Like many of the dishes traditionally associated with Chinese cuisine, the wonton has evolved and changed over the years, with regional, cultural, and generational influences that have allowed for many unique recipes and flavors to develop. Wontons are an easy and delicious dish to try at home, and you have many unique options when it comes to the ingredients you use, the process you follow, and all the flavors you love.
Here at Fly By Jing, we make it simple to find the spices and cooking oils that match your flavor palate and help you to make dishes for parties and family dinners alike.
What Are Wontons?
While wontons bear a resemblance to other wrapped Chinese dishes, like dumplings and potstickers, they have their own special characteristics to watch for. Wontons are made with a much thinner wrapper than you’ll find on a dumpling. When cooked properly, this wrapper may become translucent, allowing you to see the bright colors of vegetables and fillings within.
Whereas potstickers and dumplings are served on their own, wontons are served in broth, along with wonton noodles and green onions or other garnishes. In Cantonese, the word roughly translates to “cloud” in reference to the way the wonton floats in the broth.
Classically, wontons have shrimp fillings, but you can make them with your favorite type of proteins or enjoy a vegetable filling with fresh or bold flavors. Either way, they are sure to warm on even the coolest nights.
When you create your wonton soup at home, note the order of presentation. It’s more than just for stylish effect. Wonton soup should be assembled as follows: spoon, wontons, garnishes, noodles, broth. The noodles are cooked al dente, and the broth is added just before serving to prevent the noodles from becoming soggy or breaking apart.
The History of Wontons
The history of wontons is enduring and ever-evolving, and this iconic comfort dish has become something truly unique and accessible to many home cooks and diners over the generations. Each region of China and every family has placed its own unique flavor or cooking process on the wonton dish, which means you have many excellent recipes to pick from when it comes to finding the wonton flavors you like most.
Wontons date back hundreds of years and were originally enjoyed by the upper-class families of China. When the economy began to improve in the 20th century, following World War II, wonton dishes became a widespread option for many families and were soon available in markets and local shops.
Wontons are also largely associated with the Chinese American immigrant experience and have taken new forms as part of Chinese American and Asian fusion meals. From that came dishes like Crab Rangoon and other wonton-like tarts. Wontons can be made with many fillings, and with such a wide history of flavors to pick from, there are many ways to begin cooking wontons at home with ease.
There are so many unique and lovely ways to fold wontons, and the method you use depends on the recipe and preparation method you follow and how quickly you’re looking to put dinner on the table. There are simple folding techniques and extremely intricate ones. Getting starting is easy, and you’ll soon find a method you love and return to often. Here are some of the ones you’ll want to try out first.
If you’re just beginning your journey to making Chinese food at home, then start with a simple fold like the scrunch. With the scrunch method, you will use a thin egg wrapper and add a spoonful of your filling. With the wrapper held loosely in your hand like a small pouch, gently squeeze the edges of the wonton together until it is sealed.
As the name indicates, the bonnet fold shapes your wonton into a small hat design. While a little more precise than the scrunch fold method, it’s still relatively straight-forward and easy to manage.
Begin by putting your filling in the middle of the wrapper and then folding the wrapper over into a half-rectangle, making sure to seal the edges with water. Bring the two edges of the folded side of the wonton together and seal them with another dab of water. It should look like a classic bonnet with a fabric overhang.
The envelope method is very simple and looks clean and beautiful every time. While it is not a traditional style of wonton wrapping, it does keep your fillings in place and is an easy folding method to test as you begin learning how to cook Chinese dishes at home.
To start, place your filling in the middle of your wrapper and then fold the wrapper closed in a triangle shape. Take care to remove the air as you close it and seal the edges with water. You could stop here, with a samosa style wonton, or fold the corner in horizontally to create an envelope shape. Seal with water.
For the diamond shape folding technique, you’ll want to blend the bonnet with the envelope. Begin by putting your filling on the wrapper. Instead of folding into a rectangle, fold the wrapper over the filling in a triangle shape. Then, as with the bonnet fold, bring the two corners together and seal with a dab of water.
Folding Method Tips
Getting the perfect wonton fold takes time and patience, so don’t worry if you don’t get it the first time around. Here are some tips for learning how to fold your own great Chinese wontons right at home.
Keep the Wrappers Moist
If the wrappers get too dry, they harden and become difficult to shape. It’s easy to keep this from happening by draping a damp paper towel over the wrappers while you work. This will ensure you don’t have to rush through the folding process.
Remember the Recipe
Different wonton recipes call for different folding techniques. Certain methods of wonton preparation are more intense or gentle than others, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re preparing wontons that can withstand high heat, frying, or boiling. Each recipe calls for its best folding method.
Invite Your Friends and Family
Folding wontons can take time, so why not learn alongside loved ones? Every culture has stories of family and community surrounding food, and when you bring your friends and family together to create a new and delicious recipe in your kitchen, you can create customs of your own. Practice making wontons and share a delicious meal together.
When you’re ready to begin making your next batch of wontons at home, you have many excellent flavors to pick from. Here are just a few recipes and fillings to try out first.
Shrimp wontons are a well-loved dish for a reason. They can be steamed, fried, or baked, and you can add pork to the shrimp filling for a little extra kick. Enjoy the perfect combination of sweet and savory with hints of sesame oil, sugar, and fresh ginger.
You have so many delicious options when it comes to veggie wontons, but cabbage, carrots, and mushrooms are classic fillings that will never steer you wrong. Veggie wontons are a great way to test out the spices and cooking oils available here at Fly By Jing to find the heat level you like most.
There are many vegan Chinese food options as well. For vegan wontons, simply skip the egg and use water to seal your wontons closed and make sure your wrappers are not egg-based.
Not only do you have vegan and vegetarian methods for making wontons, but you have gluten-free methods as well. Explore the gluten-free wonton wrappers available on the market or consider making your own with gluten-free ingredients at home.
Gluten-free wrappers can be a little more delicate than traditional wonton wrappers, so pay close attention while you cook, but you’re sure to end up with a delicious and healthy alternative to the dishes you love.
Most fans of Chinese food will agree that the wonton is a classic comfort food that they just can’t get enough of. With simple recipes and a little bit of practice on new and tried folding techniques, you can begin making these wonton dishes right at home—and trying your own take on flavors you love.
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free, there’s a wonton recipe available for your needs, and making your own wrappers is a rewarding and delicious experience you can share with friends and loved ones. Try them fried, baked, or steamed—your homemade wontons are sure to be a hit at every meal.