Wonton noodle soup is one of the few dishes I set very high standards for, almost to the point of obsession. Because of cravings for an ideal bowl of wonton noodle soup (and seeing my relatives), I have paid way too much for same day plane tickets to Hong Kong. When I get wontons that are all or mostly pork, I feel cheated. And I rarely visit wonton noodle stands outside of Hong Kong and Guangzhou, for fear of getting inferior versions.
If you can't get to Hong Kong, the next best cure for wonton lust is recreating the darn thing at home. After tinkering in the kitchen for over a year and a half, I have updated an older post on this very topic. For me, an ideal wonton noodle soup must include the following: fragrant broth consisting of pork and seafood umami flavor, springy al dente egg noodles, and wontons containing at least 50% shrimp.
Here are the details, if you would like to recreate my ideal Hong Kong-style wonton noodle soup at home.
1. The Broth - The best broths in Hong Kong incorporate some sort of seafood umami flavor. The broth at the legedary Mak's Noodles in Hong Kong is supposedly made of dried flounder, dried shrimp, and pork bones. My homemade broth is flavored with pork, chicken, and dried shrimp. If you have pre-made chicken broth, simmer pork bones and ginger in the broth for about an hour, adding dried shrimp with 20 minutes left. Or make a pork and chicken broth in one go, also adding dried shrimp towards the end.
2. The Noodles - For Cantonese-style wonton soup, always use thin egg noodles. In an ideal wonton-loving universe, we would all have a bamboo noodle maker in our neighborhoods. But, alas, we don't. In the real world, packaged dried egg noodles or fresh egg noodles (available in the bigger Chinatown supermarkets) are the next best choice.
3. Yellow chives - This somewhat pricier alternative to green chives are harder to find outside of Asian markets, but worth it for the more delicate flavor. Substitute green chives or scallions if yellow chives aren't available.
4. The Wonton Wrappers - Not to be confused with dumpling (jiaozi) wrappers. Wonton wrappers are square and thinner than the round dumpling wrappers. Yellow wontons skins, made of egg flour or an egg/wheat combo, are much better than the whitish all-wheat kind, which become mushy and fall apart much more easily. Also, I know of few homecooks who make their own wonton skins. It's tough work, when store-bought wrappers are so cheap and do a great job.
5. The Filling - I like to use a filling of 50% pork and 50% shrimp, raising the portion of shrimp if I feel like splurging. You can also make all-shrimp wontons, mostly known as 水饺 in Hong Kong (shui jiao in Mandarin, shui gow in Cantonese) and sometimes accented by shiitake mushrooms.
Hong Kong-Style Wonton Noodle Soup
- 1 pound pork bones
- 2 oz dried shrimp
- 1 piece ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 large chicken thigh, or 2 quarts chicken broth
Wonton filling ingredients:
- 1 pound ground pork (not lean)
- 1 pound shrimp, deveined and finely chopped (or 1 pound frozen shrimp, brought to room temperature and finely chopped)
- 5 to 6 strands yellow chives, chopped
- 1 piece ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 1 to 2 eggs
- Flour for dusting
- 1 package wonton skins, about 50, thawed if frozen
- 8 ounces egg noodles
- Another 5 to 6 strands yellow chives, chopped, for garnish
Simmer pork bones, a chicken thigh, and ginger in a large pot of water for 1 hour, adding dried shrimp in the last 20 minutes. Alternatively, simmer pork bones and ginger in pre-made chicken broth for 1 hour, adding dried shrimp in the last 20 minutes.
Place 2 to 3 large plates near you (for when, later on, your hands are so sticky with egg wash and you're on such a roll with the folding that you'll appreciate not having to dig around for another plate.)
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the pork, shrimp, and scallions. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Repeat thorough mixing. Filling should be sticky and slightly wet.
Crack open eggs and beat with a fork. Lightly dust your work surface with flour and keep some extra flour within hand's reach.
Angle a wonton wrapper so that it faces you like a diamond. With your fingertips or a spoon, spread a thin layer of egg wash along the top two edges of the wrapper. Place a quarter-size spoonful of filling in the center of the skin.
- One super-easy way to wrap is to form a triangle by folding the bottom tip to the top tip and pinch out as much air as possible.
- For the "boat" version, start by making the triangle wonton. Add a dab of egg wash to either of the two side tips and fold them together, overlapping one on top of the other. The end result should look boat-like, with two tips cradling a puff of filling in the middle.
- This page shows 8 different ways of folding wontons.
Place the finished wonton on a plate. Keep wontons covered with a damp towel to prevent the wrappers from drying out. Repeat folding until filling or wrappers are used up.
The Complete Package
You can cook the wontons in the soup itself, but I prefer to cook them separately so any excess flour on the wrapper doesn't get into the soup. Set aside about 6 wontons per person. Freeze extras.
For noodles, bring soup to boil. Add noodles and cook until al dente, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the noodles.
Meanwhile, in a separate pot, bring 2 liters (2 quarts) water to boil. Add wontons and simmer uncovered, stirring gently, for about 4 to 7 minutes until done. (Trick of the trade: When dumplings float to the top, that usually means they're done. Unless there is too much air inside the wontons due to bad folding.) Cut one open to check for doneness.
Divide soup and noodles into separate bowls. Add 5 to 6 wontons per bowl. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.