Odds are, you’ve tried Cantonese cuisine already. Named for the city of Canton (the Portuguese transliteration of Guangzhou) near Hong Kong, on China’s southern coast, the flavorful foods of this region are not only popular throughout China, but—thanks to the waves of Chinese immigrants from the Guangdong province in the early 1800s—throughout America, too: It may have gone through a few modifications due to changing tastes and times, but the menu at the archetypical American Chinese restaurant is still largely based on the cuisine of Canton.
Wonton soup is found throughout China, but with different ingredients and spices depending on the region. Cantonese wontons contain a mixture of pork, shrimp, and fresh vegetables, and are served in a bowl of steaming chicken broth (another variation adds thin noodles to the soup as well). This relatively simple recipe highlights one of the main philosophies of Cantonese cooking, which is that the natural flavor of the ingredients should be allowed to shine through, with spices used sparingly. A popular teatime snack on the streets of Hong Kong, wonton soup can also be served as an appetizer, or as a meal in its own right.
Cantonese Wonton Soup
½ lb ground pork
4-5 wood ear (or shiitake) mushrooms, minced*
¼ cup fresh shrimp, minced
¼ cup Napa cabbage, minced
2 scallions, finely diced
1 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Chinese cooking wine (or rice wine)
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 package wonton wrappers
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) chicken broth
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, mushrooms, shrimp, cabbage, half of the scallions, egg, cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, wine, salt, and pepper. Mix until everything is thoroughly combined, then set aside.
- Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil on the stovetop. In another pot, heat the chicken broth.
- While the liquids are heating, prepare the wontons. First, fill a small dish with water, and clear a flat work surface. Take one wonton wrapper from the package at a time, place 1½-2 teaspoons of filling in the center of the wrapper, wet the edges with water, fold it into a triangle, and press the edges to seal them. Position the filled triangle so that the seam faces you, wet one of the seam’s corners, take each corner between a thumb and forefinger, and bring them together, crossing over so that the moistened corner is on the bottom, then press to seal them together. The corner of the wanton facing away from you should curl up as you pull the other corners back, and the finished wonton should look like a large tortellini.
- Continue making wontons until you’ve used all the filling, then place the wontons in the boiling water to cook until they float to the water’s surface, and the filling is cooked through—around 5-8 minutes.
- To serve, ladle the broth into individual bowls, remove the wontons from the water, divide them between the bowls, and garnish with the remaining scallions.
See how wonton soup is prepared in different parts of China when you join O.A.T. for Imperial China, Tibet & the Yangtze River.