Turns out that there is, in fact, good food in New Jersey. You just have to know where to look. My boyfriend and I found a great place called Shanghai Dumpling (at the recommendation of my lab mate- thanks!) that we went to 3 times before I moved back to Boston. And would you have ever guessed– I miss it! So, I decided to attempt (key word) to recreate one of their iconic dishes, but make it slightly healthier- Spicy Pork and Vegetable Wontons. These perfectly juicy wontons are filled with salty pork and crunchy vegetables and are surrounded by a sauce made of what I think is peanut butter, red chili oil, and seasonings.
To make my own version, I grabbed some lean ground chicken (which is lower in fat and calories than pork, which to be fair makes incredible dumpling filling), frozen edamame, and mushrooms for the filling, which I paired with some grated carrot (already in my fridge from butter roasted chicken and vegetables). I obviously needed some wonton wrappers and Asain ingredients like soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. The restaurant topped the wontons with sesame seeds, which for some reason really works, so I grabbed a small amount from the bulk section.
As for the sauce, I knew I needed peanut butter. I think natural peanut butter is best, but you can choose smooth or chunky. I also needed chili oil, but I couldn’t find any. Instead, I bought some chili paste, which I mixed with canola oil and let sit until the oil was infused with the spicy chili flavor. Capsaicin, the spicy molecule in chili, is fat-soluble, so oil is the ideal delivery system.
Assembling the filling was very easy. I started by browning and dehydrating the mushrooms with plenty of soy sauce. I then added the chicken, chopped edamame, and carrots, grated and squeezed to drain some extra juice. Last came the spices and seasonings like scallions, garlic, ginger, and sriracha, which I added as the chicken cooked through.
To assemble the wontons, I put about 2 tsps of filling in the center of a wrapper. I brushed two edges with a mixture of cornstarch and water and quickly sealed the wontons into a triangle shape. Then, I took one corner, dipped it in the cornstarch liquid, and attached it to the other corner to create a ring. Here’s a shot of all the stages of wonton wrapping:
I froze half right then because I knew I couldn’t eat all of them before they went bad in the fridge. The others I prepared by first frying the bottoms in hot oil, then steaming in a half cup of water until the wontons un-stuck from the pan (you can keep adding water if they are stubborn). They’re so cute!
To assemble the peanut sauce, I combined peanut butter, canola oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, grated garlic, and salt. I estimated amounts and kept adjusting until it was delicious! To serve, I spread the peanut sauce on the plate, then drizzled the infused chili oil over the sauce (you can add some of the paste as well if you really like spice!). Add some wontons and top with more chili oil, sesame seeds, and chopped scallions. Sit back and watch your guests be amazed! (P.S. You can cook these directly from frozen, so the leftovers are great!)
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 Tbsp red chili paste
- 4 oz mushrooms
- 1 Tbsp grated garlic
- 1 Tbsp grated ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 1/2 cup carrots, grated fine and squeezed to drain
- 1 cup edamame, chopped
- Soy sauce, sriracha, rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper, to taste
- Wonton wrappers (about 50)
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 clove ginger, grated
- Dash of sesame oil
- Salt, to taste
- Canola oil
- Sesame seeds
- Chopped scallions
- Combine the chili paste and oil and set aside.
- Sear the mushrooms, chopped, in a touch of canola oil and soy sauce until dehydrated and richly flavored.
- Add the chicken, garlic, ginger, and scallions and begin to brown the chicken. Add the carrots and edamame to heat through. As the chicken cooks fully, add seasonings as desired. Taste and adjust as needed.
- To assemble the wontons, put about 2 tsps of filling in the center of a wrapper. Brush two edges with a mixture of cornstarch and water and quickly seal the wontons into a triangle shape. Take one corner, dip it in the cornstarch liquid, and attach it to the other corner to create a ring. Freeze at this point if desired.
- Heat about 2 Tbsp canola oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the wontons (fresh or frozen) in a single layer and let sear for 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and cover to steam for 3-4 minutes or until heated through. If still sticking, add more water.
- Meanwhile, combine all the peanut sauce ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until smooth and adjust seasonings as desired.
- To serve, layer peanut sauce, chili oil, wontons, sesame seeds, and chopped scallions on a plate. Present to adoring guests!