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Apr 3, 2007 08:51 AM

"Red Oil Sauteed Hands"

I'm on a search for the best "red oil sauteed hands" (hong yau chow sau - for those who understand Cantonese). Essentially, boiled wontons that are tossed in a chili and peanut sauce. I'm trying to find a place that does them the way I remembered having them as a kid.

The wontons should be filled with pork, no shrimps or other embellishments, and they should be bite sized

The peanuts should be coarsely chopped and sauteed in chili oil

The chili should be a fiery, smoky chili oil

Optional condiments: chopped fresh garlic (my fave) and/or chopped fresh cilantro and/or chopped fresh scallions

Not allowed: wontons the size of pot stickers, the use of peanut butter, the use of soy sauce, the use of chili paste instead of oil

So far I've tried Hai Shanghai, Asian Legend, a place on McNicoll and Vic Park (or maybe it was Kennedy, I don't quite remember), looked for them at Ding Tai Fung and they don't have them. Can chowhounders turn me onto any other possible leads??

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  1. The Szechuan place between Silver Star and Midland on Steeles has it, fiery hot chili oil with a numbing effect, although I don't recall the peanuts (I have to admit that I don't recall peanuts in many of the ones I've had).

    I'll add more as I remember.

    1. omg, those sound so good. I wish they were from my childhood...
      Please let us know if you find the real thing. I might just have to make them at home, they sound so delicious.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Yongeman

        LOL... you're right, they're very easy to make and so I probably shouldn't have to be scouring the boards looking for a restaurant version. I've made them at home but I've found it difficult to find the right chili oil for the task. The closest I've found is Lee Kum Kee's Chiu Chow chili oil (which is widely available in just about any Asian food market). It's difficult to describe just what is "missing" from the Chiu Chow chili oil... it's not quite smokey enough and then there's an umami thing that's also missing (knowing Chinese food, it's probably just MSG of some form, hahaha)...

        Anyway, I will certainly report back if I find what I'm after. :)

        1. re: Yongeman

          Seconded! Juniper, if you have any more tips needed on how to make these at home, I'd love to hear them.

        2. Just a note, "chow sau" is the Szechuan name for wonton (which I hope you wouldn't call a "cloud swallow"! :-) And actually it should be "fold hands" - supposedly from the action of folding the wonton skin with your hands - the word has a "hand" radical not "fire" on the left (some places use the latter erroneously.)

          As in many Chinese dishes, there is no ONE CLASSICAL way of preparing such dishes, so "best" might not be the same as "from your childhood". I don't remember peanuts in it the last few times I had it. (The last time was probably the original Asian Legend, when it was on the second floor on Dundas, west of Spadina.)

          To make the red oil, one recipe I saw calls for simmering Szechuan peppercorns, dried chilies, ginger, scallions, and "other herbs" in oil for a couple of hours!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Teep

            Yep, I can surmise that there's szechuan peppercorns simply from the numbing effect I get from eating them.

            1. re: Teep

              Thanks for the clarification. I always see the character with the "fire" radical and so I've always known them as "chow" as in "sautee".

              I realize there's many ways to make any given dish, but I still find that the places I've tried don't quite have the blend of flavours I'm after. Most of the places use a commercially available chili oil, which as I've noted above, generally tend not to have a complex enough flavour (it's usually just hot, or hot and a bit garlicky). I'd love to find a restaurant that uses a homemade chili oil that has that complexity, but I'm guessing that's a tough proposition.

              I'd do the chili oil at home except I don't want to stink up the house. Perhaps in the summer I can give it a shot with the sideburner on the bbq (now that we have a backyard! LOL).

              I will have to check out the place that Blueicus recommended. I've been there before but I didn't try their "hong yau chow sau" that time.

              I did, however, try Skyland de Shanghai this afternoon for lunch and ordered their hong yau chow sau. I liked the wontons in the dish - perfect size and good texture - but they used a generic chili paste, some peanut butter, and a sweet vinegar... ick.

              I enjoyed their chive pastries, didn't think very much of their dan dan mien, and liked the heavily-aromatic broth of their "hong siu gnao yok mien" (lit: red roasted beef noodles; spicy beef noodle soup). But the noodles themselves were much too thick. Three noodles and I was literally full.

              So my search shall continue.

              Thanks for the responses thus far.

              1. re: Juniper

                I checked - a Chinese site dedicated to restos in GTA, and found only passing references to "chow sau" 抄手 - without the red oil 紅油. (Nothing for "sautee hands" 炒手 , in case you're wondering :-)