Nourishing Wonton Soup with Bok Choy, Shiitake & Enoki Mushrooms
I'm bringing back an old great favorite!
We should all know that a great soup begins with a great stock. This is even more true for clear soups because the basic flavor of the soup is the flavor of the stock. And there yet is another element that separates a great wonton soup from its lesser brethren - the wontons - most importantly, the thickness of the wonton wrapper. If the wonton wrapper is too thick, you are basically eating a lump of boiled dough.
Here is a classic example: try ordering wonton soup at one of the endless, fast-food /Sino-American joints that grace our neighborhoods. Most likely you'll find a very thick sheet of the wonton wrapper with minimal filling floating around in a clear soup with zero embellishments. Now, order it at an authentic Chinese restaurant and see the difference.
When a wonton is prepared in a paper-thin wonton wrapping and stuffed with a subtle flavorful filling that melts in your mouth the minute you bite into it, and the soup base is full of flavor with vegetables & mushrooms- then, my friend, you are experiencing a great wonton soup. Oh its good stuff!
By the way, know how Mr. Hubby & I tell an authentic Chinese restaurant from a Sino-American one? When we walk in and see that it is filled with Asian-Americans, we know we're in the right place.
Needless to say, wonton soup is one of my all-time favorite soups and it's really interesting to note that some of the literal translations of wonton soup in Mandarin & Cantonese are: irregularly shaped dumpling (Mandarin); swallowing cloud (Cantonese), and crossed hands (in Sichuan province).
There are subtle variations in the preparation of wonton soup from region to region - some with just pork, some with pork & shrimp, and some with bok choy. The wonton soup I prepare is a fusion of varied styles. For one, I love bok choy in the soup & that is characteristic of the Shanghai-style. I also fold the wonton using the 'chao shou (i.e crossed hands) and then I add Japanese Shiitake & Enoki mushrooms which, though not traditional to the recipe, I think is a wonderful addition to the soup with their meaty & earthy flavors & textures. To top it off, I add thin slices of barbecue-flavored cha-sui pork. I strongly recommend you begin by preparing and keeping chicken stock in the freezer at all times. It makes such a difference to the flavor of the soup.
One of the reasons I incorporate Shiitake & Enoki mushrooms into the soup is because we really must try to eat more of them in our diet. Both Shiitake & Enoki mushrooms are considered "superfoods," as they help in lowering cholesterol, fighting tumors & cancer. In short, we really do need to find more ways to eat these miracle workers of nature.
This is such a delicate, nourishing, feel-good soup and the stock is lovely with the fragrance of ginger. The wontons truly are like little drops of clouds and the mushrooms add a lovely texture while the bok choy adds the flavor of much-needed greens. It's hard not to be greedy when it comes to the cha sui slices - with their honey & anise flavors, a perfect finish to a lovely meal.
Honestly, can you say seventh heaven!
PS - Kids love it!
NOURISHING WONTON SOUP WITH BOK CHOY, SHIITAKE & ENOKI MUSHROOMSServes 4-6
Basic chicken stock -
14 cups water
2 lbs raw chicken bones or necks
1 yellow onion
3 stalks celery
1/2 tbs salt
If using store purchased chicken stock -
2 cartons chicken stock (not stock powder)
4-5 thin slices fresh ginger root
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbs vegetable oil
Wonton dumplings -
1/2 lb ground pork
2 stalks green onion with greens
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
28-30 thawed Asian wonton wrappers (thin flour pastry sheets)
1 tbs water
Wonton Soup -
1/2 bag or 12 stalks baby Shanghai bok choy
1 packet Enoki mushrooms
12 Shiitake mushrooms
1/4 lb Chinese barbecue pork, cha sui
1-1/2 tsp salt
Home made Chicken stock -
In a stockpot, place water with chicken bones (neck & other bones), peeled & quartered onion, celery stalks cut into chunks & salt.
On high flame bring the stock to a simmer. Spoon the scum away as it floats on the surface during the first 15 minutes. Reduce flame to medium and simmer for 2-1/2 hours or until the stock has reduced by 1/3rd the original quantity.
Sieve the stock in a large sieve and discard bones.
Set aside or refrigerate till ready to use. If you make the stock for a few days in advance store in the freezer and defrost the day you want to make the soup.
If you are using ready-made store-purchased chicken stock -
If you are short of time and purchase store ready chicken stock, then finely chop 2 garlic cloves.
Also cut 4-5 slices of ginger root.
Heat a large pot on medium heat. Add 1 tbs vegetable oil. Add the garlic & ginger and saute for a few seconds. Add the stock and simmer on low for 30 minutes so the flavors of the garlic & ginger infuse the soup.
Wonton Dumplings -
In a mini-chopper place green onions cut into 2 inch lengths, 1/2 inch peeled ginger root and 3 garlic cloves. Chop for a few seconds till fine.
Dry the meat on kitchen paper towels till it as much devoid of moisture as possible. In a bowl add the chopped onion mixture, cornstarch, salt, sugar, soy sauce & sesame oil.
Using clean fingers thoroughly work the meat & other ingredients till it is completely blended.
Refrigerate for a minimum of 20 minutes.
45 minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, begin preparing the vegetables & the dumplings.
Bok Choy - wash and slice lengthwise into halves. Make sure there is no dirt in the folds near the root.
Shiitake mushrooms - wipe with a moist cloth and cut away the stems from the caps. Slice each mushroom cap into 3 thick slices. Discard the stems.
Enoki mushrooms - cutaway 1-1/2 inch from the root tips. Discard the bottom piece so you are left with Enoki mushroom lengths.
Egg wash - crack an egg into a bowl and add 1 tbs water. Whisk with a fork till it is blended.
Wipe a flat surface clean with a damp cloth. Wipe till it is completely dry.
Lay out a few of the wontons wrappers with the tip facing you - place 3-4 wrappers at a time, depending on the size of your work surface. (Keep remaining wonton wrappers covered with plastic wrap.).
Dip finger in the egg wash and trace the sides of the square wrapper with your finger till you have egg wash on all the sides of the square wrapper.
Using a teaspoon measure, place a heaping teaspoonful of the meat filling in the center of each wonton.
Bring 2 opposite corners of the wonton together to form a triangle and enclose the filling, pressing edges firmly around the mound of filling to eliminate any air pockets and seal.
Moisten opposite corners of the long side with the egg wash, once again using your finger.
Curl moistened corners toward each other, overlapping one on top of the other, and press the edges together to seal.
Cook's Note - You should now have a stuffed wonton with a triangle poking up at the top - similar to a nurse's cap.
Assemble the remaining wontons in the same manner. When the wontons are all assembled, set aside on a clean platter.
Chinese barbecue pork Cha sui can be purchased at an Asian store or delicatessen. Do not allow it to be sliced at the store. Bring the pork home and slice as thin as possible.
To the homemade chicken stock, add 4-5 thinly cut ginger root slices (no need to peel). Bring the chicken stock to simmer on medium high heat. Never boil.
Cook's Note - If you are using store purchased stock, your stock should already have garlic & ginger and should have been simmering for 30 minutes at this point.
Add the shiitake mushrooms and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir. Add the wontons and simmer for 2 minutes.
Cook's Note - Do not stir with a ladle or large spoon. If you must stir, use chopsticks and stir very gently or you will break the delicate wontons.
Add the bok choy & simmer for 1 minute. Taste & adjust salt. Add the Enoki mushrooms & simmer for 1 minute only. Stir very gently using chopsticks Garnish with thin pork slices.
Serve immediately. This soup does not keep or store well.