comments 77

Sichuanese Pork Wontons in Chili-Soy Sauce

Plump dumplings rule!
I have inherited a lot from my mother. In addition to her dry sense of humor, her sarcasm, and her sly potty mouth, I am also the beneficiary of her glossy hair and poreless, flawless skin — which she reminds me, while comparing the four zits that I have had in my entire life to her NONE EVER, is actually less flawless than her own.

What I did not get from my mother was my taste for fiery, hot spice, gamy meat, and my willingness to put my overly-trusting ethnically Chinese-self in the hands of white people.

“Who is Fuchsia Dunlop?” my mother asked, “Is she Chinese?”

“Um, no. She’s British.”

“Like British-Chinese?”

“No . . . um, just British.”

Silence.

Asian-child fail!

But it’s really not my fault! My mother is an amazing cook, who has basically decided that she will be taking all her secrets to her grave so I will miss her more when she’s gone. In her kitchen, I am not even sous chef. I am relegated to the status of line-cook. Or bus-person.

Basically she lets me wrap things like egg rolls, dumplings, or leftovers with cling film.

These dumplings are not anything my mother would ever cook. First of all, they are spicy as heck! Secondly, the root of their spice comes from a nice, thick, orange slick of delicious grease! Finally, the recipe is from a white person.

But. They. Are. Delicious.

To the unintiated, Fuchsia Dunlop (who never seems to be known as just Fuchsia or just Dunlop) is a Chinese food phenomenon. Author of the best-selling Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, the book outlines her deep love for Chinese cookery which began as a student at Cambridge, culminated in a move to Chengdu and enrollment in a professional chef’s training course at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine — the first Westerner to ever do so.

Friends, both Asian and not, swear by her books and her recipes, both of which translate Sichuanese and Hunanese cuisine into something effortless, accessible, and authentic-feeling.

I adapted this recipe from one that appeared on Epicurious from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking. I didn’t change parts of it because I had any kind of personal reference — apart from eating similar dumplings in restaurants, I don’t. Instead, I altered the recipe because I am apparently lazier than your average Chinese home cook 🙂

However, the results are still divine. Heritage schmeritage! These dumplings tick every single box in terms of a deeply soul-satisfying food experience. Did I mention that they are ridiculously easy to make too? 🙂

Ingredients:

For the sauce

3-4 tablespoons of dark Chinese soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

3 scallions, finely chopped

3 tablespoons of sesame chili oil with sediment

For the dumplings

1 knob of fresh ginger

1 pound of ground pork

1 egg, beaten

2 teaspoons of Shaoxing wine (a useful buying guide can be found here)

1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil

3 scallions, finely chopped

Freshly ground white pepper

1 package of wonton wrappers

For garnish

2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts, chopped (Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe does not call for them, but I think they would be an terrific addition. I would have added if I had them on hand!)

How to prepare:

1. First, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and the sugar. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the finely minced garlic, the chili oil with sediment, and the finely chopped scallions.

2. Using a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy coffee mug, crush the knob of unpeeled ginger. Place it in a small dish and cover it with about 2 tablespoons of water.

3. In a large bowl, combine the pork with one beaten egg, 2 teaspoons of Shaoxing wine, 1 teaspoon of roasted sesame oil, and 3 teaspoons of the ginger water. Mix well with your hands. Add the scallions and season the meat with white pepper to taste.

As the sauce is relatively salty, I opted to not salt the meat, but you can do so if you prefer.

4. Fill a small dish with cold water. Take one wonton wrapper and lay it on a flat surface. Place about a teaspoon of pork filling into the center of the wrapper. Dip a finger in the cold water and run it around the edges. Fold the wrapper in half diagonally and continue until all the pork filling is gone. You should use up about half of the package of wrappers, which you can save and freeze for another time. Lay the wontons out on a large cookie sheet to avoid crowding them onto a plate like I did.

5. While you are wrapping, set a large pot of water to boil. When the water has reached a rolling boil, salt it as if you would for pasta (wontons are essentially ravioli after all). Carefully drop the wontons in one-at-a-time. I only cooked 8-10 at once to ensure that they wouldn’t stick together. When the water has come back up to a boil, add another cup of cold water to the pot. When the water has come up to a boil again, gently scoop up each wonton with a slotted spoon and drain each well. Divide the wontons among however many bowls you want and generously spoon over the chili-soy sauce.

Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, put on a bib, and dive in.

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77 Comments

  1. I too have experience with relatives that have culinary secrets are shared to a point. When I tried to copy my aunt’s dishes, she would always leave some crucial detail out. then say “see, you no cook like me”. Chinese and their secrets, sigh. Your post made my laugh. I am not alone. Hee hee.

    • My mom does that too! Once she gave me a cake recipe and told me that it had three cups of vegetable oil in it. Seriously? I kept asking her and she kept insisting it was three cups. I made it, it was disgusting, and then my mom tells me she meant 3 TABLESPOONS. Must definitely be a Chinese thing!

  2. I think I;m like that in the kitchen – I end up standing over whoever is cooking and then just take over – awful father and husband! Mind you those wontons lookd delicious I need to find some of those wrappers

    • Aw! I will also confess to being a kitchen fascist! But sometimes it’s just easier 😉

      The wontons are delicious! Let me know if you find wrappers and make them!

  3. brie

    Yowza! On the day I come to visit you (yes, one of these days 🙂 !) I want you to make these for me :D!!!) Looks incredible!

      • brie

        Actually I think Brittany and Courtney are really psyched on the idea of one day meeting up with you in the city….perfume sampling, shopping and eating all of those odd combo foods you always talk about. If you are around this summer we will have to plan this, as Brittany’s birthday is a few days before yours. We can do an epic duo b-day celebration all four of us girls!!!

  4. I love dumplings served in red oil … especially jiaozi. Have you seen Fuchsia’s ‘Land of Plenty’ about Sichuan food? It is one the best books in my library… her book on Hunan cuisine (The Revolutionary Cookbook) is excellent as well.

    • Thanks, John! No, I haven’t read that one but I am putting it on my list now. Playing catch-up with books and old New Yorkers! Am so behind!

      I think that I love all dumplings, including the Central and Eastern European varieties 🙂 It’s also my favorite word and one day, it will be the name of my dog 🙂

    • Thank you, Nick! I was quite pleased with the color of the sauce and the results as well. The filling is so easy too. It makes me wonder why I have never made them before!

  5. Steve

    Someday I must meet your mother, if only to hear her cursing. The dumplings look delicious—thanks to you (and Fuchsia) for sharing!

    • You will! She is hysterical, totally un-PC, and has great comic timing. You and Michelle would love her. Thanks for the kind words about the dumplings too! I was thinking about you two and your freezer full of amazing dim sum as I was making them 🙂

    • My mom is awesome! I do have to admit that it took me a long time to appreciate her sense of humor though. She never learned English formally so growing up, when her vocabulary was not as big as it is today, I used to think that she just said mean things randomly! Now I know that she was just trying to make me snicker but didn’t know how to yet. Can you imagine how frustrating that must of been? My poor mom!

  6. For some reason yesterday while shopping I felt like buying wonton wrappers. But the last time I did, I ended up throwing away too many of them (they come in – I don’t know – a hundred a pack where I buy them). So since I had no recipe in mind, I didn’t buy any. Now, I regret it.
    I’m keeping the recipe though. It is never spicy enough for my husband, so I’ll definitely try those 🙂

    • I know! The package has so many wrappers! But this is a good recipe to keep in mind. You can keep a package of wrappers in the freezer, and as long as you have all the other ingredients on hand, you just need some ground pork to have a great meal.

      Glad to hear that you are spice lovers too!

  7. They look kinda like a little brains in the batter and sauce. Love the picture, especially the cut ginger out there

  8. Hilarious. I could read your dry sense of humour ALLLLLLL day long! From your mother pointing out the 4 spots you’ve had in your entire lifetime, to not letting you even be a sous chef, to “Asian-child fail!” I was almost in hysterics. Seriously, one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. As for the food itself….. *swallows drool* Mmmm, so, so yummy! And your photos are lovely too!

