It'S A Wrap!, Or Fiddling With Won Tons And Rice Paper! - The Well Travelled Spatula Blog at - 187261

The Well Travelled Spatula

It's a Wrap!, or Fiddling with Won Tons and Rice Paper! 
Jul. 24, 2010 11:16 pm 
Updated: Jul. 29, 2010 3:05 pm
No matter what kind of restaurant you find yourself in, there is bound to be at least one type of 'wrapped' food on offer, Asian restaurants in particular. Whether it's Thai, Chinese, Japanese or Vietnamese cuisine, you will be tempted by lovely little spring rolls, pot stickers, Gyoza, dumplings and endless other dishes with endless other names. I have been making these types of things for years, without much thought apart from following a recipe, but last week, I decided to delve into things a bit deeper.

Asian 'wraps' tend to involve two main types of 'wrapper': Won Tons skins and Rice Paper. Purists and Dim Sum masters would add Shui Mai skins to the list. Shui Mai skins are very similar to Won Tons skins, just slightly thinner and more delicate. Won Ton skins come in small and large squares, as well as small rounds. The dough is very similar to pasta dough, in fact I have used won tons skins to make ravioli before! Rice Paper generally comes in the larger size, but can be either square or round. Rice Paper is very thin and dry, like, well, paper! When placed in warm water the sheets quickly soften and become pliable. Both are easily found in Asian markets or well-stocked grocery stores, and are inexpensive. Won Ton skins must be kept refrigerated and have a relatively short shelf life, but they can be frozen for a much longer period of time.

The list of ingredients that can go into the fillings is almost limitless. Ground pork and chicken are the most common meats used. Shrimp is very common, too. Tofu is common, as are vermicelli (rice noodles), bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, shredded cabbage, grated carrots and spring onions.

Seasonings include all the great Asian flavors of fresh herbs and roots, combined with sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, Chinese Rice Wine and other Asian sauces.

Clockwise, from top left: lemon grass, chilli peppers, coriander/cilantro, ginger, galangal and kaffir lime leaves

To start with, I looked at lots of recipes, both on and in my vast library of cookbooks. What I quickly came to realize, is that while there are 'traditional' dishes, there is lots of variation and no hard, set rules. For example, the cooking technique for pot stickers doesn't really vary, but the fillings can vary greatly.

For my pot stickers, I used ground pork, finely chopped spring onion, sesame oil and a bit of corn starch. I thoroughly mixed the filling, and then laid out about 6 small, square wonton wrappers on my cutting board. I put a spoonful of filling on each wrapper, and using my fingers, brushed some water around the edges of each wrapper to help them stick, or seal. I pulled the corners together above the filling and gently twisted and squeezed to seal the packet. If you want to be fancy, you can use a bit of spring onion or rice noodle to 'tie' up the little bundles. These are sometimes called 'moneybags' because they look like little sacks of cash, and are considered 'auspicious' or lucky in some cultures.

Making the Pot Stickers, six at a time...

The Pot Sticker Army! At this stage, these little guys can be frozen. When un-expected guests turn up, you can have them thawed and cooked in very little time. Way better than cheese and crackers!

Next, the Pot Stickers are fried in a little peanut oil, just until their bottoms begin to brown. They are called potstickers, because at this stage, they tend to 'stick to the pot'.

Pot Stickers Beginning to Fry...

...just until they're bottoms are browned. Then, I added about 1/2 inch of water to the pan, (WARNING: It WILL splatter! Be Prepared!) covered it and let the pot stickers steam for about 8 minutes. (I used an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperture for doneness.)

Plated and served with Soy-Sesame Sauce, Sweet Chilli Sauce and Soy Ginger Sauce

For my next dish, I decided to try an open topped steamed dumpling. Purists (and I'm sure this will be pointed out) would use a shao mai wrapper or dumpling skin rather than a won ton skin, which is a bit thicker. Many Asian markets do stock these, as well.

For my filling I used ground chicken, finely chopped mushrooms, spring onion, garlic and soy sauce. I filled the wrappers the same way I did for the pot stickers, but instead of pulling the corners all the way together at the top, I 'pleated' them together.

I also decided to try some other shapes and styles of dumplings
This 'fold' is decsribed in

Mr. Kirk's Won Ton recipe on AR - a bit like a tortelini.

My variety of dumplings:

I steamed them in a traditional bamboo steam basket, but you can use a vegetable steamer or your rice maker.

Steamed and Plated!

This blog is proudly supported and sponsored by The Man's Veggie Garden! All carrots, spring onions and Bok Choy used were created there.

Now, a vegetarian Vietnamese Spring roll. I have briefly (20 seconds) soaked the sheet of rice paper in some warm water and placed it on my cutting board. I had also soaked some vermicelli noodles. I took a small handful of the noodles and cut them a bit shorter than the width of the paper and laid them down. Next, I added some grated carrot, fresh mint, fresh coriander, pea shoots and bok choy.

