January 29, 2009

Mom's special Shanghainese wontons

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I've been holed up in Taipei for the past week, eating mom's home cooking on a daily basis. It's been a while since I was able to stay in Taipei for an extended period of time, and mom made sure that we ate well despite her being somewhat incapacitated lately.

One of the things in which I had a hand in making were her special wontons. Shanghainese wontons are different from Cantonese wontons in that instead of shrimp, pork and vegetables are used. You will find the stereotypical 菜肉餛飩 in most Shanghainese restaurants. (Yes, Shanghainese call them 餛飩 instead of 雲吞 like the Cantonese...) But nowadays mom prefers to use some special ingredients, and this time it was Indian aster, or malantou (馬蘭頭) in Shanghainese.

I bought a huge bag of Indian aster from a Shanghainese specialty store in Hong Kong, then prepped it for travel by blanching it in boiling water for a few seconds. Once water has been drained from the veggie, it was packed into a big Ziploc bag and got on the plane with me to Taipei. Once back in Taipei, mom taught me to dice the veggie into tiny bits with two cleavers - one in each hand. It's a laborious process, and I can appreciate the work that goes into preparing the classic cold appetizer malantou (with finely diced tofu) that we find in fine Shanghainese restaurants.  Since I didn't remove the stems in the process, extra work had to be done to ensure that we wouldn't bite into long pieces of stems.

Mom took over and proceeded to mix the veggie into ground pork, then started wrapping wonton skin around the mixture. It's important to make sure you get a good balance between the veggie and the meat, as you want to be able to detect the special flavor of the veggie. The end result are wontons that have a unique flavor. Indian aster has a fragrance not unlike mint and parsley, only milder. Biting into one of these wontons leaves a lingering, fragrant aftertaste in one's mouth. Maybe I'll try to make these on my own one of these days...


Changunnie said...

I'm envious! Home made wontons are good and even better when electrical blended are not used. I'm going to have homemade wonton for breakfast tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Gong xi fa cai! sounds like you're eating well back home.

I always wondered what that Shanghainese vegetable is - I LOVE it. It's very fragrant.
We should do a dumpling/wonton meal some day and invite others over to wrap and eat.

see ya when you're back.


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