Recipe: Pork Wonton Soup a la Tala

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I’m going to tell you a secret: There’s a French-style butchery in San Francisco’s Dog Patch neighborhood that has the best quality meat in the city with a price tag that won’t make you balk. It’s called Olivier’s Butchery, and they don’t have a single freezer in their whole shop. You can browse their amazing selection of fresh pre-cut meats, roasts, and groceries, or special order any cut of meat you like and Olivier will cut it to order. This place has been my go-to since I learned about it, and I’ll never go to Whole Foods again.

Occasionally, Olivier will offer a “Meat Box”; for a set price you receive a menagerie of meat products of his choosing. The draw is that you save money (15%-20% off retail) by purchasing in bulk. Everything is vacuum-sealed so it can go right into your freezer. This is a great way to force yourself to branch out and try cooking something new, as I did with the ground pork that came in my Olivier’s Meat Box. After a bit of googling, I decided that an Asian-style dish would best showcase this ground pork. I settled on Pork wonton soup, as I had some home-made tonkotsu broth in my freezer.

Before we begin, let me clarify one thing: There is absolutely nothing authentic about this recipe. It’s my creation, utilizing local ingredients, heirloom vegetables, and stuff I found in my ‘fridge. You can adapt it any way you like – change the filling of the wontons, use a different kind of broth, top it with anything you like. If you’re a purist, it’s probably not the recipe for you.

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Pork Wonton Soup
Serves 2, with plenty of leftover wontons to freeze and enjoy later
Prep time: 30 min + 1 hour of waiting
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
Wontons-
1 package square wonton/potsticker wrappers
1 lb ground pork
1 small head of cabbage (I used savoy), sliced very thin
2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled & grated
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. peanut oil

Soup base-
4 cups low-sodium or unsalted broth (I used pork tonkotsu broth, but you could substitute chicken or anything else you have on hand)
Splash of Shaoxing rice wine (optional)
Soy sauce, to taste
Salt, to taste

Toppings-
Handful of watercress or thinly sliced green onions
Drizzle of sesame oil
Drizzle of hot chili oil

Method:

  1. Heat a medium skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 1 tbsp. peanut oil and heat until it shimmers.
  3. Add thinly sliced cabbage to the pan and sprinkle with a little salt to get it to release it’s liquid (you could also throw in a splash of Shaoxing rice wine to get it going). Turn the heat down to medium, toss in the pan, and cook until tender (approx. 8-10 minutes).
  4. Remove cabbage from the pan and set aside to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, grated ginger, minced garlic, green onions, cooled cooked cabbage, 1 tsp. sesame oil, and 1 tbsp. soy sauce. Use two forks to mix the ingredients until well-combined. Put in the refrigerator for 1 hour to let the flavors meld together.
  6. Meanwhile, heat your broth in a small saucepan. Add the rice wine, salt, and soy sauce to taste (it should be salty, but not too salty. If you over-salt it, just add some water). Turn heat down, cover, and keep hot. This is your soup base.
  7. Prepare the work surface to make your wontons. You will be making them in batches (I did 10 at a time), so your work surface should be large. Put a big plate or cutting board off to the side to place your finished wontons on after you make them.
  8. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 3 tbsp of salt and keep it hot until you’re ready to cook your wontons.
  9. Get a small bowl of water and place on your work surface – you will be using it to wet your fingertip to seal the wontons.
  10. Lay out 10 square wonton wrappers on your work surface.
  11. Remove your wonton filling from the refrigerator and spoon it into the center of your wonton wrappers. I found that 1 heaping teaspoon of filling was the right amount for the size of my wrappers – yours may be a different size, so just be sure not to overfill (they will be hard to seal if they are overfilled).
  12. Start to make your wontons. I do them systematically in batches of 10 – you will save a lot of time this way. You can fold them any way you like, there are a million ways to do it. This website explains 10 different ways (I used the “samosa with a twist”).
  13. Set your finished wontons aside and continue on to the next batch until you run out of filling or wrappers.
  14. Next, put enough wontons for two people (I can eat 7 or 8 of them, they are so delicious!) into the pot of salted, boiling water. Cook for 7 minutes. (Side note: You are going to have way more wontons than you can eat, and they freeze beautifully. Flash freeze your extra wontons by putting them onto a cookie sheet and into the freezer, uncovered, until frozen. Then put them into quart size mason jars or freezer bags and return to the freezer until you’re ready to eat more wontons.)
  15. Divide the cooked wontons between two large soup bowls. Ladle the hot soup base over the wontons.
  16. Top the soup with a drizzle of sesame oil, hot chili oil, and a handful of watercress or thinly sliced green onions. Enjoy with a yummy beer like Sapporo or TsingTao.