To roll, take the bottom edge or the sheet and fold in over the veggies.

Next, fold the sides in...

And, then fold the top down. Slice on the diagonal and plate! We had these with a Soy Dipping Sauce.

The Man, who is a strict Carnivore actually LOVED these vegetarian rolls!

Next, I wanted to try a fried rice paper roll. For the filling, I used ground chicken, finely grated ginger, finely chopped kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped red pepper, toasted sesame oil and a bit of corn starch.

Unlike the pot stickers and dumplings, I cooked the chicken mix before making the rolls.

I fried the rolls in some peanut oil in the wok and until they were nicely browned.

We enjoyed these with some Sweet Chilli Sauce. They were very good. In fact, it was lucky that the filling made it into the rice paper before someone ate it all!

And, finally, my favorite! I cut my rice paper in half, beacuse I am making small parcels. I have placed a few coriander/cilantro leaves in the center...

Then, I placed a small piece(about 1 inch square) of fresh salmon down, and folded up the sides.

Then, I steamed these on the steam rack in my rice cooker for about 4 minutes.

They look fantastic and taste even better! We enjoyed these with a Soy-Sesame Sauce, but my recipe calls for an Asian Pesto made of garlic, cashews. coriander/cilantro, basil and peanut oil.

So, next time you are planning an 'appy' night or a finger-food get-together, why not get fiddly with some Asian appetizers? The won-tons/potstickers/dumplings can be done ahead and frozen, and then just steamed on the day. The rice paper rolls can be done ahead and held in the fridge for a few hours. The 'fresh' roll can be served as is, the fried one would only require a few minutes to fry and would hold well in the oven.

Have fun!

