Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Priceless homemade wontons: worth bartering for!

This past football season, my sister asked my brother how much he wanted to be paid for his Husky/LSU football tix.  He didn’t want any money.  Just a big batch of homemade wontons.  That’s how good these are.  If you don’t know how to make them, you can’t even buy them.  You have to barter for them.

When I was a kid, as soon as my mom got out her big, turquoise-etched Pyrex Cinderella mixing bowl, my mouth would start to water --- homemade wontons!  She’d fill the bowl with her special ground pork mixture, grab multiple packages of wonton skins, and head to


This recipe makes approximately 168 wontons, which equates to 3 meals for a family of 4, based on 14 wontons per person.  (Note:  my mom insists on serving an even number of wontons per person, never an odd number.  Must be bad luck!)  So you can have a batch for dinner, and save 2 batches in the freezer.  But if you’re like my family, they won’t last long!

Makes 168 wontons

2 packages (16 ounces each) thin, square wonton wrappers* (available in refrigerated section of Asian supermarkets)
2 pounds ground pork
1 cup finely minced Napa cabbage (about 6 large leaves; rough-chop first then run through Food Processor)
¼ cup finely minced green onions
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
1/8 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ginger powder (or ½ teaspoon freshly grated)

Take wonton wrappers out of refrigerator so they come to room temperature while you make your pork mixture.  Place ground pork in large mixing bowl; add remaining ingredients, stirring vigorously after each addition to mix well.


Fill a small bowl with ½ cup warm water.  Place approximately 1 teaspoon of pork mixture in middle of wonton wrapper.  With your index finger, dab a line of warm water across the top border, and halfway down the left and right border.  Fold in half, bringing the bottom half to the top so the seam is at the top.  Firmly seal edges.  Fold the top half over again, towards you.  Dab a little water underneath the bottom right corner.  Bend the wonton so the bottom right corner presses on top of the bottom left corner.  Place on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining pork mixture.

Place the cookie sheet of wontons in the freezer, uncovered, until they are frozen, about 1 hour (freezing wontons first will prevent them from sticking together in the bag).  Once frozen, fill large, re-sealable bags with the wontons.  Keep wontons in freezer until ready to use. 

 *Note:  if you have leftover wonton wrappers, store them in a re-sealable bag in the freezer for next time.  Thaw completely before using.

4 servings

54 frozen homemade wontons (14 per person)
5 cups chicken broth
8 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
4 tablespoons sesame oil
4 cups fresh spinach leaves, divided (optional)
4 tablespoons chopped green onions, divided (optional)
Ground white pepper (optional)
Srirachi Hot Chili Sauce (optional)

In a large pot, bring 5 quarts water to boil.  In a separate saucepan, heat chicken broth.  While pots are heating, season 4 large serving bowls with each of the following:  2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 cup of spinach leaves (if desired). 

When water pot comes to a boil, slowly add wontons, a few at a time.  Stir wontons; cover with lid; bring to a second boil.  Remove lid; stir wontons; continue to simmer uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 3-4 more minutes, or until meat is done (cut one open to check).  With slotted spoon, transfer 14 wontons to each bowl.  Pour 1 ¼ cup of warmed chicken broth over wontons in each bowl.  Stir to distribute sauces.  Garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon of green onions, if desired.  For spicier appetites, serve with white pepper and Srirachi Hot Chili Sauce.

*Note:  if cooking fresh wontons, reduce the uncovered simmering time to 1-2 minutes.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


To celebrate the Year of the Tiger, here’s a refreshing drink that my friend Theresa taught me how to make.  They’re so good, whenever she would tell me about the recipe, she’d always end her description with, “I could drink 20 of them!”  After Theresa kept saying this, I thought she might have a little drinking problem.  But when I served them last weekend at a little pre-Chinese New Year dinner party, we went through the fifth of vodka in about 30 seconds!  Everyone just loved them.  So much to my relief, I don’t think Theresa has a drinking problem.  It’s just a really good drink!  The zippy essence of ginger is a wonderful enhancement to Asian dishes.  Cheers and Happy New Year!

