Wonton noodle soup
This recipe is derivative of wonton noodle soup which, when I lived in Hong Kong, I ate a minimum of twice a week. I used to go to the same place in Wellington Street, Hong Kong – a hole in the wall, or dai pai dong. At the time they only served one thing, a perfect soup of noodles, MSG-laced broth, and wonderfully crunchy, wonderfully big prawn dumplings. I went back recently and the plastic chairs had gone but the soup tasted exactly the same, which is quite remarkable.
What’s interesting about the noodles is they are quite firm. It is thought this is because of the natural alkaline levels in the water used to make the noodles. In some parts the world, baking soda is used to replicate this when making noodles. Some people even add baking soda to the water in which they cook the noodles, although I wouldn’t recommend that. Before we get too technical, and a lot is written on the subject, I will say this: buy a packet of quality fresh ramen noodles from an Asian grocery.
The Cantonese version of wanton mee has a broth that can be a bit lacklustre; to address this, pots of light pink vinegar are usually served alongside it. It can be very thin, and light on taste, which is partly about the climate in which it’s served. Personally, I prefer a broth that has a more restorative quality – a richness in flavour that comes from bones.
To make a simple chicken stock, I take a few chicken carcasses, which I wash well and from which I remove excess fat before quartering. In a pot I add a piece of ginger, two or three spring onions and enough cold water to just cover the bones. I bring this to a simmer and cook gently for at least three or four hours before straining. This has a purity of flavour to which, depending on the dish, I then add. It can also be frozen and used later.
There is nothing new about chicken noodle soup. Alongside avocado on toast, chicken pho has kept me alive for the past 20 years. For the 20 years before that, it was cup noodles and a similar if less nourishing principle. The addition of wantons gives a little more heft and another texture. Pork, chicken or prawn dumplings all have a place. The protein rounds out the meal.
Shop-bought wonton skins are hard to beat. The filling can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. A quality mince from your butcher, lightly seasoned, is all you really need. If I’m using pork mince, I like the dumpling small; if I’m using prawn, I like them bigger. It’s really up to you.
Wonton noodle soup
– ramen broth (see recipe below)
– 8 chicken, pork or prawn dumplings (bought or made)
– 500g fresh ramen noodles (can be bought from a Japanese grocer)
– 2 spring onions, green tops only, thinly sliced on an angle
– 1 tbsp togarashi or pinch of fresh chilli
– 1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Lower the heat.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Carefully drop the dumplings into the boiling water. When ready, remove the cooked dumplings with a slotted spoon. Now drop the noodles into the same pot and cook to your liking (fresh ramen noodles usually take three to four minutes). Strain into a colander and divide the noodles and dumplings between four bowls. Pour the hot broth to cover the noodles.
Top with the spring onion greens and sprinkle with a combination of togarashi and ground sesame.
– 600g chicken wings
– ½ carrot
– 1 onion
– 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
– 2 litres white chicken stock
– 10cm x 5cm piece konbu
– ¼ cup white miso
– 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
– 1 stick celery
– 3cm piece ginger
– 1 tomato peeled and chopped
– 2 tbsp light soy sauce
Preheat oven to 220°C.
Chop the chicken wings into three-centimetre pieces with a cleaver. Place them into an ovenproof dish and roast for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Peel and roughly chop the carrot and onion. In a heavy-based saucepan heat the grapespeed oil and cook the onion and carrot until golden. Place all ingredients except the soy sauce into a large stainless-steel pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for two hours to develop the flavours.
Strain the stock through a fine sieve, adding the soy sauce to taste.
Asahi beer ($21.95, six-pack)
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 22, 2015 as "Wonton consumption". Subscribe here.