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Every time you add finger food to a main meal, you made it more fun. Just ask any kid. Or growup. Appetizers add another dimension to the otherwise predictable meal. You cannot quite place a finger on it but appetizers not only whet your appetite, it adds excitement and the “wow” factor, especially if you make them yourself. Your kids will love you. Your husband will be gushing compliments (or quietly proud) and if you’ve guests...they may think you’re quite the culinary fairy.
I’ve to confess I don’t always find time to provide an appetizer with my meal. But there are times when I feel an urge to make little savory treats to upgrade my meal. For instance, my daughter gets an A for Math and I feel like celebrating. It may sound frivolous but it's reason and incentive enough. Since time is often a factor, I’ve to make appetizers that are not too tedious, yet delicious. I always have packs of wanton wrappers in my freezer since these wraps have great versatility. I can turn them into savory treats or sweet deserts. Dream up a filling and viola, they are transformed into sophisticated morsels of delectable treats.
Recently, I experimented with wrapping whole shrimps with fresh herbs and I’ve say, they were surprisingly good and easy. Traditionally, the stuffing consists of minced or finely chopped ingredients to fit into the little wanton squares and that requires some time to prep. I decided to use whole shrimps (that way, I can skimp on chopping more than necessary) and then, I cheated some more—I use a variety of fresh herbs to kick up the flavor. Fresh herbs also mean you can skimp on sodium. As you can see, sometimes, less is more.
- 24 large shrimps, fresh or frozen
- 24 wanton wrappers
- 2 stalks green onion, finely chopped
- 2 springs cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
- A pinch of Kosher salt
- A pinch of sugar, (optional)
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- Finely chop green onion, parsley and cilantro.
- Wash and pat dry shrimps and put them in a large bowl
- Add chopped herbs and season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.
- Add 1 tsp of cornstarch to gel all the ingredients together. Mix well.
- Mix 1 tsp of cornstarch with some water in a bowl to use as glue.
- Place one shrimp in the middle of the wanton wrapper
- Bring one corner of the wanton wrapper over the shrimp.
- Bring an adjacent corner over the first corner. Glue with cornstarch mix with water.
- Bring another corner in, add glue before turning in the last corner.
- You’ll end up with a square-shaped wanton, with the shrimp sitting snuggly inside. In the same way, wrap the rest of the shrimps.
Pan-fry Shrimp Wantons
Usually, they’re deep fried but I prefer to pan-fry them. I usually use about half an inch of oil to coat pan. That way I use less oil and by that reckoning, less waste and less fat calories.
- Fry each side for about 3 minutes or until wanton is golden brown.
- Drain on paper towel and enjoy with dipping sauce.
You can eat the shrimp wantons as they are—crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. To further augment the eating experience, dipping sauces are highly recommended. If you’re short on time, bottled sauce will do. I love sweet and tangy Thai chili sauce—it goes superbly with these crispy treats. Or ketchup with a dash of Tabasco sauce or horseradish.
If you’re ambitious, I’ve a vinegar soy sauce for you:
- 1 tbs of soya sauce
- 1 tsp of rice vinegar
- ½ tsp of brown sugar
- 2 tbs of water
- Minced ginger (optional)
- A dash of sesame oil or chili oil if you like it spicy.
- Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl.
If you like it, give it some stars. Thanks.
|Serving size: 4 wantons per serving|
|Calories from Fat||117|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 13 g||20%|
|Saturated fat 3 g||15%|
|Carbohydrates 22 g||7%|
|Sugar 2 g|
|Fiber 1 g||4%|
|Protein 25 g||50%|
|Cholesterol 170 mg||57%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Are there any health benefits to eating Shrimp?
Shrimp may not carry as much health buzz as fish and is often maligned for its high cholesterol level but let’s look at it closely. The high cholesterol claim is debatable as some studies indicate that the cholesterol found in shrimp actually raise the good cholesterol (HDL), which is health-friendly but then, other studies indicate otherwise. Truth is nothing eaten to excess is a good thing. With that in mind, shrimp offers a number of health benefits, enough to not scrimp away:
- It is low in fat and calories, making it a viable meat source.
