Serious Eats: Recipes

Seriously Asian: Little Wontons

[Photographs: Chichi Wang]


Little wontons require thin wrappers.

Last week's post on big wontons wouldn't be complete without its companion, the little wonton post. Little wontons, or xiao hun tun, are made with flour and egg wrappers crumpled casually around a tiny nub of pork. While big wontons are wrapped precisely to a symmetrical shape, small wontons are formed very casually as if you're crumpling a piece of paper in your fist. And unlike big wontons, small wontons are made with paper-thin wonton wrappers that will be labeled "extra-thin" on the package. (If you can't find wrappers of that tissue-paper thinness, it's best to stick to making big wontons.)

Little wontons are always served in soup and are typically eaten for breakfast or as a snack. The wontons float gently in a savory broth that's chock full of garnishes, such as tiny dried shrimp, Sichuan-style pickled cabbage, thinly-sliced egg crepe, slivers of dried seaweed, cilantro, and scallions.

At Chinese eateries, the broth for little wontons is usually nothing more than water flavored with soy sauce, sesame oil, and tons of MSG. If you have a good-quality soy sauce, then a simple combination of soy sauce and sesame oil suffices with lots of garnishes on the side. However, I like to use a pork stock as the base of my soup for extra flavor.

Made with such a small quantity of pork, a bowl of little wontons is a humble, peasant-style dish that's all about the suggestion of pork rather than a celebration of pig. The idea here is to float the delicate wontons in a sea of garnishes; each slurp of the soup carries with it a tiny wonton. The wontons are cooked just until the meat filling is done but the wrappers are still firm and slick so that they practically slip down your throat.

Like big wontons, little wontons can be frozen and stored away for weeks. Once cooked, the thin wrappers will only stay al-dente for a few minutes before growing mushy, so slurp quickly!

About the author: Chichi Wang took her degree in philosophy, but decided that writing about food would be much more fun than writing about Plato. She firmly believes in all things offal, the importance of reading great books, and the necessity of three-hour meals. If she were ever to get a tattoo, it would say "Fat is flavor." Visit her blog, The Offal Cook.


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