I don’t like winter. I try hard, but even here in sub-tropical northern NSW, where it rarely gets lower than about 8ºC, I still don’t like it. The short days, the need to be frugal with power when the solar panels are on such short rations, putting ug boots on to get out of bed…
The only good thing about winter is the crops. Winter is a better gardening season than summer here, and way better for leafy greens. The cabbage moths are all dormant. The lengthening nights convince them that there is snow coming (they’re not that good at geography) so they don’t bolt to seed. And the cool days allow things with big green leaves to photosynthesise away without getting desiccated.
I’ve been picking outside leaves of Chinese cabbages for a few weeks now, but now is the first of the main harvests of the season. I really like Chinese cabbage as a side dish, steamed with soy or oyster sauce, or stir fried with sesame oil and lemon juice. But recipes that really do justice to a lot of Chinese cabbage as a main dish are not that common.
This took me a lot longer than the half hour of the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules the first time I made it. Sometimes I make something and I think, I know with practice that could be easy, but it is nice enough to be bothered practicing? This one made it through the test. If you are really pressed for time you can use bought wonton wrappers. I find them in the fridge section in my supermarket. But they are not difficult to make – a bit time consuming – they are the fiddliest bit of this recipe. But once you get the hang of it not hard. And if you make your own, you get to use real, free range eggs. It is exactly the same as making pasta – in fact you can probably use a pasta machine if you have one.
It looks like a lot of steps, but all the ingredients are familiar, and by the second or third time you make these, you’ll be making them in half an hour.
Makes 28 wontons. We can eat a dozen each very easily!
1. Salt the Chinese Cabbage:
Finely shred 2½ (very) packed cups of Chinese cabbage leaves. I use a mixture of Chinese cabbages – at the moment it is mostly Bok Choy with some Tatsoi and some Choi sum, but any chinese cabbage is good. Put them in a colander and massage through a couple of teaspoons of salt. Leave to sit while you make the wrappers. Then rinse out the salt and squeeze as much moisture out as you can.
2. Make the Wonton Wrappers
In a food processor, blitz until the dough just comes together (just a few seconds)
- 1 cup of bakers flour (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
- 2 eggs
- 2 dessertspoons (or 1½ US tablespoons) of any light flavoured oil
- good pinch salt
Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. Then leave it to rest for a few minutes while you make the filling.
3. Make the Filling:
The filling needs to be finely minced but not turned into a paste. I find the easiest way to do this is to chop everything pretty small first (especially the garlic and ginger), then put it all into the food processor and blitz for just a few seconds to get a nice fine mince. You don’t need to wash the food processor from the dough.
Make a fine mince mix of:
- the Chinese cabbage leaves, rinsed and squeezed as dry as possible.
- 4 cloves of garlic
- a good thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
- 2 spring onions, greens and whites
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 dessertspoon (¾ US tablespoon) soy sauce
- 1 dessertspoon (¾ US tablespoon) lime or lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
- 1 dessertspoon (¾ US tablespoon) cornflour (corn starch)
- big pinch of pepper
Divide the wonton dough into 20 little balls. Flour the bench well, and with a floured rolling pin, roll the balls out very thin. (If you flip them several times while rolling, you’ll find you can easily get them very thin without sticking.)
Put a heaped teaspoon of filling in the middle of each, and gather up the edges and twist together at the top. Then twist the excess dough right off.
There’s a knack to getting them right. You need the dough thin enough, the mince fine and not too wet, and to work quickly and gently.
When you have made all 20 wontons, you should have enough excess dough to roll out again to make another 8.
As you make them, put them on a floured board (or they’ll stick).
Bring a big pot of water to a gentle boil and boil the wontons for just a few minutes till they rise to the top.
Remove with a slotted spoon and serve. You can serve with a soy dipping sauce, or make a mix of soy, chili, lime and ginger for a fancier sauce.