Food Memories – Grandma’s Wontons

This summer the Universe brought Lan from Angry Asian Creations into my world.  I forget the exact circumstances but it didn’t take me long to get AAC loaded into my Google Reader and start chatting with Lan via email about getting together in real life.  Having spent time with her, I would like to thank the Universe for using her influence to ever so slyly push me back towards my Bread Bible Studies.  Had we been in school together, I have a feeling that Lan and I would have been thick as thieves.  She tells it like it is and knows how to have a good time.  Check out her Live It List…inspiring.  And for the record Lan, I can totally help you out with #18.

I have a special place in my heart for Grandma’s and stories about how they love on us so when Lan offered me this story for her Food Memory, I jumped on it.  This originally appeared on Angry Asian Creations on 14 September 2009 and I’m glad to have the opportunity to share it with you here.

Comfort In A Bowl – Grandma’s Wonton Soup

did i ever tell you the story of when, at the age of 8, i ate 24 of my grandmother’s wonton dumplings? no? well allow me. 24 may not seem like a lot, or maybe it does, but at the time, i was a scrawny little shit, shorter than most of my classmates and while i never went to bed hungry, i can’t imagine it was cheap keeping me fed. i wasn’t aware of all the details, but i do recall grandmother counting pennies for my lunch money everyday and that is why she holds such prime real estate in my heart.

what i recall of that day is that grandma put a bowl of hot soup in front of me, heaping with wonton dumplings, the wrappers slick but at the same time wrinkly, clinging to the meat filling. and every time i emptied my bowl with a declaration that i wanted more, she would smile and make me more. for awhile, rather than extolling my grades (because back then, i really was a good student) or pimping my dance moves (Michael Jackson had nothing on me), she would tell anybody and everybody that i ate 24 of her wonton dumplings in one sitting. a pat on my head would follow. rather than be embarrassed, i would be comforted. yet another thing grandma was proud of me for, eating an assload of her food, something so easy and so damn good.

so when last weekend i felt like ass warmed over, i wanted comfort food. something to warm my very being, something that could possibly put more spring in my step. i spent all day saturday not only working on my DB challenge and a homemade chili concoction, i made grandma’s wonton dumplings. it is unbelievable and magical to me that despite how much my head and stomach hurt, i was able to stand in my kitchen all day and prepare this comfort food. because let me tell you, wrapping dumplings takes a hot minute! i meant it when i said on twitter that cooking/baking is such a balm for anything, especially when the end result brought such comfort to my sick body.

Grandma’s Wonton Soup
adapted from memory

*again, i don’t have exact measurements, i dumped a lot of stuff in a bowl

  • Wonton wrappers
  • about 1 lb ground pork
  • wood ear fungus, rehydrated in hot water, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • some vermicelli noodles, hydrated in hot water, roughly chopped
  • fish sauce to taste
  • 4oz pate
  • homemade chicken stock (really, you can use any kind of stock you want)

mix ground pork, fungus, onions, garlic, vermicelli, and pate together. add a dollop in the middle of wonton wrapper and make sure that you seal the meat in. i went simple and just folded the wrappers diagonally and sealed with a water/cornstarch mix. store in container covered with damp paper towel until ready to cook.

to cook, add to simmering pot of water (or stock) until wrappers are translucent. it doesn’t take long for the meat to cook thru. to serve, put in bowls and pour hot stock over dumplings. consume as is, or dipped in hoisin/chili sauce.

{printable recipe}

24 thoughts on “Food Memories – Grandma’s Wontons

  1. Oh wow, those sound delicious, although I don’t think I am familiar with wood ear fungus! I think I’d remember that. If we couldn’t find that particular fungus, is there a common mushroom you’d recommend?

    Love the story too – Lan, you have a unique voice!

    1. Jennifer, you are absolutely right that Lan has a unique voice. I’ll have to let her comment definitively on the fungus…when I made these, I didn’t put in any kind of mushroom but I imagine something like diced enoki or oyster would be lovely.

      As you can see from my photo, I also made my wontons more like ravioli. Perhaps I need Lan to give me a wonton tutorial!

    2. Hi Jennifer, thank you for your kind words! wood ear fungus can be found in asian markets in the dried foods aisle. i’ve never seen it fresh. it has a rubbery/crunchy texture to it that i imagine isn’t very pleasant if you’re not used it (i personally love it). if you want to immitate the crunchy texture, you can add maybe water chestnuts? to substitute another mushroom, i’d go with the oyster.

      i’ll be honest, when it comes to the filling, i never make the same every time. it’s whatever i have handy in the pantry/fridge. the main base would be the ground meat, vermicelli noodles, onions, garlic & fish sauce. i’ve thrown in diff types of mushrooms before, as well as pate, chive blossoms, ginger, cabbage, shredded carrots etc. what’s always the same tho is that i can usually consume A LOT of the dumplings! 🙂

  2. oh SNIFFLE, how i heart this post Wendi! this is one of my all time fave gma meals & memories, i always have a stash in the freezer to fall back on when i miss her something fierce.

    and i remember when i contacted you! i saw your blog listed on a friend’s blogroll & then all of a sudden the baltimore food blogger world opened up for me & you invited me to the waverly farmer’s market…

    and YES, i’d love a stick shift tutor!!

    1. Lan, like I said I’m a sucker for a Grandma story. Those memories are exactly what the Food Memories project is all about.

      I’m thrilled the Universe brought our worlds together and that you feel more connected to the b’more food blog scene. We can totally make a date in the spring to get you shifting like a pro…the Mazda, she does not much like the snow.

  3. These dumplings look scrumptious, and I could easily consume a hot dozen right now (though 24 might be a stretch for me =). I’ll have to look for the wood ear next time I take a trip to my local Asian grocery store.

  4. 1. That sounds so good and with it being so darn cold, I could dig on some wonton soup right now.
    2. I think it’s sweet her grandmother held on to that memory. It goes to show that nothing special or out of the ordinary has to happen for us to remember one another.

  5. That was one thing that used to frustrate me as a kid. The 3 wonton limit at Chinese restaurants. It was such a tease.

    I’m glad the Universe brought that angry Asian into your life, Wendi, and in turn, brought these wontons into my life.

    Lan, I’ve always wanted to do #23 and #32. Simultaneously even.

    1. ali, for Gawd & Country, please do #23 & 32 at the same time. PETA would be on you like white on rice but it would so amusing.

      and as payment, i will feed you as many wontons as you can consume.

    1. there is no limit to the things i can say & do. madonna said that, but i live it.

      except maybe time & money.

      thanks for visiting, please do come back again, & often.

    2. Wow is right Omawarisan. And I know she’s got a special kitchen project underway for our next dinner party this week. Can’t wait to see the results.

  6. It’s 1:23 am. I’m “studying” for my last final tomorrow. I see this beautiful post about wontons…and I’m done. I’m just DONE.

    Good Lord, please bring me some wontons soon. Amen.

    Lan, you’re awesome.

    1. amy, wendi emailed me your comment this AM and it really made my morning! thank you. if only you were local, i would feed you wontons while you studied for your FINALS. but i promise, these are easy to whip up.

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