Sweet and Savory Crab Wontons
22 Feb 2007

One of my fondest food-related memories is of discovering that I actually love fish. For years, I passionately hated any non-shellfish seafood. That all changed when I had my first piece of salmon nigiri in a tiny sushi restaurant in Boulder, Colorado called Sushi Tora. Despite being miles from any ocean, Sushi Tora always had amazing sushi, and that first bite of salmon nigiri completely changed my view of what fish could be. Despite what might hour or two line-ups for one of the 6 or 7 two person tables or 8 or so seats at the bar, Sushi Tora was a weekly visit, where I'd indulge in more sushi than any one person should ever eat along with some of the finest dumplings... both gyoza and shumai... I've ever had. In Seattle, there are plenty of places to go for amazing sushi... and I think I'd probably be disappointed now if I went back to Sushi Tora after being spoiled on the freshest fish from the Pacific Northwest... but, I still haven't found a place that lives up to Sushi Tora's delicate little steamed shrimp dumplings, gracefully decked out with a pea. I've always been tempted to make my own, but have always been too intimidated by the wrapping technique. I just couldn't figure out how to make the little crown like dumplings, and haven't run across a recipe that could clearly illustrate how. I still, in fact, haven't. But, I did find the best how-to photos on making gorgeously wrapped wontons in Kylie Kwong's recent release, Simple Chinese Cooking. My first one was a bit of a mess, but I quickly got the trick down, and in no time was racing through a dozen of the little packages and wanting to make more. I decided on two different dumpling recipes that both used the same basic ingredients for very different ends. The wontons themselves would be stuffed with fresh dungenous crab, based on a recipe in "Ezard" (Teage Ezard), one of the most creative cookbooks I've seen in a long time. Each dish layers ingredient after ingredient to create what has be considered art. But, what I really love about the book is that it has so many basic ideas in it that can be creatively applied anywhere to pretty astonishing results. Things like scenting dishes with a smoked tea leaves, spicing salts, how to make crispy garnishes, and unusual flavor combinations. The first section of the cookbook is all on how to make many of the standard ingredients used in the rest of the book. In fact, the recipe for the crab stuffing I made used one of these ingredients... a white fish mouse which is a whipped fresh fish with egg white and cream that helps bond the mixture together. Other basics are things like balsamic syrup, stocks, tempura batter, tamarind paste and labna, a yogurt cheese. Anyway, for my two types of wontons, I used a fairly simple crab/fish mouse stuffing with some ginger and salt. One batch of wontons would be steamed and the other fried. I added a bit of finely chopped celery to the mixture for the steamed dumpling (the sweet dish) and a bit of roasted red pepper to the fried dumpling filling (my savory dumplings). A very subtle difference, that produced dramatically different flavors.