    I’m very impressed with Fuschia Dunlop (that name!!) moving to Chengdu to follow her love of Chinese cooking. Wowzer. I bet Bourdain would be even more impressed. I took a one-day cooking class in a small Chinese cooking school in Guilin and it was a fabulous experience. (I was also left with was a deep, abiding envy for their incredible gas levels and heat intensity which is most certainly not available to me in a home kitchen in the West.) Your recipe is tempting me to go back to trying Chinese cooking again. Did I mention just HOW much I drooled while reading it??! 🙂

    • Thank you, Kafka! You should meet my mother. She is an unfiltered hoot!

      And Fuchsia Dunlop is a pretty amazing name — an amazing name befitting an amazing author. I hope that you get to check out some of her other books!

      Your cooking class in Guilin sounds amazing! The gas levels and heat intensity is one of the reasons why my mother no longer owns a round-bottomed wok at home.

  9. Great post, Daisy! Always love the stories about your mom. And the dumplings, of course. I’ve had that recipe flagged for a while, but haven’t gotten to it. Must remedy. Soon. Plus (wow!) I saw your great shout-out from Fuchsia Dunlop on Twitter!

    • Thanks, Michelle! Yes, you must try it. They are delicious! And thank you for letting me know about Fuchsia Dunlop’s tweet! I was having dinner in Williamsburg and was so floored that I choked on my escarole – caccio cavalo flatbread!

  10. I love love loved Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, which I loaned to my mother years ago (and I doubt she ever got around to finishing). Funny, I bought Every Grain of Rice not long ago. I got the British version of the book because of the measurements but also because I fell in love with the book design. I haven’t cooked from it yet. Just drooled over the photos. There’s nothing quite like a book full of big and lovely food porn.

    I whole-heartedly celebrate lazy cooking. I figure if you can tweak a recipe for minimum work and ultimate enjoyment, that is call progress.

    • A vegetarian version? Why not! Tofu/spinach/ginger/green onions sounds divine. So would just straight up vegetables. The sauce is really what makes it though 🙂

  11. Oh Daisy these look super duper fantastic and mouth watering! Thanks for posting this recipe. Hubby and I miss living in an area with Asian restaurants so I’ve been trying to make dishes at home. This recipe is exactly what I’m looking for. Do you recommend a certain brand of wontons? Or do you have a good wonton wrapper recipe? What makes a good wonton wrapper? The “Every Grain of Rice” book looks perfect! I think I’m going to put it on my wish list. 🙂

    • Thank you! They are fantastic and so easy! In all honesty, all wonton wrappers are pretty much the same. They come either fresh or frozen (frozen is easier to find and are just like the fresh ones once thawed) in two varieties: one is yellow, which I would guess is from egg yolk? Hmmm, don’t quote me on that! And one that is a white/ivory color (this is what I chose).

      At the store, you should have the choice between round wrappers or square ones. I chose the square, but they taste the same.

      I guess you could make them yourself, but I wouldn’t want to do it without a pasta roller. You really have to get the dough quite thin.

      Let me know how you get on and if you try it!

  12. Can I just say I feel like you’ve made this dish just for me :). This looks AMAZING. I can totally see myself making this and I’m going too 🙂

  13. Just the recipe that I’ve been looking… Never made dumplings before and it is now something that I’d been itching to try. Thanks for sharing. 😉

    • Thank you, Malou! The recipe is so good and so easy that it would be a crime not to try them! I am confident that you are a cracking dumpling maker and can’t wait to hear how they turn out.

  14. Daisy, I LOVE your sense of humour!!!Since I can’t be in NY with you, I am heading out to buy all of the ingredients I don’t have so that I can make dumplings for dinner and pretend I am there! They look so simple. Surely it can’t be this easy (and let this not be my famous last words…) Much love to you, Nicole xx

    • You’re the best, Nicole! I can’t wait to hear how you get on with them! I love making my friends’ recipes. It makes me feel close to them, as if they were in the kitchen with me even if we are many miles apart. You know, when we do meet up, it will be dangerous 🙂 But the best kind of dangerous: food dangerous 🙂

  15. Wow, great looking/sounding dish and the photo series is great. We will give this one a try…and we won’t tell your mom….

  16. Wow! I already made the wontons and they are in the freezer. All I need is the sesame chili oil to enjoy this amazing recipe of yours. Thanks a lot for this inspiring recipe. 😉

  17. Sad to have missed this post when it first appeared! way to go Daisy! These look DELICIOUS. I heart Fuschia Dunlop.

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