Traditional wontons can be made with Asian vegetables such as Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, Scallions, Snow Peas, Ginger and any other type of vegetable or meats you prefer. Lucky Peach has published a guide from The Cleaver Quarterly on Chinese dumplings. This guide and others, are visually amazing and very informative on the many kinds of wontons, dumplings and Chinese Cuisine. You can find these guides on the Lucky Peach website and they will help demystify the wide world of Asian Dumplings, Dim Sum and Wontons.
Trying non-traditional combinations can bring about new ideas and give you an opportunity to find creativity in the kitchen. As we say, there aren’t any mistakes just new ideas and new ways to learn. Butternut Squash is one of those vegetables that always seems to comfort the palette. Just the color alone, rich orange, and the creamy texture when pureed is an easy uncomplicated vegetable with so many ways of incorporating it to recipes and dishes. Won Ton’s with Butternut Squash almost becomes a dessert. The warmth and creaminess inside the crisp fried won-ton skins may change the way you prepare won-ton’s at home. Usually harvested in the fall, Butternut Squash if steamed and pureed, will keep in the freezer for quite some time. A little goes along way. Adding a 1/4 freshly steamed beet puree to the filling makes a beautiful scarlet color to the inside of the wonton. Any vegetable puree (carrot, fennel, pumpkin) can be used in combination or alone as your filling.
What makes these Won-ton’s so interesting is the paring of flavors and the addition of Five Spice powder. If unfamiliar with it you should add it to your spice rack for sure. Like so many “hard to find” pantry items this now is also readily available in just about any store. Of course there are more authentic and better quality brands and you will probably do just fine with, but a quick trip to the Asian market could make a difference. Star Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves and Szechwan Peppercorns are ground together usually in equal portions to make a blended spice. Anise is the flavor you will find in licorice, fresh fennel, Pastis liquor and it has a distinctive flavor when blended with spices. Also, it can be used in Chai tea, meat marinades, simple syrups and many Indian and Asian dishes.
Pre-made wonton skins are again easy to find. Small squares of thinly rolled out dough come in packages of around 50 sheets and will make tons of dumplings. You can pre-make the wontons and freeze them on a sheet pan then bag them once they are frozen. Fry or steam them when you want a quick appetizer, snack, lunch or an easy meal. Hardly any skill is need to fold the wrappers. However, there is an age old traditional to the art of dumpling and potstickers that I may never be able to master. In the mean time, a simple fold will do just fine and over time perhaps fancier versions and skills will come.
butternut squash wonton
3 dozen Wontons
1/2 Butternut Squash or 16 oz chopped cubed chunks of Squash
1/2 Vidalia Onion, minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, minced
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 ½ teaspoons Five Spice Powder
A dash of Red Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Package Wonton Wrappers
Vegetable Oil for frying
If using a whole Butternut Squash, slice the skin off, cut in half, remove the seeds and chop into chunks. Or if you bought the already chopped Squash pre packaged, wash it and place directly in a pan with a steam rack or a small amount of water.
Steam the Butternut Squash covered until tender. Drain well. Puree until smooth and creamy.
Mince the Vidalia Onion and place in a heated sauté pan with the Olive Oil. Cook until translucent. Set aside to cool.
Mince the Cilantro and add it to the cooled Butternut Squash Puree along with the other ingredients and the cooled Onions.
Season to taste.
Lay out a Wonton Wrapper so it is in the shape of a diamond with the points facing North, South, East and West.
Have a bowl of water nearby and paint with your finger along the North two edges of the wrapper.
Spoon about 1 ½ teaspoons of filling into the center of the wrapper.
Fold the South point up to the North point and seal tightly by pressing with your fingers.
Now you have a triangle pointing North.
Take the East and West points and pick up the Wonton, then fold the two points towards each other and press firmly to seal with a dab of water. Be clear the filling doesn’t squirt out of the sides.
Your Wonton should look like a small parcel with a rounded filling center.
Heat about 2 inches of Vegetable Oil in a pan. Add the wontons making sure not to overcrowd or over brown them. Watch the temperature of the Oil and add more as you begin to fry more batches. Flip when they are a golden brown.
Serve with a Soy Dipping Sauce.
There are many different ways to fold Dumplings and Wontons. A simple package works just as well if you are having difficulty with the classic dumpling technique. They fry up beautifully just the same. Make sure you have a parchment lined sheet pan that has been dusted with corn starch to prevent sticking. It is also a good idea to keep the wontons covered with a towel so they do not dry out. Refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to pan fry or steam them and of course they are best when served hot. You can add a cooked beet to the pureed mixture if you want to change the flavors and add some vibrancy to the filling.