It’s hard not to love crab rangoon. They’re a Chinese American comfort food that you can make easily at home with just a few ingredients. They have a unique and exciting history that speaks to the American immigrant experience and combines delicious flavors and textures for an appetizer that just can’t be beat.
Whether you’re an expert at crafting home-cooked Chinese dishes or just getting started, crab rangoon is a dish you’re not going to want to skip. Here at Fly By Jing, we want to bring you both the ingredients and the recipes that make it easy to craft your favorite Chinese flavors right at home.
We provide classic flavors and unique approaches to familiar dishes, from sweet potato dumplings to vegan mapo tofu, for a personal and beloved meal for celebrations with friends and family or cozy nights at home.
What Are Crab Rangoon?
One of the reasons Chinese food is excellent for a vegan diet is because it doesn’t contain a lot of dairy. If the cream cheese in crab rangoon stands out as unique, that’s because it is. Crab rangoon is associated with Chinese take-out and may have its origins in unique Asian cuisines, but it’s largely considered an American invention.
They feature cream cheese, imitation crab meat, scallions, and your other favorite flavors. All of that is wrapped up in a wonton wrapper and then shaped in a unique star, purse, or flower shape. Crab rangoon can be fried or baked and served hot or cold. You can serve them with any sweet or savory dipping sauces, as well.
History of Crab Rangoon
The history of crab rangoon speaks to the global evolution of food and culture. The word “rangoon” is actually another name for the city of Yangon, the capital city of the Yangon region and the largest city of Myanmar, formerly Burma, though there’s little to indicate that the crab rangoon is Burmese in origin.
The crab rangoon, like many Chinese American dishes, represents the Chinese American immigrant experience. Restaurant ownership was one of the available emigration options for many Chinese immigrants looking to enter the United States, and so a wide culture of Chinese cuisine with American influence was born. Certain ingredients were more and less available in the United States, like sugar, meat, and oil, which led to the creation of entirely new dishes and flavor combinations.
While crab rangoon is not Chinese in origin, it does have influences from another unexpected place—Polynesia. After World War II, returning soldiers brought back an interest in tiki and Polynesia culture, though this was largely a caricature, rooted in exoticization, and is widely considered racist by today’s standard.
The owner of a chain of tiki bars called Trader Vic, a man named Victor Bergeron, opened a shop in California and began experimenting with South Pacific-themed foods and drinks. He is considered one potential inventor of the mai tai cocktail, but many of the foods he created eventually became Chinese American dishes, though they were rooted in Polynesian or Hawaiian origin.
At the time, cream cheese was showing up in many American dishes, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for Bergeron to incorporate the ingredient into his dish. The story indicates that he named the dish as he ran his business, as a sort of a hybrid name that spoke to distant shores that still sounded suitably American in its pronunciation.
While its origins are inauspicious, the crab rangoon has become a staple of American Chinese dining, and it’s not hard to see why. They perfectly blend sweet and savory flavors, can be adapted with spicy or sweet dipping sauces, and are easy to make at home. Here are a few of our favorite approaches to crab rangoon.
Ingredients in Crab Rangoon
There are a few key ingredients you’ll find in any variation of crab rangoon. Unlike most Chinese food dishes, it includes dairy and combines cheese and seafood, which is largely unseen in most Chinese cuisine. The type of ingredients you use in your crab rangoon are essential to getting that perfect flavor and texture combination.
You can make crab rangoon with fresh crab meat, but you’ll find most recipes call for imitation crab meat or canned crab meat. That’s because crab is a delicate flavor, and the taste is often overpowered when mixed with the cream cheese and other ingredients or during the frying process. Experiment with your favorite crab ingredients to see which works best for you, or swap out the crab for imitation to make the dish vegetarian.
There are many different types of wonton wrappers, but you’ll want to find the option best for frying. You’ll want to have a little water or egg on hand in order to seal the wrapper efficiently. To maintain wonton shape during frying, consider freezing your filled rangoon before cooking. Play around with your different folding options and find the best wonton that fits your cooking needs.
Garlic, Onions, and Sauces
There are a few classic Chinese flavors in crab rangoon, even though it’s not truly Chinese in origin. You’ll still want to use a few pantry staples, including soy sauce and green onions. You’ll also want to have sauces and oils on hand to make your favorite dip, like a sweet and sour or soy-ginger dipping sauce.
Crab Rangoon Recipe
Once you have all of your ingredients organized, the crab rangoon recipe is pretty easy to follow.
Step One: Mix all of your ingredients together.
Step Two: Lay out your wonton wrapper and wet the edges with your water or egg, depending on how you want to fold your wonton.
Step Three: Add your filling to the wonton, taking care not to over-fill.
Step Four: Fold your wonton in a purse, flower, or star shape, taking care to remove any air bubbles. Keep your filled wontons under a damp paper towel while you’re finishing filling to prevent drying out.
Step Five: Fill your wok with enough oil for frying and deep fry until golden, turning once over the course of three minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to help drain the oil and place on a paper towel to blot. Make sure not to put too many wontons into the fryer at once.
You can also make crab rangoon without the deep fry. Try baking or air frying your crab rangoon for a healthier alternative that still provides that delicious crunch.
Step Six: Serve your crab rangoon with your favorite sauce.
What Sauce Goes Well With Crab Rangoon?
Crab rangoon isn’t just delicious all on its own. They’re also great for dipping! Here are a few of our favorite sauces.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
Crab rangoon is a sweet dish, and that’s why they go so well with a balanced sweet and sour sauce. We recommend one with ingredients like chili flakes, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and a little bit of ketchup. We also recommend using pineapple juice or even pineapple chunks.
Chinese Hot Mustard
A Chinese hot mustard sauce is super versatile and easy to make. The base is just a little bit of water and dry mustard powder, but you can adapt and change the flavor by adding chili, sugar, or your own favorite ingredients.
Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce
All your favorite Chinese flavors go into a soy-ginger dipping sauce, including soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil. You’ll also have a touch of brown sugar, onion, and garlic, for a sweet and delicious dipping sauce that goes great with crab rangoon and all of your favorite Chinese food dishes.
Apricot Mustard Sauce
You can make an easy apricot mustard sauce that also balances with delicious, sweet flavors for your crab rangoon. All you’ll need is apricot preserves, chili flakes, and mustard, adjusting for how hot you want your sauce to be.
There’s nothing quite as delicious or fun as a crab rangoon. They’re perfect for appetizers, main dishes, or even a dessert with the right dipping sauce, and you can adjust them to fit all of your favorite flavor profiles with ease. Make them for your next celebration with friends or for a movie night at home, and pair them with unique dipping sauces.
Here at Fly By Jing, we want to make it easy and fun to create all your favorite dishes. That’s why we’re sharing spices, oils, and great recipes for everything from mapo tofu to scallion pancakes. Chinese food is always evolving and changing, and crab rangoon are a great dish to test out and make all your own.