City Palate

City Palate - The Flavour of Calgary's Food Scene since 1993

THE HARVEST ISSUE - September October Issue 2018

The Sunday Project: WONTON SOUP

with Karen Ralph

Wonton soup is one of my favourite comfort foods. I can’t remember the first time I ate it, but chances are it was at The Pagoda restaurant in Dawson Creek. My aunt, an adventurous world traveller, would lead the ordering, introducing us to black cloud fungus soup, spicy tripe and various noodle dishes. My brother tried to recreate the magic by frying wieners in a cast-iron pan, adding ketchup, white vinegar and brown sugar. Late at night after quite a few drinks, his sweet and sour wieners were pretty good. We entered the Ichiban years, delighted that a packet of noodles and powdered flavouring could be so delicious and inexpensive and naturally tried making ontons, first with ground beef, (not good) then mixing ground chicken and pork (not necessary).

Twenty years and hundreds of experimental wontons later, my friend Christina Appave offered to show me how to maketraditional Hakka wontons. Her family is from Mauritius, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, home to diverse ethnicities, cultures, languages and religions, mostly Indians, Africans, Europeans and Chinese, all influencing the cuisine. She had grown up making them. Her dad would mix up the meat, give the kids a bowl and a pile of wrappers and they’d wrap wontons. She gave me a shopping list for T & T in Pacific Place Mall in northeast Calgary. Unable to resist an unusual (to me) condiment or deal on chicken wings I ended up with four bulging bags of meat, sauces, tofu, pickles, wonton wrappers and produce for about $100. On Sunday, following her father’s guidelines and eschewing what she called “ghost” shapes (wrapper pinched at base of meat ball) she had me expertly rolling little tortellini wontons. Over the for ten people for less then $50. Behold!

Traditional Hakka Pork Wontons

fresh square wonton wrappers
2 lbs. ground pork
1 T. chopped, dried shrimp
1 T. cornstarch
2 chopped green onions
2 T. dark soya sauce
1/2 t. each white sugar
grind of black pepper
1 t. fish sauce

Mix the pork and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, it should smell rich, pungent and peppery, with a hint of onion. The aroma will slowly evolve into a sweeter smell but the wontons will not taste sweet. You’re now ready to roll!

Non-Traditional Shrimp Wontons

fresh square or round wonton wrappers
1/2 lb. raw prawns, tails removed
1 peeled shallot, cut in half lengthwise,
mince half knob of peeled fresh ginger
2 green onions
dash of fish sauce
3 large shiitake mushrooms, minced
handful of rehydrated black fungus,
cut into thin strips
1 T. cornstarch
good grind of black pepper

Into a food processor, put the prawns, unminced shallot half, peeled ginger, green onions and fish sauce. Blend into a fine paste and scrape the mixture into a bowl. Stir in the shiitake mushrooms, black fungus, minced shallot, cornstarch and pepper. The mixture should smell clean and slightly gingery. You’re now ready to roll!

Read the Sunday Project in the digital issue of City Palate.