*NOTE:  you will need to steep the ginger in the vodka 2-3 days prior to serving

Approximately 12 servings
One-fifth bottle of quality vodka
Fresh ginger root (about 3” in length), peeled and sliced
Six 12-ounce bottles Ginger Beer (this is non-alcoholic; can be found at Trader Joe’s)
Fresh mint leaves for garnish
Thinly sliced, peeled slices of fresh ginger root for garnish

Add ginger slices to one fifth bottle of vodka; let steep for 2-3 days.  For one serving, fill a tall glass with ice cubes.  Add 1 part vodka to 2 parts ginger beer.  Garnish with mint leaves and slices of fresh ginger.

Chinese New Year Flashback: Good Food and Good Pranks

We have always celebrated Chinese New Year by following many of the typical Chinese traditions….we try to get our hair cuts prior to New Year’s Day, we refrain from washing our hair on New Year’s Day (ok, at least the girls in the family pretended we didn’t wash our hair that day), we try not to fight, we exchange hong baos (little red envelopes of good luck money), and we all gather for a traditional Chinese dinner at my parents’ house. 

When I was in college, my oldest sister Joanie was the only one who was married, so we had more room around the Lazy Susan table back then than we do now.  Therefore, we were allowed to invite a guest to Chinese New Year dinner.  Sophomore year, I brought my Pi Phi roommate, Kay Tacke (aka, one of the “Tacke-y twins from Tacoma” – no joke.)  Kay adored

Friday, February 12, 2010

Everyone’s seeing red!

We are definitely “in the red” right now.  But that’s a good thing!  This year, Chinese New Year’s happens to fall on February 14, Valentine’s Day.  This is only the third time since 1900 that these two red-hot occasions have coincided.  And how fitting…it’s the Year of the Tiger, which is supposed to be filled with passion and great love.  So mail out the red hearts and surround your house with red roses, then buy yourself a new red outfit and give your loved ones Chinese red envelopes of good luck money.  Let the dual festivities begin!

Celebrate Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year with this non-traditional combination:  chocolate-dipped fortune cookie, nested on scoops of mango and raspberry sorbet.  The extra-sweet surprise -- the custom fortune inside!  Read on for details, and see recipe post.  

So far, I have posted a variety of Dragon Lady recipes, but haven’t shared any traditional Chinese desserts yet.  Well, there’s a reason for that.  There really aren’t any.  Okay, there are a few (which I will post down the road), but for the most part, the Chinese are not known for their sweets.  I think that’s mainly due to the fact that most Chinese people do not care for sweet, rich, sinful desserts.  “Dessert” is actually a word that’s almost non-existent in the Chinese vocab.  Unless you consider sliced oranges a dessert.  Growing up, that’s how we’d end many of our traditional Chinese meals -- with a platter of sliced fresh fruit –whoopee!  No wonder I’m a chocoholic now.  I’m making up for years and years of sliced oranges for dessert.  Someone please pass the peanut M&M’s!

However, I think there is one Chinese sweet that everyone loves:  the fortune cookie.  Alright, I know that’s really an American thing, but let’s not get technical here.  Work with me, people.  In celebration of the Chinese-New-Valentine Co-Celebration, I considered adapting a homemade fortune cookie recipe so you could write and insert your own custom fortune cookie messages.  Cute, huh?  However, it is a time-consuming and tedious task.  And once I found out about this tip, I thought “why bother?”  My dear friend Katie P. told me about a local company that makes fortune cookies with your custom fortunes inside!  They’re delicious (made-to-order, so they’re fresh), they’re fast (2-3 day turnaround) and they’re a bargain (60 cookies for $8.00)!  Simply print and cut out 60 fortunes measuring 2 ½” x 1/2”, and bring them down to Tsue Chong Co., at 810 S. King St. in Seattle’s International District (206.623-0801).  If you don’t live in Seattle, you could probably find a place in your local International District.  Or call Tsue Chong and they will ship!  They will print your custom fortune for you for $3.00 more (but you’ll be limited to one message).

