Yesterday I taught an Asian noodle cooking class at Rhode Island School of Design (known hereabouts as RIZ-dee). In an attempt at full disclosure -- so that prospective students would understand, empathize with, and perhaps even share the depth of my addiction -- I titled the class Wonton Lust.
Oh, lust we did! Thirteen students, nine amazing dishes, eight different noodles, one tired instructor.
Next time, though, I might skip the rice vermicelli, banh pho, lo mein, ho fen, soba, udon and banh trang.
I might go right to the wonton skins, and stay there for the entire three-hour class.
Wonton skins are thin three-by-three-inch squares, made from flour, water, eggs and salt. (Note that the ones in this photo, purchased at an Asian grocery, also have artificial food coloring. I no longer buy this brand, though they're the least expensive.) In varying sizes, shapes, and thickness, the same "skin" encloses wontons, potstickers, dumplings, gyoza and egg rolls.
I'm embarrassed to tell you that until just a few years ago, my world view was so limited that I used wonton skins to make ... well, wontons. Only wontons. So, now I'm going to share one of the revelations that has rocked my cooking: wonton skins are dough. Yes, my friends, dough, which someone else has mixed and rolled for you, to a thinness that takes real work to achieve by hand.
Just think -- pre-made dough, square (wontons) or round (gyoza wrappers, which are just a tiny bit thicker than wontons), that you can store in the refrigerator (for a week or two) or freezer (for a couple of months) and turn into quick ravioli, samosas, empanadas or even a Napoleon! Any filling that you'd use for egg rolls or dumplings can be made into a wonton.
Here's another idea: Press wonton skins into a muffin pan (spray the muffin pan with baking spray), and bake to make edible cups for sweets or salsa.
Almost every supermarket, including the one in our little village, now carries wonton skins, usually in the produce aisle along with tofu and bean sprouts. No matter which brand you buy, there are approximately 40 to a package.
So, for my next class, I'm thinking about 101 Things to Do with a Wonton Skin.
This recipe, adapted from Gale Gand and the Food Network, was the perfect ending to our class. Makes 10 wontons; recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.
2 milk chocolate candy bars
20 wonton skins
2 bananas, sliced
4 cups vegetable oil
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar
1 pint vanilla frozen yogurt
Leave the milk chocolate in a warm place to make it slightly pliable, or warm between your hands. Cut each bar into 8 chunks and, with your hands, try to form each chunk into a disk the size of a quarter with no sharp edges. Lay half the wonton skins out on a surface and, one at a time, paint the edges with water. In the center of the wonton skin, place a disk of milk chocolate and a banana slice on top of the chocolate. Place another wonton on top, and press to seal tightly. Each wonton package should look like a ravioli. Cover with plastic wrap and store chilled until ready to fry and serve, up to 10 hours ahead.
Heat the oil in a wok or deep pot to 350°F. Drop the wontons into the oil, being careful not to crowd them (you may have to work in batches) and fry, turning often, until golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, place the cinnamon sugar in a bowl. Remove the wontons with a slotted spoon and immediately sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar to coat heavily. Serve right away with scoops of vanilla frozen yogurt.
Photo from the archives.
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