My mom is the best party guest of all time. She is very kind and wise, ever smiling and helpful. And chances are, she will come to the door bearing a big platter of crispy won tons, golden fried wrappers encasing a succulent nugget of meat and vegetable, with a side of temptingly tangy dipping sauce.
My mom’s won tons have been at all kinds of parties over the years, dinners and brunches, birthday parties and picnics. And no matter what other delights have been served, sweet or savory, everyone walks away sighing, “Those won tons…”
Why are they so good? Like any fried food, fresh is always immensely better. But I think it’s also because the fried indulgence of my mom’s won tons is balanced with a filling that isn’t greasy – ground turkey lightened with crumbled tofu, mixed with finely minced zucchini and scallions. And the dipping sauce, flavored with garlic and a splash of pineapple juice, is as essential as ketchup to fries.
My mom makes and rolls her own wrappers for her legendary pot stickers, but for won tons she buys wrappers at the Asian market – which makes it entirely achievable for the rest of us to make won tons just like hers. The filling is easy. And I can show you how to fold won tons like a boss.
It really does pay to go to an Asian market, if you can, to find good quality wrappers. Generally the Asian items you’ll find at regular supermarkets are pretty sketch. My mom prefers medium-thickness wrappers (about 80 in a 1-pound package). These are made right here in the SF Bay Area.
Many vegetables can be used in won tons, they just need to be diced small enough to cook very quickly. Zucchini is my mom’s favorite, but it needs a little salt to draw out moisture first (if you use a drier vegetable, like carrot or spinach, you can skip the salting).
After 10 to 15 minutes, squeeze out the water. For years my mom just used her hands to do this, but now she uses a fine mesh nut-milk bag (especially helpful when she’s feeling a little arthritic).
Ground turkey, crumbled tofu.
Seasoned with soy sauce, sake, sesame oil and scallions.
Add in the zucchini.
My mom taught my kindergartener how to make won tons like a pro.
On the left is the amateur method (flat). On the right is the pro method (standing, sculptural, adorably 3D).
Start with a scant teaspoon of filling in the center of the square wrapper.
Fold in half to make a triangle (moisten edges with water first to get them to glue).
Squeeze out any air bubbles and press well to seal.
A dab of water on one corner.
Take the two corners and fold them up like bunny ears (folding them across like arms will give you the flat won ton).
Cross the dry corner over the wet one and press to seal.
There you go – like a boss.
One more demo, in case this is easier to see. Scant teapoonful of filling (I actually put it just below center, since I know I’m going to be folding the top half down). Wet the lower edges, like a V. You can also moisten all four edges, if it makes you feel more secure.
Fold in half, taking care not to trap air inside. Press on edges well to seal.
This prep move is helpful – push down at the center of the top edge, making a dent.
Pull the corners up like bunny ears. You’ll want to hold the pointy ends – I am only holding it like this so you can see the shape and so I have a free hand to snap the picture.
Overlap the two ends together, and seal with a dab of water.
It looks like a little boat. Or as if its two arms are cradling its tasty filling.
It’s quick once you get the hang of it. After one explanation, my kindergartener got cranking and refused any additional help on her technique. Which basically tells you you can’t go wrong. As long as the filling is sealed in, the rest is just cosmetic.
Make the sauce before you fry, because when the won tons are fresh and hot, you won’t want to wait to eat.
Sizzle crushed garlic in oil.
Add ketchup and sugar.
Make a slurry of pineapple juice and cornstarch.
Add to sauce to thicken. Stir, and in a minute the sauce will be thick and glossy.
My mom uses a small electric fryer. But you can use a wok or a saucepan. A smaller vessel will use less oil, but it can handle fewer at a time. You’ll need 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil at least.
The won tons need enough room to swim around at the surface, so don’t overcrowd the pot. You’ll need to stir and turn them – they are unevenly weighted, so getting them to brown evenly takes a little prodding.
Eat them while they’re hot (I don’t think you’ll need a reminder).
Maybe bring them to a party the second time you make them. The first time you may not have enough left.
Fried Won Tons with Sweet-Sour Sauce
My mom is famous for these crispy, golden won tons. She brings them to parties, and they are always the first to disappear, bringing sighs of disappointment from people coming back for more. Finding the traditional ground pork too heavy, my mom now prefers ground turkey.