To satisfy that chocolate fix, and also make these fortune cookies more “Valentine’s Day-ish”, I have posted a simple technique to dip them in chocolate for a beautiful and delicious finish!  But don’t just make these for the Chinese New Year/Valentine’s Day holiday.  After all, the rendezvous of these two occasions won’t happen again until 2048.  Consider surprising your guests with these custom treats at your next dinner party, birthday celebration, anniversary party, wedding.  Or serve alongside small scoops of mango and raspberry sorbet at the end of a simple Dragon Lady dinner.  Trust me, it beats sliced oranges anyday!


Serves 12-24
24 fortune cookies* (found in the Asian food aisle of most supermarkets)
8 ounces dark chocolate
Mint leaves for garnish

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper.  In a double boiler, slowly melt chocolate over low heat.  When chocolate is completely melted and smooth, dip a fortune cookie halfway in the chocolate.  Place on cookie sheet with waxed paper.  Repeat with remaining fortune cookies.

Refrigerate for 10 minutes to set.

*Sweet surprise:  to personalize your treat with custom fortunes inside, go to Tsue Chong Co., at 810 S. King St. in Seattle’s International District (206.623-0801).  Live outside Seattle? They will ship!  (Go to my "Everyone's Seeing Red" posting for details).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Go Green!

Naturally sweet and tender, this Chinese Broccoli dish is perfectly enhanced with a drizzling of savory oyster sauce and flavorful sesame oil.  It’s another “Catch 22”, super-delicious, incredibly healthy veggie recipe that’s so easy, “Boiling Water 101” is the only pre-requisite.  But there is one caveat…you’ll probably have to venture out to the Asian grocery store for your Chinese Broccoli (also called “Gai Lan”).  But I promise you, it will be well worth it.  Every time I’ve served this dish, it gets gobbled up like you wouldn’t believe.  Well, it's no wonder...everyone's going green these days!


Chinese Broccoli, uncooked and right out of the bag.  I buy mine at the Hop Thanh Supermarket (12th  Ave. S & Jackson St. in Seattle), where the neatly trimmed, 7" stalks are nicely packaged in 2 pound bags.  You will often find a pretty floret starting to bloom on some.  They are completely edible, and actually add a pretty touch!

You could cut these stalks in half crosswise with your kitchen scissors before serving, but I prefer to leave the stems long.  I liken it to serving your Caesar salad as whole leaves of lettuce…finger food!  Always more fun to eat!

This recipe makes a lot, but you’ll need it.  As my daughter says, “This is addicting!”  Have you ever heard a teenager say that about vegetables?!

Serves 8-10
2 lbs. Chinese broccoli
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 heaping tablespoon + 1 heaping tablespoon oyster sauce

Rinse broccoli and set aside.  Note:  If any of the stems are more than 1/2” wide, they may not be as tender as the thinner stalks.  If desired, gently trim a thin, outer layer of the stem (go about 2” from the base up) with a potato peeler. 

In a large stock pot, bring 5 quarts cold water to boil; add vegetable oil and salt.  Fully submerge broccoli into boiling water, stem ends first.  Cover and cook for 2 minutes (water does not need to return to boil); do not overcook.  Remove pot from heat; pour broccoli in a large colander in sink; shake off excess water.  Place half the broccoli on a serving platter; drizzle with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil; then drizzle with 1 heaping tablespoon of oyster sauce.  Place the remaining broccoli in a second layer overlapping the first layer; drizzle remaining tablespoon of sesame oil; drizzle last heaping tablespoon of oyster sauce.  Serve immediately.  Can also be served at room temperature.