M(Y) SHANGHAI’S COLD WONTONS IN SPICY PEANUT SAUCE
YOUR ULTIMATE REVENGE TOWARDS THE COMING ASS-BINDING HEATWAVES
A REFRESHINGLY PLEASURABLE PAIN, BEST SERVED COLD
It might say something about me, perhaps not in the most positive light, whenever I fell for a Chinese dish-inspiration from half way around the world while living right inside the epicenter of it all, where the “real things” are or so they say. What kind of a food-blogger, who eats and breathes right off of the ground-zero of a very old, very diverse and rapidly morphing food-culture often generalized as “Chinese foods”, would cook you a Chinese dish that comes from an Instagram of a New Yorker who took it at a restaurant that are, out of all places, in Brooklyn. Lazy? Perhaps. Utter dumb luck? That’s for sure. Because you see, without this inconvenient loop around the globe it has traveled, the inspiration for this down-home Shanghainese summer snack, in one form or another, would have otherwise never found its way to melt in my warm embrace. And this is, I guess especially for those who have experienced living abroad, a perfectly explainable social phenomenon.
Thing is, I believe across all cultures, that the restaurants indigenous to where they are located, often times with great effort, focus on serving what they perceive as “restaurant-style/worthy” dishes only. It is a limiting but reasonable box that excludes the slightly less glamorous, homemade gems that are more commonly celebrated within the contentment of one’s own home. It really isn’t hard to understand why. Just imagine, that it would also seem odd, if not lazy, to see PB&J on the menu of a respectable American restaurant sitting in the heart of Manhattan, no? However, when the citizens of such comfort are residing in a foreign land, say, a Shanghainese in Brooklyn, and decided to open a restaurant to selfishly serve his/her personal home-sickness, then guess what, dishes like these start to pop up. And my friends, dishes like these, are always my favourite kind to eat. Take this for example, M Shanghai’s wontons in spicy peanut sauce. Something that I would have taken gladly from its bare and natural implications – burning hot pork wontons slurped cautiously from an even more inflammable pool of peanut sauce and chili oil – let alone after the discovery of its true, counterintuitive ingenuity over a much needed research. It turns out (whether or not this is how it’s served in Brooklyn) that this fabulous summer-snack regrettably overlooked in most-if-not-all Shanghai restaurants in Beijing, is actually… eaten cold.
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Yes! Cold wontons. I mean, come’on, that’s fucking
cold, I mean, cool! What kind of a food-sharer would I be, in particular at this timely juncture of late May, if I didn’t immediately pounce on this brilliance like Scarlett on Hulk, and send you an exhilarating cool wave of M(y) Shanghai’s cold wontons in spicy peanut sauce?
Designed specifically to lower your smoldering summer body-temperature by the cold firmness of ice-shocked pork wontons seasoned with pickled jalepeno, with a savoury and mildly apple-juice-sweetened peanut sauce in the perfect consistency of chilled gazpacho, then last but not least, plus the sweat gland-stimulating burns of my best, nuclear-active chili oil. The velvety coolness of the wonton wrappers brushes through your tongue as pleasantly as a cold sheet against your warm skin, then blazing through the first impact, is the creamy and nutty burn that broadcasts its summer-beating intention right through your skulls. It’s not food-myth. It’s biology. Highlighted with the sweet tang from aged balsamic vinegar, and tingling numbs from ground sichuan peppercorn, it’s scientifically sound to say that this dish will be your ultimate revenge towards the coming ass-binding heatwaves – a refreshingly pleasurable pain, best served cold.
UPDATE 2015/06/15: You can also make the sauce with Skippy smooth peanut butter. Whisk about 200 grams of smooth peanut butter with 2~3 tbsp of soy sauce, grated garlic, 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil, and enough water to blend into a loose mayonnaise consistency.
Makes: 30~35 wontons
Shanghai wontons, relatively to other varieties, are extra plump and over-stuffed almost like a dumpling, with fillings that are generally 1/2 pork and 1/2 minced bok choy. I’m not a huge fan of bok choy, so I used a more pungent replacement, Asian chives. If you like your wontons less garlicky, and more vegetable-y, then switch the finely chopped Asian chives with chopped blanched-then-squeed-dry bok choy. The Parmigiano cheese in the filling may seem odd, but trust me, you won’t be able to identify it except for the MSG-equivalent profile that it bring. Then why aged balsamic vinegar instead of Asian black vinegar? Well, I just find that balsamic vinegar brings a more well-rounded, less intrusive but sufficient acidity in this particular case.
