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Appetizers and Hors d'Oeuvres

Charles Phan's Hoi An Wontons with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Charles Phan's Hoi An Wontons with Spicy Tomato Sauce

[Photograph: Eric Wolfinger]

As Charles Phan explains in Vietnamese Home Cooking, Chinese cuisine has a strong influence in certain places in Vietnam like the port town Hoi An. There, much of the food is a mash-up of cultures, so serving fried wontons is not a major leap, cuisine-wise.

Phan's fried wontons use the same filling as his wonton soup—mainly shrimp, pork, mushrooms, and chestnuts—but here they are sealed like ravioli (no tricky folding!) and fried in canola oil. The richness of the dumplings is balanced by serving them with a spicy tomato sauce spiked with fish sauce.

Why I picked this recipe: Fried wontons are not only a fun weekend project, but they also make for a fantastic snack to grace a Super Bowl spread.

What worked: Between the pork, shrimp, chestnuts, mushrooms, and sesame, there's a lot going on in this dumpling filling. It all works together in harmony, though, especially when dipped in the potent spicy tomato sauce.

What didn't: Be sure to fry the wontons in very small batches (in other words, no more than can fit in a single layer in your frying vessel). If you add too many at once, they lower the oil temperature too far and become greasy. I also found that I needed more than 50 wonton wrappers to use up all the filling. Buy two packages just to be safe.

Suggested tweaks: You could certainly tweak the filling to suit your taste, but if dietary restrictions are a non-issue, I'd recommend trying the written version first. Also, these wontons can also be simmered in soup if you'd like to skip the fryer this time around.

Reprinted with permission from Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan, copyright 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Charles Phan's Hoi An Wontons with Spicy Tomato Sauce

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About This Recipe

Yield:serves 8 to 10
Active time:1 1/2 hours
Total time:2 hours and 15 minutes
This recipe appears in: Charles Phan's Hoi An Wontons with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (such as Roma or Early Girl), cored and diced
  • 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  •  
  • Pork and Shrimp Wonton Filling
  • 8 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and finely chopped
  • 4 ounces ground pork
  • 1/3 cup fried shallots
  • 3 tablespoons shallot oil
  • 1 1/3 cups finely chopped fresh water chestnuts or jicama
  • 1/3 cup black trumpet mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion, white and light green parts only
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tabelspoon sesame seeds, toasted and ground to a coarse powder
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  •  
  • 50 square wonton wrappers (1-pound package)
  • Cornstarch, for dusting
  • Canola oil, for deep-frying

Procedures

  1. 1

    To make the tomato sauce: In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until light golden brown. Add garlic and chiles and cook, stirring occasionally, 45 seconds more, until aromatic. Stir in the rice wine, tomatoes, and stock and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat so the mixture is at a gentle simmer and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 
45 minutes, to blend the flavors.

  2. 2

    Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the fish sauce. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Keep warm. (The sauce can be made a day ahead, cooled, covered, and refrigerated; reheat before using.)

  3. 3

    To make the wontons: In a bowl, combine the shrimp, pork, fried shallots, shallot oil, water chestnuts, mushrooms, cilantro, callion, oyster sauce, sesame seeds, raw shallot, fish sauce, sesame oil, and pepper and mix well. The mixture will be loose.

  4. 4

    To form the wontons: Place a wonton wrapper on a work surface. Lightly brush the edges of the wrapper with water and place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center. Top with a second wonton wrapper, pressing to enclose the filling and form a square, like a ravioli. Force out as much air as possible as you seal the edges to prevent the wontons from puffing up when you fry them. Transfer the finished wontons to a baking sheet or large tray lightly dusted with cornstarch. Repeat until you have used up all of the filling.

  5. 5

    Pour the oil to a depth of 
2 inches into a wok or high-sided pot and heat over high heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and place near the stove. Place a second rimmed baking sheet alongside. Preheat the oven to 200°F.

  6. 6

    When the oil is ready, add one-third of wontons to the oil and fry for 3 minutes, until deep golden brown and crisp. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer to the paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain briefly, then transfer to the second sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining wontons in two batches, always allowing the oil to return to temperature between batches.

  7. 7

    Arrange the wontons on a platter and serve immediately, accompanied by the tomato sauce. Dip the wontons in the sauce and eat.

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