Tutorial: Mama Fury’s Wontons Recipe

Posted by on Aug 11, 2009

My mother may not be the most fantastic cook (shh!) but she has three killer specialties:

1) Winter lamb brisket stew
2) Chinese barbecue pork (Cha-Siu 叉燒)

and the third is her wontons.

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While you may have encountered these dumplings in wonton soup, did you know there are several regional variations? The term “wonton” is translated from its Cantonese name (雲吞) that literally means to swallow a cloud. The Cantonese name seems poetic but is actually slang derived from the Mandarin name (餛飩) that sounds similar but is more complex to write.

The Cantonese wonton has a thin yellow wrapper made from duck eggs and flour that envelopes a mixture of shrimp, minced pork and pork fat. The filling is flavoured distinctly with smoky dried fish flake and sometimes dried shiitake mushroom. In Hong Kong, constructing the proper wonton is an art form that involves time- honoured recipes and techniques. A simple, but perfect bowl of wonton noodle soup can attract long lines of eager connoisseurs.

Although my family is from Hong Kong, my mama’s wonton has a Shangahiese influence. Instead of the yellow wrapper, she uses the white, slippery kind that is a touch thicker. The basic filling is a mixture of pork, shrimp, and flowering garlic chives. For textural and flavour interest, she sometimes adds wood-ear fungus (木耳), bamboo shoots, napa cabbage, or bok choi. These dumplings can be served in a light broth or with my fragrant sesame vinegar sauce. Even try deep-frying them if you are adventurous!

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I encourage you to create your personal wonton-style. Just follow these tips and you can’t go wrong.

  • Purchase two cuts of pork (one leaner, one fattier) and grind them separately. I suggest using pork shoulder and pork belly to achieve a balance of flavour and fat ratio. Use the “pulse” function on the food processor until the pork shoulder reaches a coarse grind. Grind the pork belly separately into almost a paste so the fat can evenly distribute throughout the filling.
  • Adding the whole egg and egg white help bind the filling and provides a silkier mouthfeel. The addition of cornstarch keeps the filling extra moist by first holding onto the meat juices and later releasing it within the wrapper during cooking.
  • The secret to ensure that the wrapper retains its shape and texture while the dense filling cooks through is by tempering the water three times. The method is called 三沉三浮, which translates to “3 sinks and 3 floats”. The details are provided below.
  • Although there are numerous ways to wrap wontons, I prefer my mom’s breezy half-fold method. This way, the wrapper cooks evenly and does not have tough bits where the multiple layers are pinched together.

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Several wrapping methods. Half-fold method on the right.

Mama Fury’s Wontons


2 packages of wonton wrappers. Yields approx 48 wontons.

    Basic Filling

  • 1/2 lb coarsly ground pork shoulder
  • 1/2 lb finely ground pork belly
  • 12 large tiger prawns, shelled, deveined and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped flowering garlic chives
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped bok choy
  • 1 egg
    Pork Seasoning

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 3 tbs light soy sauce
  • 3 tbs corn/ potato starch
  • 2 tbs Chinese cooking rice wine
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

  • 1/4 cup black Chinese vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Chinese chili paste or chili oil to taste

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Mix the ground pork together with the seasonings. Allow the mixture to rest in the fridge for 1/2 hour. Mix the remaining filling ingredients in with the pork using chopsticks.

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Place 1/2 tbs of filling in the center of the wrapper. Wet the entire edge of the wrapper with water, fold the wrapper in half, then press to seal the edges while squeezing out any trapped air.

“3 sinks and 3 floats” Cooking Method

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. In batches, put the wontons in. Just as they begin to rise but well before they reach the surface of the water, add 1-2 cups of cold water so that they sink again. Repeat the process twice more. After adding cold water for the third time, wait until the wontons float to the surface and immediately remove them from the water.

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To Serve

Divide the sauce among four bowls. Drain the freshly cooked wontons and add them directly to the sauce. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and scallions, serve immediately.

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How to Freeze

Uncooked wontons freeze beautifully. Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap and place the wontons on it in a single layer. Freeze, then transfer them into zip-top bags or sealed containers and freeze for up to three months. They do not need to be defrosted before cooking. Just follow the same cooking directions but they will naturally require a longer cooking time.

Wonton- wrapping party, anyone? Word.

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  • hunger pangs…

    umm… it’s 144 am and this is seriously giving me hunger pangs… these wontons would make the perfect (and i don’t bandied about the word perfect too often) midnight snack…

  • http://www.bitemekitchen.blogspot.com Rose

    I’ve been making wontons for a long time, but these tips are pure genius! I can’t wait to put them to use! Thank you for sharing :)

  • http://tanglednoodle.blogspot.com Tangled Noodle

    Do you realize how many cravings you are setting off throughout the blogosphere with your mom’s dumpling secrets?! It goes without saying that these look soooo delicious (but I said it anyhow!)

    Many thanks to you and your mother – I’ve made wontons by just jamming together some ground pork with eggs, onions and soy sauce and then doing the half-fold. Maybe a video tutorial next time on how to make the other shapes? 8-)

  • http://sugarlace.fragiled.net Trisha

    Oh these look like very masterfully created wontons! I have never made wontons by myself but these look delightfully delicious (and healthy with that 3 sink 3 float method!)

