Growing up I lived near the best Chinese take-out place I have ever had. I have spent much of my adult life trying to find it’s equal in a town in which I live. And that is saying a lot, because I have lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and even Sydney Australia. So far, I have failed.
The place was called Kowloon Kitchens in San Jose, California. It was family run and you could only take the food to go, as the entire storefront was just large enough for the kitchen and a counter to pick up your food.
Of course, I paused in writing this blog just now to look up my childhood Chinese restaurant and I am very pleased to see that it is still there and that the menu looks the same! It makes sense, though, because the owner’s son and daughter often worked there and I would not be at all surprise if they were running the take-out now, but I am afraid I don’t know for sure. (It’s on the corner of Redmond and Meridian if you know the area and want to go visit for me.)
I will have to retrace my steps to that restaurant someday to see if my memory of that food lives up to how the food actually tastes.
While I have had better Chinese food since Kowloon Kitchen, I have never had cheap take-out Chinese that is it’s equal. I loved their food so much that when I got sick, it wasn’t chicken soup my parents got to make me feel better, it was won ton soup.
Years later, when my mom went back to teaching, she started making Won Ton soup with her students as a class project. Rolling the meat into little balls and folding the wonton wrappers around them exposed the children to cooking, crafts, and culture all in one project. Some years I would help out, but every year I got to have some of the delicious leftovers.
Eventually I decided I needed to learn to make won ton soup for myself and perfect a recipe that I crave regularly, mostly because most of the won ton soups I could find at take-out had a shockingly small amount of won tons, a filling with no flavor and watery broth.
It’s taken me several attempts to find a way to make this just the way I like it, but find it I have. Wrapping the won tons can be time consuming, but if you can find a buddy it can actually be a lot of fun.
I hope you enjoy this with your kids or spouse or friend or even by yourself as much as I have my whole life and that it give you comfort.
Lastly, I would like to remind you that Jodie and I are producing a webseries. You can read about it on my last blog. If you like this blog, please support our Kickstarter campaign.
Won Ton Soup
1 package won ton wrappers
Egg wash (1 egg beaten in a couple tablespoons of water)
½ pound ground pork
½ pound raw shrimp, minced
1 Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon grated ginger (or 1 Tablespoon ginger juice gotten from squeezing defrosted ginger)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ cup sake
4 cups chicken broth
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 mushrooms, very thinly sliced
2 cups baby spinach (bok choy is more traditional, but I actually prefer spinach in this recipe)
1 package Udon noodles (optional)
½ pound extra shrimp (optional)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
6 green onions, chopped on a bias (again that just means diagonally)
- Combine the ingredients for the won ton filling in a large glass bowl. Mix well.
- Take out about ½ tablespoon of filling and place in the center of one won ton wrapper. Moisten your finger in the egg wash and wet the outside of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling diagonally, pressing down on the sides with your finger. Then moisten one of the diagonal tips and fold the two corners in on each other. (Like hands praying, kind of. There should be illustrations of this in your won ton packet. Otherwise you can view a good visual here. It takes a few won tons to get the hang of this, so don’t give up right away when it is difficult.) Set aside the won tons when finished.
- Prepare the soup. Start by sauteing the shallot in the vegetable oil. After it softens (about 2 minutes) but before it browns, add sake. Reduce the sake for two or three more minutes and then add chicken broth and chicken breasts.
- Bring the broth to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. After about 10 minutes, the chicken breasts should be fully poaches. Remove and shred using two forks.
- Add won tons, shredded chicken, mushrooms, soy sauce and optional shrimp and noodles. Simmer for five minutes until wontons are cooked and shrimp has turned pink.
- Add spinach, remove from heat and cover. the spinach should wilt to perfection from the boiling water.
- Serve soup garnished with green onions.