One of the things that I miss most in this new world is the Chinese buffet. While I love a good crab rangoon or pepper beef as much as the next person, what I truly miss are the soups. Hot and sour. Wonton. Egg drop. All the fried wonton skins a girl can eat. Dreamy.
But fortunately I finally figured out how to perfectly recreate a traditional iteration of each of these at home. Today, let us learn the ways of the Chinese take-out soup.
Note that the recipe given here is enough for one main course or two appetizers. Just double everything as necessary.
The first thing that you will need is either a chicken or veggie broth. It’s important that you go broth over stock since you want the clarity of the flavor of the soup. You can even use bouillon here if need be!
Add 1/2 tsp dried ginger, 1 tsp soy sauce, and 1/8 tsp white pepper (optional) to 2 cups of broth. Whisk together until incorporated. Then bring to a low boil.
In a separate bowl, mix 1 tbsp cornstarch with 1/4 cup water until it creates what is called a slurry. When the stock comes to a boil, add the slurry slowly to the broth, and then bring it back up to a boil.
Taste for salt and pepper, and once you’ve adjusted for that, that’s it! Your broth for both soups is done. Now it’s a choose-your-own adventure for where you go next.
If You Decide Wonton Soup…
Turn your broth down to low, and bring enough water to cover your wontons to a boil. Do not salt the water as you would for pasta; the wonton skins are already salted.
While the water is heating you can either make your own wontons or grab some from the freezer. (No one is going to tell.)
To make your own wonton, mix together your preferred mixture of about 1/2 lb ground meat or ground mushrooms. (The ones picture below are actually made with giant polypores I foraged at my farm and then ground in the food processor with green onion and garlic.)
Mix your ground meat/mushrooms with soy sauce, sesame oil, a splash or rice vinegar, dry or fresh ginger (finely minced), dry or fresh garlic (finely minced), white or black pepper, MSG, and salt. Remember that dry herbs go a lot further. If you want them spicy, replace the sesame oil with hot sesame oil or add a dash of your favorite Asian hot pepper sauce.
On a cutting board, place your wonton skin, a ramekin of water, and your filling mixture. Dip your finger in the water and run it along the edges of the wonton. Add about 1 tsp of the mixture in the middle.
Then press all of the sides together to form a triangle.
If you wanna be extra fancy, you can then fold the ends of the triangle together so that they touch.
There are a number of ways to fold dumplings, however. I recommend checking out The Woks of Life for more, including the more traditional wonton fold for wonton soup, which is called The Scrunch!
Once your water comes to a boil, drop your dumplings in for two minutes. Then strain and add to your broth.
Note: Some recipes will tell you to cook the dumplings directly in the soup; however, I find this adds too much starch to the broth, which ultimately makes the soup taste muddled. You’re also welcome to steam the dumplings instead!
Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame oil. Eat while hot!
If You Decide Egg Drop Soup…
Lower the temperature of the broth to just below a boil. In another bowl, whisk one egg (yolk and white) with a little splash of water until fully beaten. Then slowly stream the beaten eggs into the broth forming long strands.
Once this is done, lower the temperature immediately to low or remove from the burner.
Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame oil if desired.
If you’re like me, one of the best parts about egg drop soup are the crunchy wonton skins that get served in a little bag alongside. These are the easiest things to make.
First, you’ll need to purchase wonton skins. You can find these at your local Asian mart (which you should be shopping at) or (often) in the frozen food section of your local big-chain grocery. Sometimes they are called dumpling wrappers; those will work too.
Heat enough oil to deep-fry in either a deep-fryer (IDEAL!) or in a dutch oven. Be careful not to splatter if using the latter.
Slice the wonton skins into strips. Drop slowly into the fryer, making sure that the oil doesn’t bubble over. Fry for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until golden and crispy. Drain on a paper towel and then lightly salt. You are magic. Congrats!
A Note on Deep Fryers
Personally, I love my deep fryer. I use it numerous times a week. Is it healthy? No. Is it delicious, oh yes.
If you’re someone who finds themselves frying a lot, I recommend going ahead and purchasing one because 1.) you can reuse oil numerous times, which saves money in the long run and 2.) it’s MUCH safer than frying on the stove-top.
You don’t need to spend a lot on one of these (though you certainly can). I bought mine for $20 at Aldi in their weird other stuff section many years ago, and I use it so much it gets its own space on the counter.
Air-frying is also a legit (and healthier) option, though since I do not own one, I cannot speak to the time it would take to air-fry vs. deep-fry.