingery pork egg rolls, studded with grated carrots and chopped water chestnuts, take some time to make, but I think they are worth the effort for a party. Baking lessens the fat content but makes the lumpia less crispy.
Baked lumpia can be frozen after completely cooled if you want to make them ahead. To reheat, thaw and bake at 450 degrees for about 10 mintues. A sweet dipping sauce is the perfect accompaniment.
And there's nothing wrong with cooking it old-school and using the wrappers to make homemade wonton soup. If you're feeling poorly, it's every bit as good as chicken noodle soup. And just as easy to make.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8586.
Baked Lumpia Rolls (pictured)
3/4 pound lean pork, ground
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (8-ounce) can bamboo shoots, drained and minced
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and minced
8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
About 30 egg roll wrappers
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
In a large bowl, combine pork, carrot, onion, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, garlic, soy sauce and pepper. (If made ahead, cover and chill up to overnight.) Except for the one you are working with, keep wrappers covered with plastic wrap or clean dish towel to prevent drying.
For large, square egg roll wrappers, mound 2 tablespoons of filling in an even band across the edge closest to you, starting 2 inches in and leaving a 3/4-inch margin on each side. Fold the 2-inch flap over the filling; tuck under to secure. Roll over once, then fold in ends.
Brush edge of wrapper opposite you with beaten egg. Continue rolling to make a cylinder. Set lumpia, seam side down, in a 10- by 15-inch baking pan lightly coated with vegetable spray or covered with parchment paper; cover with plastic wrap until ready to bake. Repeat to use all the filling; place lumpia slightly apart on pan. You may need to bake in two batches.
Bake rolls in preheated 450-degree oven, turning once or twice, until golden brown, about 20 minutes. If made ahead, let uncut lumpia cool; cover and chill up to three days, or freeze up to four weeks. To reheat, thaw if frozen and bake on baking pans in a 450-degree oven until hot, about 10 minutes. Turn rolls to keep color even.
To make dipping sauce, mix brown sugar, white vinegar and soy sauce in a saucepan. Stir over high heat until sugar dissolves. Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water; add to sugar mixture and stir until sauce boils. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger. Makes 2/3 cup.
Accompany hot lumpia with dipping sauce. Makes about 60 pieces.
Source: Sunset magazine recipe annual, 1988
Pumpkin Ravioli With Peppered
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
30 round wonton wrappers
1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the sauce:
1 cup fat-free milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted
Spoon pumpkin onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels, and spread to 1/2-inch thickness. Cover with additional paper towels; let stand 5 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl using a rubber spatula. Stir in bread crumbs, Parmesan, salt, minced rosemary and pepper.
Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to keep from drying), spoon 2 teaspoons pumpkin mixture into the center of wrapper. Brush edges of wrapper with water and fold in half, pressing edges firmly with fingers to form a half-moon. Place on a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch. Repeat procedure with remaining wonton wrappers and pumpkin mixture.
Fill a large Dutch oven with water; bring to a simmer. Add half of ravioli to pan (cover remaining ravioli with a damp towel to keep from drying). Cook 4 minutes or until done (do not boil), stirring gently. Remove ravioli with a slotted spoon; lightly coat with cooking spray, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining ravioli.
Combine milk and flour in a saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter, stirring until butter melts. Gently stir in Gorgonzola.
Place 5 ravioli in each of 6 shallow bowls, and drizzle each serving with 3 tablespoons Gorgonzola mixture. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons pecans. Serve immediately.
Nutritional information per serving: 250 calories, 9g fat (5g saturated), 33g carbohydrates, 10g protein, 3g fiber, 636mg sodium.
Cooking Light, November 2007
Wonton Napoleons With Chocolate
and Raspberry Sauce
8 wonton wrappers
Oil for frying
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, divided use
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups frozen red raspberries
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Fresh raspberries for garnish
Using a deep skillet, fry 3 to 4 wonton wrappers at a time in hot oil until wrappers bubble and are lightly golden, about 15 or 20 seconds a side. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Add 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, sour cream and vanilla. Blend well. Chill until ready to use.
In a saucepan, combine raspberries, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Stir well. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring to break apart raspberries until mixture is smooth. Reduce heat and continue to cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool.
To assemble napoleons: Squeeze a few lines of chocolate syrup on top of a wonton, add 1/4 cup cream cheese mixture, drizzle with raspberry sauce, top with another wonton and finish with more lines of chocolate and whipped topping. Drizzle with raspberry sauce and garnish with berries if desired. Repeat until all are completed.
Source: Adapted by Janet K. Keeler, St. Petersburg Times
Shrimp Wonton Soup
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped water chestnuts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cans (4.5 ounces each) shrimp, drained and chopped
40 wonton wrappers
8 cups chicken broth
2 to 3 cups baby spinach leaves, cut in ribbons
1 cup freshly sliced mushrooms
Sliced green onions for garnish (optional)
To make filling, combine egg, onion, water chestnuts, soy sauce, ginger root, sugar, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add chopped shrimp; mix well.
To assemble the wontons, place a rounded teaspoon of the filling in the center of the skin and fold to make a triangle. Moisten the edges with a bit of water to seal. Place on a tray covered with a clean dish towel until ready to use.
In large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to boil. Drop the wontons, one at a time, into boiling water. Simmer uncovered about 3 minutes.
While water is coming to a boil, prepare broth in a second saucepan. Bring chicken broth to boil. Add spinach and mushrooms and let cook about 4 to 5 minutes. As wontons are done, transfer them to the soup. Stir in green onions.
Serves 4 to 5.
Source: Janet K. Keeler,
St. Petersburg Times
Here are a few tips on working with wonton or egg roll wrappers:
• Do not let them dry out or they will become brittle. Keep a damp cloth over the open package while you're working with a single wrapper. Work quickly.
• As you make a roll or pouch, put on a baking sheet and cover. Freeze uncooked, filled wontons in a single layer dusted with cornstarch to keep from sticking. Thaw for about an hour in the refrigerator before cooking.
• It's important to get a good seal on the wrapper so that the yummy insides stay inside. All you need to do is run a wet finger around the edges then press the wrapper together. Beaten egg works well too.
• Don't be afraid to play with your food. Triangles and rolls are easy, but beggar's purses and other shapes are fun, too. Trial and error is expected before perfection.
Janet K. Keeler