- 17.6 oz (500 grams) fatty ground pork, cold
- 1/2 cup (43 grams) finely chopped Asian chives (or use ramps)
- 1/2 cup (27 grams) freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 5 tbsp (80 grams) finely chopped pickled jalepeno + 1 tbsp its pickling juice
- 3 tbsp (15 grams) finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp potato starch, or cornstarch
- 32~35 white wonton wrappers
- 2 cups (250 grams) peanuts
- 1 grated garlic
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to adjust
- 3/4 cup (175 grams) 100% unsweetened apple juice, very cold
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) water, very cold
- Toasted sesame oil to coat
- Sichuan chili oil from this recipe(you can half the recipe for smaller batch)
- Good aged balsamic vinegar to drizzle
- Finely ground sichuan peppercorn
- Finely diced scallions
- TO MAKE THE SPICY ASIAN CHIVE WONTONS: Mix together cold fatty ground pork, chopped Asian chives (or you could use ramps), grated Parmigiano cheese, chopped pickled jalepeno and its pickling juice, finely chopped cilantro, grated ginger, toasted sesame oil, fish sauce, ground white pepper and potato starch, until just evenly incorporated.
- Place 1 tbsp of filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Dab water on the wrapper around the edge of the filling, then bring the wrapper together and pinch tightly to seal. I like to do this free-style, but you can make it however you like it. Be very careful not to tear the delicate wrapper during pinching. Set aside on a lightly floured tray, and repeat until all the fillings are used. You should have about 30~35 extra large wontons. Flash-freeze the wontons for 1 hour until hardened, then transfer to an air-tight bag and keep frozen until needed.
- TO MAKE THE PEANUT SAUCE: Roast the peanuts in a preheated 350F/180C oven, for 20 min until lightly browned, then set aside to cool. Transfer the peanuts to a food-processor or blender, along with garlic, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and salt. Run continuously to turn the peanuts as paste-like as you can, approx 1:30~2 min (it should start to clump-up and stick to the side of the bowl). Now start adding cold apple juice, 2 tbsp at a time, and run the machine for 15 seconds for each addition. Then add the cold water, following the same rule, until the sauce reaches a creamy and loose bechamel consistency. (Adding the liquid all at once will result in a less creamy/chunkier texture). Adjust with a couple extra tbsp of cold water and re-season with salt if needed. Keep chilled until needed.
- TO SERVE: Bring a large pot of water to boil, then cook the wontons until they have floated to the surface, then another min after that. Drain and shock the wontons in iced water until completely cooled, then drain well again and coat thinly in a little toasted sesame oil. Place over a good puddle of peanut sauce. Douse it generously with Sichuan chili oil, a little drizzle of good balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with finely ground sichuan peppercorn and scallions.
Using cold ground pork will prevents its fat from melting during mixing, which will result in a grainy and unpleasant texture.
DAVIDMay 19, 2015 at 7:12 PM
I could LITERALLY eat one hundred of these morsels in one sitting. I guarantee it.
Belinda @themoonblushbakerMay 19, 2015 at 7:42 PM
This has to be one of your best food descriptions yet! Many, you speak the truth about exclusiveness of restaurant dishes even leaving out the dishes that are most loved in that region. Stunning and crisp photographs highlighting every spicy and refreshing quality to these won tons! love it!
AllynMay 19, 2015 at 8:30 PM
I first had Shanghainese food when I flew there to meet my now father-in-law, and to say that I fell head over heels for it is like saying boiling water is hot. Never in my life had I consumed so many perfect bites. I was impressing our various hostesses with my gluttonous willingness to try anything and everything they put in front of me, and loved it all.
Sadly, we’re currently living in Ohio, and it’s nearly impossible to find any decent generic Chinese food, much less authentic regional cooking. I could weep.
Your blog has quickly become my gateway drug to just start making it all my own damn self, and my husband is eternally grateful. We’ve already discussed Memorial day and what to tackle ( Xian famous spicy cumin hand smashed noodles, obviously), and now I’m thinking that this might have to get added to the menu. Appetizers that burn your face off are always an excellent choice.
Steven GubkinMay 31, 2015 at 11:31 AM
If you are near Columbus, I would recommend Imperial Garden (http://www.imperialgardenoh.com/). The website only has the american menu, but they have a great Shanghainese menu, and have an awesome lunch buffet on the weekends. Awesome dumplings, ma-la fish, broiled pigs feet, beef tendon, cumin lamb, etc. Hard to find another chinese place in Ohio that beats it.
