As children, my brother got to run and play outside, while I was, begrudgingly, sequestered in the kitchen with my grandmother, mother and aunts, rinsing and cutting vegetables and herbs and washing dishes. I highly resented this sexist divide and often got in trouble for talking back and my generally sulkiness. But occasionally and without any acknowledgement on my part, I had a few proud moments when the womenfolk would praise my abilities in the kitchen. Indeed, compared to my female cousins (sorry ladies!), I did exhibit more culinary potential and had a better feel for some of the more delicate tasks, such as rolling egg and spring rolls and wrapping wontons. Unfortunately, my proficiency was a double-edged sword and only increased my time in the kitchen. As Homer would say, d’oh!
Thankfully for my family today, I never forgot those lessons from the kitchen and actually enjoy them a lot more now. As for my ability to wrap wontons, let’s just say I can make about 40 in 15 minutes!
4 lbs pork bones (neck bones with some meat on them work well)
8 quarts water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/4 lb shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and coarsely chopped
2/3 lb ground pork
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 pack wonton wrappers
2 12-oz packs egg noodles
1/2 lb baby shanghai bok choy (the greener, less white version of bok choy), rinsed and sliced in half lengthwise
3 scallions, finely sliced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Soup: There are three things to remember for good soup stock: 1) always quick boil the bones first;2) simmer don’t boil; and 3) time, lots of time. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil then add pork bones and allow to boil rapidly for 4 minutes. Drain bones, rinse and place in clean pot of water (about 8 quarts). Simmer bones for at least 4 hours (but 6-8 is more optimal), skimming off the impurities as they rise to the top and replenishing water as needed. Do not let soup boil as that will result in a cloudy broth. After at least 4 hours, remove bones and use a fine mesh strainer to catch any small bits. You can also strain the broth if you want it to be clearer. Add soy sauce, fish sauce, salt and five spices powder, adjusting as necessary. Keep soup at low simmer while you cook noodles/wontons and prepare bowls.
Wontons: While bones are simmering, combine shrimp, ground pork, chopped scallions, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well. To make wontons, place one teaspoon(ish) full of the filling in the middle of one wonton wrapper, fold into a triangle, and then tuck in the other two corners. See picture. This recipe should make about 40 wontons. Refrigerate wontons until you are ready to cook them. Wontons can also be frozen; just make sure to freeze in single layers to avoid them sticking together.
Cooking greens, noodles and wontons: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, quickly blanche greens and remove to a colander to drain. Then cook noodles in individual portions (each noodle package should have 4 separate portions), by loosening and dunking each portion into boiling water for 30 seconds, using a chopstick to swirl them for even cooking. Place each portion into a separate bowl and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil. Repeat for other portions. After all the noodles are cooked, replenish water and bring back to a boil. To cook wontons, drop 8-12 into the pot at a time, cook for about 2 minutes until they float, then remove with a strainer or slotted spoon and place on top of noodles. Repeat for other portions.
Assembly: Add three to four pieces of bok choy to each bowl, sprinkle with green onions and a dash of black pepper. Bring soup to a low boil and ladle some into each bowl. Serve immediately with a small bowl of chinese vinegar for each person to add to the soup if they like.