won ton noodle soup
Speaking of comfort food.
It’s been cold in Sydney.
Not cold enough to rival the snowy streets of a European winter, where the sideways sleet overrides any sense of romanticism you might have felt, wheeling a too-heavy suitcase down a Parisian cobblestoned street towards your apartment for the week.
Not cold enough, even, to warrant a sigh of happiness, breath fogging up from lips as the crisp morning air courses through your body, making you feel alive all over again.
Certainly not cold enough to warrant gum boots with woolen socks as city-wear.
But still, cold.
When I’m working from home, the company of one doesn’t quite warrant a heating bill for two.
So I spend my days in pyjamas under clothing, under coats, under blankets, like a hobo in plush settings. I curl my fingers around endless mugs of tea, and when the tea has lost its colour, even more cups of what my husband has dubbed “Chinese water”, after seeing streams of old Asian ladies ordering boiled water at cafes near his office.
I wear slippers and beanies and fluffy bathrobes, like my friend’s darling, late paw-paw, shuffling about with frizzy hair and a sense of vague displacement.
And all the while, I stare out of the window and wait for Summer.
Come Wednesday morning, I felt like I’d eaten enough stew to become a stew. Slightly gluggy, chunky and starchy. It was lovely on the first night, my beef cheek and radish braise. It was good on the second night, even, thinned down and eaten with a handful of egg noodles.
But when I ate said egg noodles, I realised what I really wanted.
Something that (again) would remind me of my younger, happier, warmer days.
There are almost as many ways to make and season won tons as there are bicycles in China, but this particular recipe is the spawn of my mother’s won ton mixture and the almost-secret recipe of my friend Brian (who’s due back in Sydney this week! Huzzah!).
I learnt it, unwittingly, years ago while on a Summer beach trip we took up the coast, during a “dumpling-off”. Seven teams. One tiny, slightly worn down holiday house kitchen. So many dumplings. So many.
The main trick to Brian’s dumplings was the surprising addition of tofu. Mashed up and incorporated into the mince, it made for a much lighter texture and even more flavour being absorbed into the mixture. (Don’t worry tofu-skeptics, you can’t actually taste any tofu in the final mix.)
So it was with this little tidbit of knowledge in hand that I set about a dumpling making morning.
Sixty won tons, mixed, folded and twisted during just one episode of River Cottage Australia. A batch of ikan bilis soup, thanks to the giant pouch my Aunty brought over for me from Malaysia. Left over egg noodles. A small bunch of slightly wilted gai larn.
I froze the rest of the wontons by lining a takeaway container with cling film and popping them on it in a single layer. After they’re frozen, they can be transferred into a bag and tossed back in, for whenever the mood strikes.
Like this afternoon. Dipped in a mix of chilli oil, sesame oil and a sprinkle of salt.
- 500g pork mince
- 150g silken tofu
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp finely ground white pepper
- 3 fresh shittake mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 1 little nub of ginger
- 60 egg wonton skins (square)
- egg noodles
- chicken stock (or ikan bilis broth)
- Put the pork mince, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, mushrooms and cornflour into a bowl. Grate the ginger over the top so you've got about a teaspoons worth.
- Using your hands, massage everything together by squeezing the mix between your fingers. It should make a big squelching sound. Keep kneading it together until the pork mince starts to feel a bit bouncy and you can no longer see any big chunks.
- At this point, pop a small amount into a frying pan and cook it. Taste to see if it needs anymore salt, and if so, add it now.
- To wrap the wontons, take one skin and put a large olive-sized spoonful of meat mix in the middle of it. Dip two fingers in water and run them along the sides of the wrapper, then fold, corner to corner to make a triangle, squishing out any excess air around the meat ball. Now wet a finger again and touch the two outer corners. Squish them together and twist slightly to join together.
- Put the completed wontons on a tea towel dusted in cornflour or on a piece of baking paper while you finish off the packet of skins.
- To cook the wontons and noodles, bring a pot of water to the boil and add a good pinch of salt. Cook the wontons for about 5 minutes, at a simmer, until they float to the top. Remove them and pop the egg noodles in for just a couple of minutes. (As tempting as it might be, don't cook the wontons or egg noodles in your stock, as it will make it cloudy and thick. Yuck.)
- Put the cooked noodles, wontons and any greens you might like in a bowl and top with hot stock. I use chicken stock simmered with a bit of ginger sometimes, or ikan bilis stock, depending on what I've got available.