JessicaMay 19, 2015 at 9:07 PM
Love chive anything! The most underappreciated vegetable when it comes to Chinese food making it to the US.
Ursula | lilvienna.comMay 19, 2015 at 9:28 PM
I love wontons. I also like your recipe for wontons in chili oil. Beautiful pics!!
Have you ever tried to make homemade wonton wrappers? I’m just curious because I don’t think I will get them in Austria outside the cities right in the middle of nowhere ;-) Are they made of wheat or rice flour? Do you usually buy frozen ones? And how do you usually defrost them (fridge)? Sorry for all these questions, I am planning on making them more often now.
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 19, 2015 at 10:34 PM
Ursula, not at all! I bought fresh wonton wrapper (unfrozen) from the market. I suppose they are made of wheat flour and water, and could potentially be made with a pasta machine. You could try making a dough with all-purpose flour and water with similar consistency as pasta-dough, then roll it through the thinnest setting on a pasta machine, then cut it into squares. Fingers crossed…
Ursula @ LilVienna.comJune 16, 2015 at 4:24 AM
Thanks for your help. Yesterday I had some wontons here in Boston, so I’m motivated to make some myself.
debMay 19, 2015 at 11:22 PM
!!! I know I only have to get on the subway to eat these, but instead I want to get on a plane and have yours; they look amazing. Of course, at M, they’re vegetable wontons so I like to pretend that it’s basically like eating a salad. P.S. The only thing better at M than the vegetable wontons are the soup dumplings. I’ve always wanted to reverse engineer them at home, but I’m daunted by the use of gelatin in most recipes I’ve seen. Is this… standard practice? Or just a hack for people not starting with good, naturally-gelatined bone broths? (I didn’t see a recipe for them on your site, but forgive me if I missed it.)
DulcistellaMay 20, 2015 at 4:48 AM
Hi! Look here for the soup dumpling:
(hope that my comment will be published, links can be tricky…)
debMay 20, 2015 at 9:28 PM
Those look amazing!
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 20, 2015 at 12:27 PM
Deb! Haha I live just a few min away from a very popular soup dumpling restaurant, which is the evil that’s deterring me to come up with a recipe of my own. But yes, in short, the gelatin is definitely a shortcut/hack to making your own broth with pigs feet/chicken feet/anything-feet that is super rich in gelatin (all traditional soup dumpling base uses them to create a real “firm” gello). I think the reason why there is a shortage of such recipes is because people are generally scared of cooking with these parts. But I think I saw one in last month’s issue of Bon Appetit.. or was it Saveur. Anyhow, my biggest question is not actually in the filling, but in the wrappers! They are not typical dumpling wrappers, and it’s not the easiest thing to get that right consistency (soft with a slight chew, translucent with micro-bubbly tissues, yes I stare at them very close). But I will continue my study by visiting that restaurant more often and report back…..
debMay 20, 2015 at 9:27 PM
Just what I thought! The thing with added gelatin is that it makes even the most delightfully flavored filling a bit gluey, like if you spill one dribble on your hand, as I always do because my soup dumpling slurping game is pathetic, it dries super-sticky and you know it’s not right. And yes, I’ll probably never make them because M Shanghai is a subway stop away. Then again, I once said that about homemade bagels and soft pretzels so… Also, I have a photo on my phone somewhere of the soup dumplings; I’ll IG it so we can discuss the wrapper texture, but I don’t think it’s anything special there.
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 21, 2015 at 12:19 AM
And I will IG the soup dumplings here to compare. Omg, this is real dumpling geek-talk. If only I studied my high school chemistry this hard..
Molly @ Yes to YolksMay 19, 2015 at 11:30 PM
Absolutely ADORE this recipe and these photos (as usual). I am a sucker for wontons, especially those using pork. I will be attempting these for sure. Thanks for sharing this awesomeness.
Millie | Add A LittleMay 20, 2015 at 1:20 AM
Looks SO AWESOME. I mean, that peanut sauce!!
tunieMay 20, 2015 at 1:56 AM
That second to last photo of you holding the bowl is poetry ; ) Forgive me please, for fan-girling all over you, but the traditional jade bangle on your left presented on-the-same-body with the ink on your right, holding a serious bowl of international fusion (apologies if you hate that word ; \ ), is just so cool! And the recipe is, literally, it seems haha, cool too. Thanks! …
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 20, 2015 at 2:20 AM
Tunie, oh you making me high on compliments. Thank you!
Rebecca @ DisplacedHousewifeMay 20, 2015 at 8:01 AM
The pools of chili oil on top are making me swoon.