Jul. 24, 2010 11:36 pm
GENZ - stunning! Simply stunning! Makes me want to go and tear the guts out of my blog that I'm due to publish in 25 minutes! These look so scrumptious. Thank you so very much for posting this.
Jul. 24, 2010 11:47 pm
Oh, Phil, your post will be sensational. We just have different styles of writing! Thanks! PS -- it was scrumptious. The Man had prepared Lamb Shanks and we were too full to even consider them. They're better the next day anyway!
Jul. 24, 2010 11:53 pm
There is much truth in what woman say (he says in his best Red Indian accent)! Lamb shanks matured for a day are something special.
Jul. 24, 2010 11:59 pm
Great job! Wow everything looks so good and beautiful too!!
Jul. 25, 2010 12:11 am
Yep - Phil! Some stuff does improve with age, but not Asian! Thanks, ST! Gad you checked it out! Internet is wonky here -- in and out, so if I don't reply 'soon' that's why!
Jul. 25, 2010 5:19 am
Nice blog Good EatNZ - I love all Asian food but especially goodies wrapped in a wonton wrapper.
Jul. 25, 2010 6:03 am
DELICIOUS! You make it look so effortless, too! The pot stickers are something I might try - I think the kids would like them even.... Very inspiring blog.
Jul. 25, 2010 6:42 am
B Nana - Yep! I love the noodley mouth feel plus the flavor! WFDM- When I was writing this I thought it might be a fun group activity. Def a good way to get kids involved!
Jul. 25, 2010 7:06 am
excellent goody! i've been looking for you!! you won last saturday night's game and i'm trying to gift you a yr. subscripition to ar. e'mail me at! love ya gal!
Jul. 25, 2010 7:23 am
True GENZ - they are good at making egg rolls and other things! WIll definitely give it a try!
Jul. 25, 2010 7:32 am
YUM!!!!!!! Ha, I have learned to eat breakfast before viewing your blogs, finally! Lovely just lovely. You know I have a birthday coming up and was wondering what I'd like to fix for my lunch/dinner. Definately going with stuffed grape leaves and now I have some other splendid ideas! I'll be able to find some of that stuff but some not without a long trip to the big city. Which ingredients would you say are the most important to have and which can be subbed with American stuff? Like sauces and spices? Don't worry I get the outsides are pretty important to have! LOL! I can find wonton wrappers and rice paper! LOL!
Jul. 25, 2010 9:53 am
Nicely done my friend. Potstickers, gyoza, spring rolls, etc...all are favorites here and in fact we had them last week. Your little beggars purses turned out cute. I keep practicing with the gorgeous foldings of the various doughs and haven't mastered it yet but I'm just intrigued by how quickly the Asian chefs can do it and they are perfect. Nicely done job once again.
Jul. 25, 2010 1:17 pm
? if I go to one of the bigger supermarkets that is sort of close, will they have a hoisin sauce that you would be ok using or are they not created equal?! Know what I mean?
Jul. 25, 2010 2:27 pm
Gary! WOW! I looked for game results but couldn't find them. Too funny! I'll shoot you an e-mail later. Thanks for dropping in!
Jul. 25, 2010 2:29 pm
Thanks, Avon! I think it takes practice! I can the money bags OK, but my dumplings are a bit sorry, and I certainly won't be breaking any speed records. But, it's fun to try and the results still taste great!
Jul. 25, 2010 2:32 pm
Cat -- LOL! You crack me up! Planning what to make yourself for your BD lunch! If you look in my recipe box there are severalrecently added recipes for these types of things that I used as a 'basis' for this. They all look pretty good, and that will give you an idea of what you need. Def. ground pork, spring onions and soy sauce. Personally, I think hoison would be a bit heavy for these but that's just MHO.
Jul. 25, 2010 2:43 pm
Great tasting ideas! I might try the vegetarian Vietnamese Spring Rolls!
Jul. 25, 2010 5:09 pm
Beautiful, Laurie!! I wish we had such ingredients here in the sticks!
Jul. 25, 2010 8:11 pm
Sueb -- the Vietnamese rolls are excellent. The fresh mint gives them a really special lift. Thanks, Mimosa! You might be surprised what you find in the ethnic section...
Jul. 26, 2010 2:53 pm
Cause I'm lazy I didn't go back and look but would you please explain the different sauces? I bought Hoisin today because of a pork recipe I saw. Interesting flavor but while I was in the BIG grocery store I looked at stuff. I love looking at stuff! What's fish oil and why would I want to use it? Sesame oil bought it but haven't opened it yet how long will it last in the fridge? Again why it and not some other oil. Is flavor that different. What's miso and would I want to buy it? Ha my birthday, I'm having what I WANT!
Jul. 26, 2010 2:58 pm
Umm that's sauce, fish sauce. Sorry but I'm sure you knew what I meant!
Jul. 26, 2010 5:14 pm
Hey, Cat! The 'traditional' Chinese sauce that would go with this stuff is a mix of soy and a Chinese black vinegar (which I don't have), and it doean't really appeal to me. In Japanese places they usually offer soy sauce, straight, or with a bit of toasted sesame oil which is nice and is what I did, plus I put a few sesame seeds in too, mostly for the 'look'. I also did soy with grated ginger and it was nice. Here in NZ, sweet chilli sauce, bought in a bottle is incredibly popular and served with everything! Thai sauces, like Nam Jim (SP?) are usually a mix of fish sauce, soy, vinegar, sugar and chilli, trying to get that perfect balance of sweet, sour, hot and salty. I didn't do that sauce for this post, but normally would...
Jul. 26, 2010 8:25 pm
As you well know, there is a lot I don't know about about other cuisines ;) I wandered around the grocery store just looking at stuff. I knew what I was going to get but was wondering about the other stuff. The sesame oil does have a unique flavor. How's it smell? Remember I can't! Again thanks for giving me new flavors to play with!!!
Jul. 28, 2010 6:38 pm
Oh! Glad I came back through for a look see at blogs I had missed. I could use the instruction on the rice papers. I had tried these before and could not quite master the delicate bundles without ripping through them. NEXT time, I do a run through of this edition for inspiration and "how to's". ;o) Thank you.
Jul. 28, 2010 11:33 pm
Thanks, Hezzy! I think the trick with the rice paper is to keep a close eye on it when you soak it. It goes soft very quick and you need to pull it out of the water at just the right moment!
Jul. 29, 2010 3:05 pm
I'm loving this blog! The cooking lessons, the life inside a restaurant, the animals' blogs, your sense of's the whole nine yards! I'm learning so much! As a quite mature half-a$$ Southern cook (my Mama is the Best!), I need inspiration and lessons! Thank you for your time and step by step photos!
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Good EatNZ

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About Me
As a Californian, now living in New Zealand with 20 odd years spent in the Caribbean in between, my cooking style has had a lot of different influences. After several years in other businesses, we finally came to NZ 9 years ago, and with no experience other than eating in a lot of them, we opened a cafe! Our friends thought we were nuts, and in retrospect, we were. We have now sold that business and are trying to figure out what to do next! Watch this space...
My favorite things to cook
I love to play with Asian inspired marinades/ingredients - getting the blance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy just right. I also seem to be drawn to fiddly foods -- home-made pastas, tortillas, filled won tons and grape leaves.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mother loved Mexican food, and definately passed the taste on to me. I always loved my mom's enchiladas and tacos, and often whip up something like that quick for dinner. When I have more time, I make home-made Tamales. It's time consuming, but worth it. We have a hard time getting decent whole roasting turkeys here in NZ, but there is nothing like spending a day preparing 'the works' for a holiday dinner.
My cooking triumphs
I recently catered for a group of 18 - 22 for 18 days straight. I had prep support from the cafe (they were able to make all the cookies, muffins, cakes, etc) but I single-handedly managed all the main dishes, plus the organization and ordering supplies. The group was so impressed they gave me a gift certificate and I had a real Sally Fields' moment: They like me! They really like me!
My cooking tragedies
Serving things at dinner parties, not realizing that they weren't things that everyone liked or had tasted before. I was shocked when an important client turned up for the lovely roast lamb and said he had never eaten lamb before! Corned Beef was another one.
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