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Nov 3, 2009 07:30 PM

Won Tons -- now always with shrimp?

Had lunch at an old reliable in Oakland C-town and ordered won ton soup w/beef stew (first time). When I bit into the won ton, it had two 1-inch shrimp in the filling! I'm sure that's a bonus for most, but for the shrimp-allergic, not so much. I thought won ton filling was pork only and maybe with a smidge of shrimp in upgraded versions. I know Daimo's all shrimp, which is why I avoid it there. Is shrimp-heavy the new standard?

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  1. For as long as I can remember, I've always had won ton w/ shrimp in the filling -- some family members even judge a place's won ton based on how much shrimp they get in the filling.

    The only times I've had pork only won tons has been in Hung To Yee Won Ton (the fried won tons in the thickened soup).

    9 Replies
    1. re: kc72

      My Hong Kong Cantonese family would consider it the default to have shrimp in the wonton. We always make it with shrimp at home, unless someone is allergic (or in my case, too lazy to clean the shrimp). It's horrible, but it's somewhat frown upon to have no shrimp in the wonton, it's considered cheap and sign of a bad restaurant.

      1. re: gnomatic

        Ditto. Same background, same perspective. No or little shrimp was considered a sign of low quality or cheapness. My dad would never let us go back.

        The absolute bastardization was in American Chinese restaurants, where "won ton" was just deep fried skins with nothing else. Ugh. It actually took me years to realize that when they said "won ton", they actually meant "won ton skin" - it wasn't just they were being skimpy with the filling. It would be like a restaurant advertising ravioli, and all they gave you was the pasta with no cheese, meat, spinach or any other filling. And they would serve it with ketchup instead of pasta sauce.

        1. re: gnomatic

          Alas, it's hard to be shrimp-free sometimes -- was reminded of that at Ton Kiang today when practically every dumpling was shrimp-laden...

          Ton Kiang
          5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

          1. re: Sarah

            I would be very careful eating in any Chinese restaurant (unless their main clientele is non Chinese) if I had any allergies or any type of food restriction.

            I once asked my dad why we never knew anyone with peanut allergies in Hong Kong. His reply "They probably would not have survived long." It's not to be flippant about allergies, but with chinese food, there are so many ingredients that are such an integral part of the dish, no one even think about it.

            Wontons & dumplings are very easy and tastier to make at home. Make huge batch, and freeze them individually uncooked. Or you can buy pre made ones without shrimp (which are usually cheaper) from most asian supermarkets.

            A vendor at the mountain view farmer's market OFS foodservices ( sells frozen dumplings without shrimp. Including wontons...I actually bought a bag of them last Sunday..but only because they ran out of the pork and shrimp ones.

        2. re: kc72

          Yes, bountiful shrimp is the mark of high quality for Hong Kong-style won tons. As you mention, the fried ones are often shrimp-less. The OP might want to try the big Shanghainese style won tons which usually don't have shrimp in them around here.

          1. re: kc72

            Where are you getting your Hung To Yee Won Ton?

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              Last time I got it was at Kwang Tung in Richmond. Golden Dynasty used to have it, don't know if China House who replaced them has it or not.

              Grew up as a kid eating it at Joy Luck in Oakland.

              Joy Luck
              327 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

              Kwang Tung
              12056 San Pablo Ave, Richmond, CA 94805

              Golden Dynasty
              10140 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA

              1. re: kc72

                Thanks. Yes, China House in both EC and Pinole have a passable Hung To Yee Won Ton and Duck Yee Foo Won Ton.

                I had not thought of Joy Luck and I walk buy there at least once a month on my way to Gum Wah.

                Grew up eating it a Jackson Cafe in SF.

                Joy Luck
                327 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                Gum Wah
                345 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                  Doubt Joy Luck has it now or at least I haven't looked for or asked for it -- it was at least 2 owners ago when I've had it there.

                  Joy Luck
                  327 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

          2. The Cantonese version always has shrimp. The Shanghainese version is pork only.

            2 Replies
            1. re: PeterL

              While growing up in Hong Kong, the won tons were referred to as "fresh shrimp won tons" on the menu and always had shrimp in them.

              There are a few places in the SF Bay Area that do a predominant pork won ton but they still have shrimp in them (as a way to cut down costs). Hong Kong Bistro in Mountain View started off offering pork only won tons, then eventually evolved to the more proper receipe of having shrimps inside.

              I believe the pork only won tons you are thinking of are red chili oil spicy wontons, which is a Sichuan take (hung yoh tsao soh). Shanghainese restaurant won tons usually have pork and veg in them, with spinach being a common filling with the pork, served in a clear broth. Taiwanese style wontons are closer to that of Shanghai, and last time I had it, I don't recall them having much in the way of veg, but definitely no shrimp. For Taiwanese won ton soup the only two places I can think of are Formosa Bento House and Tai Kee in San Jose a few doors down from Ramen Halu.

              Costco won tons (shrimp from Thailand I think it says on the box) pork whatsoever.

              1. re: K K

                The trend is now for won tons loaded with shrimp in fact if I remember right they are called fresh shrimp won ton and in most Hong Kong style noodle shop that what you get. In fact my favorite in Richmond BC go as far to use shrimp paste as the binding agent to hold the shrimp in place. But If you ask at places where the customers are not the Cantonese/HongKong types you may get mostly pork, also you can order suai gow with has more pork and less shrimp.

                I will need to try Formosa Bento House soon for their wontons.

                Formosa Bento House
                2660 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063

            2. Sorry you're allergic to shrimp, but I love won tons with the shrimp pieces. I think pork only is too dense.

              1. Be careful with the Shanghai style won ton soup.The broth ofter has small, clear, dried shrimp in it as well as little strips of egg crepe and cilantro. I am sure you could ask them to leave them out. I remember back East when I was wee child that the won tons had chopped bbq pork in them and that was it.

                3 Replies
                1. re: chefj

                  What does that tell you about the Chinese food we used to get back east as wee children?

                  "It's horrible, but it's somewhat frown upon to have no shrimp in the wonton, it's considered cheap and sign of a bad restaurant."