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May 12, 2007 10:37 AM

The perfect won ton (moved from SF)

Jonathan Gold starts a 2004 review about a LA restaurant asking what is the won ton. He writes ...

"Are wonton the fried trapezoids in sickly pink syrup that we may have eaten as children? Are they the floppy things that Sichuan restaurants douse in chile oil, or the doughy sinkers in Cantonese soups? May they properly be stuffed with foie gras, as they are on the menu of at least one fusion restaurant in New York, or with mint and mango, as I’ve seen in Honolulu? Is the standard pork filling mandatory, or is a great wonton more properly constructed, as at the Daimo noodle shop near Berkeley, with a whole shrimp sandwiched between a fresh scallop and a dried one? "

I never considered this before. I think of them as described in the first two sentences. I've kind of dismissed them as a way to bulk up chicken soup. Am I missing won ton wonderfulness ... btw, I plan to try Daimo soon.

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  1. I've been chasing the perfect won ton for a while. At home, I make them with a combination of minced chicken and diced shrimp. They need very little else, really but a bit of garlic and a bit of ginger (getting the right amount of ginger is actually really difficult I've found.)

    There's a place in the Outer Sunset called "Just Won Ton" (misnamed, they have a fairly expansive menu) that does a very nice job with them.

    1. What defines "perfect" or even typical varies by region in China. They take different forms and flavors in Shanghai than Hong Kong, for example. Some of us have been hunting for the best HK-style wonton and noodles in the SF Bay Area, here's one of the threads which will give you an idea of what defines it.

      And, this old thread gives more background on won tons. Hope we can get some of our Chinese culinary scholars to weigh in anew.

      1. I used to think the way you do and never ordered won tons in any form. But, my MIL bought some wontons and dumplings in soup that were mostly shrimp, some scallops and other meat, perfectly seasoned that were amazing. A bowl of that with hong kong style noodles is a great lunch on a cold day. I still haven't had good fried won tons, if there is such a thing. I still pass on wontons at most places but when we go to this one restaurant, it's one thing I always order.

        4 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          As you've discovered, "won tons" are like pizza in that there are so many bad things being served with the same name. They are popular just the same. Go figure.

          Since most people have only eaten what I'd consider bad won tons, I'm interested in hearing what "won tons" means to them, taking a cue from the original post, and what they like about it. I'm wondering why won tons (especially war won tons) have become a Chinese-American standard outside the ethnic enclaves.

          Edited to add: maybe my answer is in thread that questions why people like tacos and dumplings. (g) Even bad ones.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Having grown up in a little suburb in Ohio in the 70's, I also didn't like pizza. We moved to R.I. and I had their sicilian pizza and was in heaven, especially considering my reluctance to try it.

            As won tons go, my mom has made them from scratch since I was young but they don't compare to the ones from this restaurant. We all have things we make well and things we don't... The first time I had fried won tons, I was an adult.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              War won tons?

              "War won ton just means won ton soup topped with whatever the kitchen has handy cooking on the stove. It's a meal in a bowl, but not one that will show off won ton making particularly. Sort of like ordering a burrito when you wonder how good the tacos are at a taqueria. "

              Would the wonton itself be different?

              In terms of a non-Asian preferring war wonton soup, I guess it would be because of the extra ingrediants.

              I did the classic won ton soup at Daimo ... but I'm eager to try the war won ton based on the picture on the menu with the veggies and meat.

              I guess it is like adding noodles to a plain soup ... it makes for a heartier meal ... sort of the burrito analogy ... a taco will show off the meat ... a burrito will fill you up.

              1. re: rworange

                The won tons in won ton soup and war won ton soup are the same. I've had excellent war won ton soup w/ large shrimp, hong kong style noodles, baby bok choy, shitake mushrooms and good won tons and bad ones w/ bad won tons, kitchen leftovers. There used to be a hole in the wall place in Long Beach that had this very Americanized war won ton hot and sour soup. It was excellent, huge shrimp, great won tons, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms. A whole meal in an appetizer.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. I like wontons filled with a plump shrimp and just a touch of fatty pork. But most importantly, I like mine with a large flattened part that flutters as I take it into my mouth. It really does give the impression of swallowing clouds (won = cloud, ton = swallow).

              3 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Interesting question. There is very little difference between the soup dumplings and the won tons in the place I mentioned. Similar thin white wrap, similar filling, but the dumplings are a different shape. And, I use won ton wrappers to make ravioli all the time, sometimes with meat but I'd never consider them won tons, although the process is similar but night and day in seasonings.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Per Nancy in that post, have had the "comet/shuttlecock" version made at friend's homes, but the one I had in mind were just a large square with a lump of filling in the centre folded in half to a triangle which I see more frequently (and which were the versions I had at home).

                    Haven't encountered the thicker skinned ones in my experience.