- 1 c finely diced zucchini (tossed with 1/2 t kosher salt) or 1/2 cup finely diced carrot (no salt)
- 3/4 lb ground turkey
- 1/4 lb medium firm tofu, crumbled (1/2 c)
- 2 T scallion, minced
- 2 t sake or white wine
- 2 T soy sauce
- 1/2 t toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (optional)
- 1 1-pound package won ton wrappers, medium thickness (about 60 wrappers)
- Cooking oil for frying (corn oil preferred)
Sweet-sour sauce ingredients
- 1 T cooking oil (corn oil preferred)
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1/2 c ketchup
- 1 T sugar
- 3 T pineapple juice (fresh or juice from canned pineapple)
- 1 T cornstarch
- In a small bowl, mix zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon table salt). Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, crumbled tofu, scallions, sake, soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger (if using). Mix well.
- Squeeze excess water out of the zucchini using either your hands (take a handful and squeeze tightly in a two-handed fist) or cheesecloth (or a fine mesh nut-milk bag). Work to get as much water out as possible. Add drained zucchini to meat and mix well (if you substitute carrot, you can add the finely diced carrot directly to the meat without salting).
- To make sweet-and-sour sauce: In small saucepan, cook crushed garlic in oil. Add ketchup and cook stirring hot and bubbly. Add sugar and continue cooking. Combine pineapple juice and cornstarch, mixing to eliminate lumps. Add to saucepan and cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and glossy. Remove garlic clove.
- To fold won tons like a pro: Have a small bowl of water handy. Position a square won ton skin so that the corners are pointed up and down, like a diamond. Add a scant teaspoon of won ton filling to the center of the wrapper. Dip a finger in water and moisten the two lower edges of the diamond (like a V). Fold in half, bringing the top corner of the wrapper down to the bottom corner to form a triangle, squeezing out air bubbles and pressing edges well to seal. Imagine the triangle looks like a animal head, with the bump of meat as its face and the two long corners as its ears. Put a dab of water on the corner of the right ear. Push the head down from the center of the top edge, giving it a dent, and bring the two ears up like a bunny rabbit’s. Cross the left corner over the moistened right corner and press to seal. Now you should have a cute won ton that looks like a little boat, or as if its two arms are cradling its tasty filling.
- Heat 1.5 to 2 inches of oil in a wok or saucepan over medium high heat (a smaller vessel will use less oil but will hold fewer won tons in each batch), until a wooden chopstick (or handle of a wooden spoon) placed in oil immediately triggers steady bubbling (if the bubbling is furious, the oil is too hot). Lower heat to medium and add enough won tons to swim at the surface, but not enough to crowd the pot. Cook, turning occasionally, until they are golden all over (won tons are unevenly weighted, so it takes a bit of prodding to get them to cook evenly). Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve immediately, with dipping sauce.
Makes 80 won tons.
- Tofu is generally sold as a solid block; just use your fingers to break it into small crumbs. If you don’t have tofu, you could simply eliminate it, or add additional vegetable.
- Won ton skins dry quickly, so keep them in the package, removing one at a time as you fold the won tons.
- For a good video on folding won tons, check out Steamy Kitchen.
- If you have extra meat left over, you can form it into little meatballs and fry those too.
- To make ahead: Fry won tons, then let cool without covering. Store in a sealed container or ziploc bag in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, place won tons in a single layer on a baking sheet and warm in the oven on low (300 degrees F or so) for a few minutes, until crisp.
- To freeze: Freeze uncooked won tons in a single layer on a plate or tray until frozen, then store in ziploc bags until ready to cook.
- Boiled won tons: Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add enough won tons to fill the surface, but not enough to crowd the pot. Bring to boil, then pour in a cup of cold water. Bring to boil again, then add a second cup of cold water. Bring to a final boil, then remove won tons with a mesh strainer or slotted spoon. Serve with soy sauce with a splash of vinegar (with julienned ginger if you have it).
- Won ton soup: Add boiled won tons to a simple chicken broth flavored with a bit of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, chopped scallions and/or cilantro. You may also cook the won tons in the broth, simmering for several minutes. Taste one to make sure it is cooked through before serving.
- Whenever my mom makes won tons, she makes her legendary Chinese green beans, to make double use of the oil.
- People will eat pretty much anything inside a fried won ton, so feel free to mix up filling ingredients. Ground pork is the traditional meat; shrimp or crab are great variations. If you use water-heavy vegetables, such as cabbage or zucchini, you need to salt and squeeze them well first, or moisture from the vegetables can make wontons soggy. Carrot, spinach and kale are dry enough to use directly. All vegetables need to be chopped finely to cook quickly.
Here’s the link to a printable version.