I served the steamed wontons over a bed of citrus salsa, and topped each wonton with either a bit of finely diced roasted red pepper or, my preference, a fresh blueberry. The tartness of the citrus and the light sweetness of the blueberry along with the crab-stuffed wonton were startlingly delicious.
These flavors work so well together, I'd recommend making the recipe even if you don't want to mess with the fussiness of the presentation and the bother of balancing blueberries a top wontons... just add the steamed wontons to the citrus salsa, throw in a handful of blueberries and some red pepper and call it a citrus wonton pasta salad. Yum.
Then there were the fried, more savory, wontons. Even easier to prepare... just toss them in some very hot oil once they are wrapped, and drain on a paper towel once golden brown. I served mine with a chili grapefruit sauce, but any slightly sweet and acidic sauce would be delicious. The flavor isn't as complex as the sweet dumplings, but certainly no less delicious.
With a little dumpling success under my apron strings, I think that the shumai can't be too far off...
Steamed Crab Wontons with Citrus Salsa makes 10-15 wontons Note: requires a bamboo steamer, or equivalent for the dumplings 1/4 lb fresh crab meat 2 T Fish Mouse (see below) 2 t finely chopped celery 1/2 t finely grated ginger or a healthy pinch of dry ginger salt to taste 10 to 15 wonton skins blueberries (optional) roasted red pepper (optional) for the salsa 2 large cocktail grapefruit 2 mandarin oranges 1 lime 1 T red wine vinegar 1 T olive oil In a medium sized bowl, combine the crab meat, fish mouse, celery and ginger. Mix well with a fork until evenly distributed. Add a pinch of salt if needed. Prepare your work surface for the wontons. You will need a clean, dry plate to put the folded wontons on, a little bowl of water and a dry working surface. Take a square wonton wrapper. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center. Using your finger, dampen the bottom edge of the wrapper, then fold from the top towards you, and line up the edges. Lightly press the edge together. Then, pick up the dumpling, with the fold side down. Lightly wet the bottom corner (where the fold is.) with your finger. Then, gently fold the top towards you, while bringing the bottom two corners (the folded ones) together so they over lap. You should have something that looks like a little belly, with an up-turned collar around it. Pinch those overlapping corners together and you are done. Repeat, and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Start a large pot of water boiling. Slice up your citrus, carefully removing any pith or seeds, and place the pieces in a bowl. Splash with the vinegar and olive oil and let sit for a couple of minutes. Then, drain off about 1/2 of the juice. If you are topping with blueberries or roasted red pepper, get those ready. Once the water is boiling, place the dumplings in a bamboo steamer, and place over the pot of boiling water. You don't want the dumplings to touch... so you may need to do this twice. Cover and steam for about 2 to 3 minutes. To serve, either just mix everything together... or plate by starting with a layer of the salsa, followed by a dumpling, and top with the red pepper or a blueberry. Drizzle with a bit of the citrus juice.
Crisply Fried Dumplings with Grapefruit Chili Sauce for the dumplings 1/4 lb fresh crab meat 2 T Fish Mouse (see below) 2 t finely chopped roasted red pepper 1/2 t finely grated ginger or a healthy pinch of dry ginger salt to taste 10 to 15 wonton skins vegetable oil for frying for the sauce 1/4 cup rice vinegar 2 T sugar Juice from 1 large grapefruit 1 t fish sauce sri racha to taste In a medium sized bowl, combine the crab meat, fish mouse, red pepper and ginger. Mix well with a fork until evenly distributed. Add a pinch of salt if needed. Prepare your work surface for the wontons. You will need a clean, dry plate to put the folded wontons on, a little bowl of water and a dry working surface. Take a square wonton wrapper. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center. Using your finger, dampen the bottom edge of the wrapper, then fold from the top towards you, and line up the edges. Lightly press the edge together. Then, pick up the dumpling, with the fold side down. Lightly wet the bottom corner (where the fold is.) with your finger. Then, gently fold the top towards you, while bringing the bottom two corners (the folded ones) together so they over lap. You should have something that looks like a little belly, with an up-turned collar around it. Pinch those overlapping corners together and you are done. Repeat, and lightly cover with plastic wrap. In a heavy bottom pan, simmer the vinegar, sugar and grapefruit juice until reduced by half. Remove from heat and stir in the fish sauce and sri racha. Place in a dish for dipping. In a deep pan or wok, heat about an inch of vegetable oil until almost to smoking. Carefully place a few of the wontons in the pan and cook on one side until golden brown. Then, flip and brown on the other side. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Serve with the sauce for dipping. Fish Mouse Makes about 1/2 lb This makes way more than you'll need for the wontons above, so feel free to cut back and use a partial egg, etc. Or, you could try freezing the left-overs. 5 oz white fish (like Sole) 1 egg white 4 fl oz cream a healthy pinch of salt Make sure you remove any bones or skin from the fish. Dice the fillet, and whip it in a food processor until it is a puree. Then, add the egg white, and whip some more, followed by the cream and more whipping. Add a touch of salt. If you are really patient, you could try pushing it through a sieve as the recipe recommends. But, I just used it as it was.

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