Wontons are fun. They’re great party food, perfect as appetizers and for special occasions. But wontons are, at their heart, simple Asian comfort food.
Wontons have been around in some form for literally thousands of years. Most basic wonton recipes are quite similar (after a thousand years or so, you should pretty much have the basic recipe perfected). Popular as street food in almost every Asian country, wontons have plenty of local variations.
While fillings can vary, the basic technique remains the same: a mixture of meat, seafood, vegetables or mushrooms (or any combination thereof) is wrapped by a thin sheet of dough, tightly sealed at the edges. The wrapper is usually made of wheat flour, egg, a pinch of salt and a little water – very similar to Italian pasta dough.
We chose to make our wontons, not with the more typical shiitake mushrooms, but with something a little more exotic – the prized matsutake mushroom. Why not? With a surplus of beautiful “pine mushrooms” on hand, we thought we’d splurge.
Not long ago, our modest stash of matsutake would have been worth a king’s ransom, but over the past few years, the price of these magnificent mushrooms has fallen dramatically. With more pickers hoping to cash in and centralized mushroom buying stations using improved shipping methods, the supply rapidly overtook demand. Combined with the impact of the “Great Recession” on the restaurant and specialty foods industry, the rest was simple economics. For a detailed look at the fascinating (and sometimes shady) world of mushroom foraging, read our friend Langdon Cook‘s excellent book, “The Mushroom Hunters.”
If you don’t have access to fresh matsutake or other wild mushrooms, you can substitute any fresh mushroom or reconstituted dried mushroom (or combination of the two) in their place.
Wild Mushroom Wontons – Basic Recipe
- 1 cup ground pork or chicken, approx. 1/2 lb
- 1 cup raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, chopped coarsely
- 3 – 4 small to medium fresh matsutake or other fresh wild mushrooms, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 scallions, finely sliced
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 45-66 wonton wrappers (2 packages of store-bought wonton wrappers)
- cornstarch for dusting
Mix all the filling ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl. Chill, covered, for at least 30 minutes.
Make the wontons:
Prepare a couple of sheet pans by lining with parchment paper and dusting lightly with some cornstarch.
Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wonton wrapper. Brush 2 of the edges with a little water, fold over the wonton and seal to make a triangle. Be sure to start sealing the wonton from the edges of the filling out towards the edges of the dumpling so that no air bubbles are formed (they will make the wonton burst ).
At this point, you may leave them this way (triangles) or you can moisten the two side points with water and overlap them over the filled portion. Pinch the overlapping ends firmly together to seal, making the wonton look like a little cap.
Place on the prepared sheet pan and keep the wontons covered with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap to keep from drying out while you fill and fold the remaining wontons.
When it comes to comfort food, wonton soup is at the top of the list. Think of it as the Asian equivalent of chicken noodle soup. Steaming hot, chock-full of plump, tender wontons and other tasty goodies, this soup will both fill you up and chase away the doldrums. How can such a simple soup make you so happy?
- 12 wild mushroom wontons
- 3 1/4 pints chicken stock
- 2 scallions or garlic chives, sliced
- baby carrots, sliced thinly to taste
- snow peas, sliced at an attractive angle, to taste
- any other ingredients to your taste, e.g swiss chard, sliced thin
Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the stock in another saucepan over medium low heat. Add the thinly sliced carrots, snow peas and any other delicious veggies to the stock now.
Gently lower a handful of wontons into the boiling water with a slotted spoon. Stir very gently to separate the wontons and make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Bring the water back to a boil and cook wontons, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes, or until they are done and float to the surface. Transfer to a large serving bowl.
To serve, pour the stock, with any of your preferred vegetables, on top of the wontons and sprinkle with the scallions. Dish out into individual bowls.
Crisp-Fried Wild Mushroom Wontons
Ah, crisp, crackly deep-fried wontons! Every crunchy bite tastes just as good as it sounds. Add a tasty dipping sauce and get the party started!
- 4 – 6 wild mushroom wontons per person
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Ginger Pao Hot Sauce or dipping sauce of your choice
Add 2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil to a wok or heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat on a medium high burner until the oil reaches about 350° F. Add the wontons a few at a time (depending on the size of your cooking vessel) and fry, turning frequently, until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. As they finish cooking, remove the wontons from the oil with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels to drain.
Serve while piping hot with the dipping sauce of your choice.
Wild Mushroom Potstickers
Some prefer their wontons simmered to a delicate softness in soup while others like the crisp, crackly crunch of fried wontons. Why compromise when you can have it both ways? Actually, potstickers do have a unique texture all their own, a little bit chewy (in a good, satisfying way) with a crisp-fried bottom. The tangy dipping sauce makes a good thing even better.
- 12 wild mushroom wontons
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Dipping sauce (see recipe below)
In a small saucepan over moderate heat, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to just high enough to keep the broth simmering.
Put the oil into a 12-inch non-stick skillet with the burner on medium high heat. When the oil is very hot and hazy, add the dumplings to the skillets, flat side down. Fry until the bottoms are crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the simmering broth to the skillet, pouring it around the dumplings. Cover and cook until the broth is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Uncover and let the dumplings fry for a minute or two to recrisp the bottoms.
Serve with dipping sauce.
Potsticker Dipping Sauce Recipe
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1/4 tsp Oriental sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp Sriracha, or to taste
Stir together, cover and set aside. Can be doubled for larger amounts.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
For even more news, information and recipes, sign up for the free Earthy Delights email newsletter.