Wonton soup is a love/hate kind of soup. Sloppy in a good way, filling, cheap, feels like a healthier choice than pork fried rice–it seems to be a great idea.
Then it arrives by bicycle, and there are too few wontons (now shredded into confetti), debris of micro-diced mystery meat, some oil-slicked broth, and maybe some scallion driftwood, if ordered from a fancy joint. You eat it anyway, but you know this will happen again and again and again. Delicate-skinned wontons were just not made for road trips.
There has to be a better way, right?
Like making your own with store-bought wonton wrappers! Giada de Laurentis uses wonton wrappers to make ravioli pretty much every show, and she does it in like, 5 minutes, tops. It’ll be easy and delicious, right?
Wrong. Well, about one of those things.
First of all, wontons are stuffed with a delicious filling that is the opposite of chunky. In order to make that delicately textured meaty goodness, you have to finely dice a yellow onion, scallions, and many inconveniently shaped water chestnuts.
Then, you must spend a significant amount of time jabbing at stubborn clumps of ground meat, in an attempt to make all the ingredients the exact same size. Even though the recipe doesn’t explicitly say to do this, you do it anyway because that’s how you are. (Who makes wontons for fun?)
Once the filling reaches a sand-like consistency that doesn’t translate well in the 10 Instagram photos you take, you’ll reach the worst part of any recipe: cooling the filling to room temperature.
While you wait, you’ll have to spend a portion of your life laying out the wonton wrappers in meticulous rows, shoulder to shoulder. At this point, you’ll realize you could’ve ordered wonton soup delivery approximately four times over. It is important that you push past this moment.
Next you have to employ your teaspoon and your patience to tumble tiny mounds of oily meat into the center of each wrapper. You’ll have a small fantasy involving assembly lines, until you get to the phase where you have to paint two edges of each square with egg white and fold the wonton in half. Then you’ll start having full-on lucid dreams that involve conveyor belts.
Half of the billion wontons you’ll make will need to be frozen. The others will need to take an immediate plunge into boiling broth, where they’ll puff immediately, and roll around for 3-4 minutes until they’re engorged and on the brink of exploding. Because you’re human, you’ll serve yourself immediately, burn your tongue, and then wait another 5 minutes for the broth to drop somewhere below boiling temp.
You’re going to be hungry, you may feel tired, and you’ll definitely have egg white crusted on your fingertips, but with your first greasy, meaty, crisp bite you’ll realize that you were right about one thing all along: Homemade wonton soup is really freaking delicious.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 5, 2012