Everything I Know About Chinese Food PT. 3

Feb 1, 2019 | Cooking Tips


This week in the third and final part of “Everything I Know About Chinese Food” I will be talking about won tons, soup, and vegetable dishes. If you haven’t checked out part one and part two I suggest you do so before jumping into this on.

Okay, let’s get into it…


Won Tons


What is a won ton?

A won ton is a type of Chinese dumpling. It can be fried, steamed, or served in soup. It can be filled with anything from vegetables to pork, beef, or seafood.

Generally the term “won ton” in North America refers to one of three things. Either it’s a deep fired stuffed won ton, a deep fried won ton skin with nothing in it served with sweet and sour sauce, or as a soup dumpling.

Despite the fact that we only really consider those three items as won tons, a pot sticker, and even dim sum are both essentially won tons. Just a different variety.

What is a won ton made of?

Won tons are composed of a skin and a stuffing. The skin is the same wrapper used for egg rolls. The only difference is that won ton wrappers are smaller than egg roll wrappers. They can usually be found in the produce aisle right beside the egg roll wrappers.

As I said, the stuffing of a won ton can be a lot of things. One of my personal favourites is ground pork mixed with shredded cabbage, Chinese Five Spice, ginger, and garlic.

How to make won tons.

To make won tons, get a pack of won ton skins. Lay a few out flat and brush the edges with beaten egg. Place a teaspoon or two of the mixture in the center of the wrappers. Fold each wrapper into a triangle, pinching the edges to seal and making sure to get as much air out as possible.

Hold the won ton so that the fold in the center of the wrapper is facing you and the tip of the triangle is facing away. Put a little egg wash on the two bottom tips of the won ton and fold them into the center creating the classic won ton look. Set the won tons on a sheet pan dusted with corn starch until they are all formed.

Deep fry the won tons in batches in 350°F oil until they are crisp and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Alternatively, put the won tons in soup and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve the deep fried won tons with your favourite Chinese dipping sauce.


Vegetables


Although there is a massive variety of Chinese vegetable dishes, most of us only really know vegetable stir-fry like the one pictured above. A quick glance at a Chinese food menu will show you that there aren’t a lot of specifically vegetarian options in North American Chinese restaurants. Most are just dishes with the meat omitted.

Since this is about North American Chinese food, let’s talk about the ubiquitous vegetable stir-fry.

Vegetable stir fry ingredients.

The ingredients in a vegetable stir-fry don’t really change that much, if ever. You have baby corn, carrot, broccoli, snow peas, sometimes pepper, and mushrooms. This is often flavoured with garlic, onion, sometimes ginger, and always soy sauce.

These dishes aren’t complicated. Often it is just the vegetables cooked on super high heat and finished with a bit of soy sauce. So what makes them so good?

The secret to the flavour.

Part of the flavour in a vegetable stir-fry comes from the cooking technique itself. The super high heat of the wok brings different flavours out of the vegetables than you would get just by steaming. If you don’t believe me, stir-fry some broccoli on really high heat, making sure to get a bit of colour on it. It’s taste a lot different than steamed broccoli.

The second part of the flavour is a combination of all the individual vegetable flavours combining.

The third part of the flavour is soy sauce. It adds that bit of salt to enhance the flavour, and the umami or meaty flavour that vegetable dishes often lack.

Sometimes you will get a vegetable stir-fry that has a bit of a sauce. I usually make this by combining 2 tsp of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of chicken or vegetable stock, and 1 tbsp soy sauce. I mix this all up really well and then pour it over the vegetables in the last minute or two of cooking. Delicious!


Soup


Types of Chinese Soup

There are a few different soups you may encounter at Chinese restaurants. Won ton soup as we already mentioned, contains won tons simmered in a rich chicken broth.

You may also encounter hot and sour soup which is flavoured with chilies and vinegar. Beyond that, hot and sour soup can have a million different ingredients.

Finally, you may come across egg drop soup. This is really just beaten eggs mixed into hot chicken broth and served with condiments like sesame oil, sambal chili sauce, and hoisin sauce.

At home when I make Chinese soups I generally just wing it. I use stock as the base, flavour it with soy sauce, hoisin sauce, some chili, ginger, and garlic. I add vegetables like cabbage, green onion, carrot, onion, celery, bean sprouts. Really, I just put whatever vegetables I have lying around. Same with meat. If I have a bit of pork, beef, or chicken, that’s going in as well.


Conclusion

Even though our Chinese food isn’t “authentic” Chinese food, doesn’t mean that it’s not delicious, or that we shouldn’t love it. I say we embrace it whole heartily, but with the understanding that true Chinese food, is a completely different beats that deserves attention.

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this deep dive into all things North American Chinese Food. I really enjoyed writing it.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Hoisin Sauce

As a little bonus, I thought I should explain what Hoisin Sauce is to those of you that don’t know. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it…

“Hoisin sauce is a thick, fragrant sauce commonly used in Chinese cuisine as a glaze for meat, an addition to stir fries, or as dipping sauce. It is darkly coloured in appearance and sweet and salty in taste. Although regional variants exist, hoisin sauce usually includes soy beans, fennel seeds, red chillies, and garlic. Vinegar, Chinese five spice and sugar are also commonly added.”

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