- Excellent source of amino acid tryptophan (famously blamed for inducing sleep after the Thanksgiving turkey meal), a vital mineral in maintaining sleep pattern and stabilizing mood.
- Rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to Mayo clinic, research has linked omega-3 fatty acids to reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases. It also lowers triglycerides and keeps plagues from depositing in blood vessels.
- About 4 ounces of shrimp contain 28 percent of vitamin B12, helpful in protecting blood vessels from damage and reducing risks of strokes.
- Selenium, a trace mineral that packs a punch—it enhances immunity, regulates thyroid function and according to National Institute of Health, it also protect against cellular damage from free radicals
Nutritional Profile of Wanton Wrapper:
One 3 and a half inch square wrapper has 23 calories and 0.1g of total fat. Some brands have no fat calories. It also has 46 mg of sodium and 4.6g of carbohydrates.
You can make your own but I usually buy them from the store and keep it in the freezer until I'm ready to use. Give it about an hour of thaw time.
What are Wanton Wrappers?
Wanton, wantan, wutun or wonton—they are all name variations of paper-thin wrappers made from flour, water, salt and egg. The thicker and steady cousin is used for making dumplings. The Chinese first invented these, judging by the name—wanton is known as “hundun” in the northern Chinese usage, meaning,” irregularly shaped pasta,” or in a more poetic form as “yuntun,” meaning “swallowing clouds.” That is not too far-fetched in terms of visual illustration as stuffed wantons can sometimes look like crimped clouds or pillows.
You can take these wrappers and stuff any fillings you fancy. Usual suspects include minced pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, chopped cabbage, ginger, green onion, onion, water chestnuts, and chives. Change the fillings into something sweet (sweet bean paste, fruit preserves, chopped nuts) and they become desserts. To seal the edges together, so all the deliciousness doesn’t ooze out during cooking, you can simply use water to wet surfaces before pressing the edges together or you can use a combination of cornstarch and water (pulls great gluing power). Because wanton wrapper is malleable, you can also play with creating interesting shapes. So, go beyond triangles, rectangles and squares.
How Many Ways Can You Use Wanton Wrappers?
The cooking genius of mankind saw to it that wanton wrappers are put to good use…not a one-trick ingredient, that’s for sure. Different cultures have also put their spin on them and so if ravioli looks suspiciously like dumplings and dumplings looks suspiciously like Jewish Kreplach, well… it’s all good. Here are some examples of how wanton wrappers can be used:
- Steamed them and they became dumplings or jiaozi. Since they look like gold ingots, jiaozi is very auspicious and are often eaten during Chinese New Year in the hopes of getting rich. If only getting rich is just a matter of eating a bowl of dumplings—I’ll be very rich by now.
- Deep fry them and they make fried wantons, the kind that it’s commonly served in Asian restaurants. The filling varies from ground meat to cream cheese to vegetables.
- If you fry them on one side and then add water to steam the upper side, they became gyoza, the Japanese spin. Quite like 2-in-1—very ingenious.
- Lightly pan-fry them and they become potstickers.
- Stuff them until the burst out of the edges and they became “siew mai” (aka Shaomai/Shumai—depending on dialect used)—a favorite appetizer in Asia. Steal them of the push carts that come around in dim sum restaurants for a small price or make them yourself. Or buy them from frozen food section of Asian markets. Even Costco carries them.
- Scrunch them up until they resemble shriveled prunes and toss them into soups for a light treat. It is simply called wanton soup.
- They can also be turned into shells, quite like taco shells to hold any number of delicious fillings. Just brush both sides of wanton wrapper with oil and bake in muffin cups at 350 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes. These dainty receptacles are ready to hold anything your palate desires.
- Cut them into strips and baked until crunchy. Makes good salad toppings or use as chips.
As you can see, the wanton wrapper is quite a multi-tasker. They may come in a package but you can't "box" them in when it comes to culiary creations. Below are some examples of what I've done with them: