Well, it has been a while since I’ve checked in here. In the meantime, I accepted a new job; traveled to China, it’s Special Administrative Regions – Hong Kong and Macau, and Taiwan; and started coordinating a move to New York City. Yes, we’re moving! We’re in the midst of figuring out logistics of a cross-country move, which is a lot more challenging than I initially imagined. Little by little, though, we’re putting the pieces in their places, packing up all our belongings, and mentally preparing for everything to come. It’s an exciting time. Certainly, it is bittersweet to be leaving Chicago, but this move seems to be the right thing right now.
And then there was vacation! The trip was planned with my friends as a last hurrah before I start working full time again, and what a final hurrah it was. I’m still editing the photos and will hopefully share some soon, but in sum, we ate a lot of good food, saw a lot of cool sites, and soaked up all the crazy awesome little things that make up Chinese culture. It was also fun to see the differences among Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China as we saw it in Beijing. It was a really special trip and, like usual, I’ve been inspired to cook all the foods we ate.
We didn’t make it to Sichuan province, but we still managed to eat a few Sichuan dishes and brought home Sichuan peppercorns to replicate everything. We learned how to wrap wontons in a cooking class in Beijing and I used that same technique to wrap up some seasoned ground pork. This recipe is a project, to be sure, but totally worth it.
Pork Wonton in Sichuan Chili Oil
I would recommend making your own Sichuan chili oil, which is really easy once you gather up all the ingredients. You can likely find everything at a Chinese grocer, including the green Sichuan peppercorns. They’re sometimes found under the label Prickly Ash. Several ingredients are found online, also. I roughly followed Lady and Pups’ recipe using the amounts below.
You may end up with a lot of leftover filling. You can sauté the filling and add it to noodles, or just buy more dumpling/wonton wrappers and keep wrapping! Oh, and the Sichuan chili oil is great on so many things: salads, noodles, eggs, etc – anywhere you would use a hot sauce, you can use this oil.
Sichuan Chili Oil
4 cups neutral flavored vegetable oil
2 green onions, cut into quarters
10-15 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons red Sichuan peppercorns, stems and seeds removed
6 tablespoons green Sichuan peppercorns, stems and seeds removed
1/2 cup chili flakes (I used gochugaro, a Korean chili flake)
3-4 star anise pods
1/2 stick cinnamon
2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
4 dried chili pods
1 package square wonton wrappers
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons Shaioxing wine
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup chopped Chinese chives
1 teaspoon shrimp paste, optional
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon black vinegar
sliced green onions and Chinese chives
Sichuan chili oil
Gather the ingredients for the chili oil. Heat all the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until the oil is hot. You know it’s hot when you insert a wooden chopstick and bubbles form around the chopstick. Add all the ingredients and cook for a minute or so. Remove from the heat and let cool for several hours, up to a full day. After the oil is fully cooled and room temperature, strain out all ingredients.
For the wontons, combine the pork with the rest of the ingredients in the list. Mix well. Put the wonton wrappers on a plate and cover with a wet cloth. You’ll also need a small bowl of water to seal the wontons.
To make the wonton, place the wrapper in the palm of your hand. Dip your finger in the water and wet the edges of the wonton wrapper. Place a half teaspoon of wonton filling in the center of the wonton. It’s very important to keep the amount of filling to a half teaspoon or less, otherwise the wonton will not fold properly.
Fold the bottom corner of the wrapper up and at an angle, so the two corners form little mountain peaks like in the picture below.
Then grab the two folded corners on each side of pull them down to meet. Cross one edge over the other and squeeze together to seal the wonton.
To cook, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop the wontons in the water in batches and cook for five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow the water to drain away from the wonton.
Place the wontons in a bowl and drizzle with soy sauce, black vinegar, Sichuan chili oil, and sliced green onions + chives.