Rebecca@Figs and PigsMay 21, 2015 at 1:13 AM
Oh gosh I love the look of this that peanut sauce with the chili oil looks divine.
WeiMay 23, 2015 at 10:58 AM
This post made me smile – I had my first bowl of ‘real’ ramen in Brooklyn and have been hooked ever since. I believe all cultures, especially food, try to mimick others. Seriously though, these wontons look amazing and revived my dumpling craving. I appreciate the balance between meat and vegetables – there is nothing sadder than a dumpling filled with just meat. Bravo!
Cheyanne @ No Spoon NecessaryMay 26, 2015 at 2:39 AM
These wontons look Ah.Mazing. Regardless of the inspiration or tradition.. I dont care, I want a plethora of these up in my belly. ASAP. Gorgeous and stunning photography… perfect for this beautiful lady and pups rendition.
MegMay 26, 2015 at 2:11 PM
I just wanted you to know I have been living off of these for the last few days. My only regret is that I live on an island in Alaska with limited produce and had to substitute green onions for the Asian chives…but it is still a winner.
Thanks for sharing!
ellie | fit for the soulJune 2, 2015 at 7:23 AM
To say that this recipe (and all your Chinese recipes!!!!) has me drooling is an understatement, ahh!
I seriously can’t wait to try your noodle-ish recipes because I’ve been craving them ever since I laid eyes on them, or I’ll have to find myself the best restaurant in town when I’m desperate enough…0_0 And asian chives are so unbelievably good in dumplings. My mom puts a bunch of them inside mandoo and it’s my favorite kind next to kimchi mandoo, mm-mmmm-mmmm~
LeslieJune 3, 2015 at 9:36 PM
I made these yesterday and they were awesome. The filling is sooo tasty. Love the parmesan and picked jalapenos. Umami bomb!
kristinJuly 3, 2015 at 4:31 AM
would probably sell my soul for this. no definitely would.
PamAugust 10, 2015 at 8:37 AM
Mandy, just want to thank you for this brilliant recipe. From the beginning till 10 minutes after the meal, hubby said no less than 10 times that this is really very good, like restaurant quality. I was pleased but told him that this is your recipe, not mine so the compliments should all go to you, and here I am writing you right after cleaning the dishes! Thank you!!
Epices et délicesAugust 25, 2015 at 5:05 PM
I definitively love chinese food.
This dish looks so simple when i read recipe that i want to try it now !
I have avec to find white wonton wrappers before …
KimMay 20, 2016 at 11:06 PM
Firstly, I am in love with your bowl, it’s gorgeous. Secondly, I made this last night for a light cold appetizer and it went over like gangbusters. Since I’m a lazy ass who was pressed for time, I used some frozen wontons that I’d made a while back instead of your recipe; but I’m happy to report that the dish is still crazy good even with a milder wonton. I had never considered eating wontons cold before and now I only want to eat them this way. The texture is fantastic! I’m already thinking about my next plate. Yet another winner worth repeating, Mandy. Thanks! :)
JessycaDecember 1, 2016 at 7:20 AM
Well, I have to say I wasn’t sure when I put the Parmigiano and pickled jalapeno in my bowl and then added my ground pork. It didn’t seem quite right. For psychological safety, I added a bit of Xiao Xing wine and soy sauce. I wrapped and tasted right away.
I assure you. I won’t ever doubt you again (meh ok I might, but it won’t stop me to try ;)). This recipe is DELICIOUS.
From the wontons filling to the sauces with Balsamic Vinegar on the top, I have to thank you once more to bring so much excitement in my kitchen.
This is also a great recipe for potlucks!
Thanks a lot !
heatherDecember 5, 2017 at 1:00 AM
oh don’t apologize, those spicy wontons at m shanghai are ridiculously delicious. i just get 2 orders of them instead of an entree because why would i bother eating anything else? can’t wait to try this recipe (but veganized with tofu). thanks so much!
Lindsey FineDecember 6, 2017 at 4:49 PM
Informative blog. Many thanks to you. I’m always searching for restaurants serving healthy vegetarian food in China, or in Shanghai city. And found this great new restaurant named “Happy Buddha” in Shanghai cooking up veggiefied American comfort food for the people of this city. It is launching a crowdfunding campaign to help them make the move to become 100% plant-based in 2018! With your help, we will continue to make Shanghai healthier and happier. Please help them spread the news! Thank you! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-spread-more-vegan-love-in-shanghai-restaurant-food#/