  • http://www.debishawcross.com Debi (Table Talk)

    My daughter loves wontons, and loves to help me cook. Thank you for sharing your mom’s recipe with us! I look forward to giving these a try in the kitchen with my daughter. Wrapping wontons in the kitchen is a great way to bond–

  • http://veganfamilystyle.blogspot.com debra

    I love wontons.. Now I just need to figure out how to make a great vegan filling.. and of course a vegan wrapper.

  • http://www.citronetvanille.com/blog citronetvanille

    Love your post! Those wontons are amazing. I want some!

  • http://kennychiceats.blogspot.com/ KennyT

    Now I’m craving some wontons because of this blog post of yours. They all look sooooooooo yum!

  • Sam

    Ma actually has 4.

    Mango Pudding.


  • http://www.cookincanuck.com Cookin’ Canuck

    This is an amazing post! What fantastic family tips you are passing onto us. I can’t wait to try the “3 sinks and 3 floats” method. Please thank your mama for me.

  • http://tastyeatsathome.wordpress.com Alta

    Wow, these look amazing. I really want some wontons now. I wonder if there is such a thing as a gluten-free wonton wrapper? Maybe I could get REALLY adventurous and make some from scratch…?

  • http://foodbuzz.com Warren Lee

    What I like about this recipe is that it does not go overboard on spices. The wontons that I have made in the past are so hit and miss, in flavor, because I always seem to add too much of one ingredient of other. Thanks. As soon as I can figure out how to post a recipe, I’ll put up MeiMi’s Cantonese Chicken Salad.

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    I’d love to try making wontons! Interesting to learn about the different styles too.

  • http://CheapAppetite.com CheapAppetite

    This is a great post. I can just tell how authentic your recipe is by looking at it. Great background story too.

  • http://curiousdomestic.wordpress.com curiousdomestic

    I love wonton soup. Can’t wait to try making my own. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  • http://www.shesimmers.com Leela@SheSimmers

    Wow. This is definitely a bookmarker! Thank you so much for such an informative, enlightening, and well-written post.

  • http://prix-fixe.blogspot.com/ Prix Fixe

    Wow. Those look fantastic! Wish I would’ve come across this while I was still in Culinary School. We have one class called “International” and each day you’re tasked with creating a dish from a certain region. These would’ve gone over great!

  • http://laptopsandstovetops.blogspot.com Rachel J

    Asian cooking intimidates me usually because I have no point of reference. Your meticulous directions take the stress away and your mom’s wontons seem exquisite!

  • http://kitchenmusings.com veron

    Thanks for this post and thank your mom for such wonderful tips. Never knew about the 3 sinks and 3 floats method. I love dumpling wrapping parties.

  • http://zencancook.com zenchef

    Wow. this is a great post! Thank you for sharing mama’s secret with the rest of the world. Never swallowed such nice clouds before. :)

  • Derrick

    Your gorgeous shots of the preparation process and the final wontons are making me think I need to head back home and join the family for a wonton wrapping party again…

    Will you be sharing the char siu recipe as well? I’ve been looking for a great version of this for awhile now! Looking forward checking out all you posts!

  • http://www.bouchonfor2.com/ Mel (admin)

    @ Tangled Noodle: You are the kindest thing. So glad you can post comments now. Let me ask mama Li about the vid opportunity ;)

  • http://www.bouchonfor2.com/ Mel (admin)

    @ debra: Shouldn’t be difficult at all. There are many versions of vegan dumplings in Chinese cuisine. May I suggest: shitaake mushrooms (for umami), mungbean noodles aka glass noodles aka Chinese vermicelli, bamboo shoots, flowering garlic chives. Some firm tofu if you’d like. Chop chop chop and tada! Stick with the white wrappers. They don’t contain eggs.

  • http://www.bouchonfor2.com/ Mel (admin)

    @Derrick: I just spoke with my mom. She seems to be intrigued by the idea of being on my blog so maybe in the near future… :)

  • http://www.icebergtoarugula.com Julie Tharalson

    Wow! I’m actually drooling as I read this. Sounds fabulous! I can’t wait to give it a try.

  • http://bigflavors.blogspot.com Ashley

    Great post! That’s a lot of wonderful tips for wonton making – can’t wait to try them out sometime :)

  • http://cherryblossomtable.blogspot.com/ alissa

    Wonderful post – terrific description – lovely pics and i bet perfect wontons… love them… when i lived in korea we made those for new years witha slightly different flavor and they are called mandu… got to make some soon… thanks for your cool site

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  • Alexander

    what a nice site. looks very yummy!

  • Becki

    We just had a won-ton making party with your recipes. We were able to made 67 won-tons and we ate them all. They were delicious!!! Thank you.

  • Melody Fury

    Becki – yay :) that’s quite a lot of wontons. I’m so glad you enjoyed them!

  • Chesco

    TY for sharing a quality reciepe, i LOVE won-tons and this sounds amazing!

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    You’re very welcome, dear :) Enjoy!