This is a guest collard green wontons recipe from blogger Cynthia Chen McTernan, who shares more than 80 Asian-inspired, modern recipes combining her Chinese roots, Southern upbringing, and Korean mother-in-law’s table in her new book, A Common Table.
In our house, making wontons began late in the afternoon.
My mother started it off by making the filling — squeezing the moisture from greens, chopping them with her heavy, Chinese-style cleaver, and stirring them together with ground pork, garlic, ginger, and various fragrant condiments. Next, the bowl landed on our kitchen table, where my father waited, cross-legged. Peeling the wonton wrappers off a block, he laid neat dollops of filling on them one by one, then tossed them flat on the table in front of him. Once he’d amassed a long row he’d pick them up and fold them into plump little bundles before lining them up in neat spirals on platters that were returned to my mother to be simmered in broth.
When I think back on wonton nights, I hear the light pitter-patter of wonton wrappers hitting the table and see my dad’s impossibly quick, origami-like folding, producing beautifully uniform wontons with their little chests puffed up proud and boisterous, as though they knew how well they were made.
When my parents had Shanghainese friends over, they’d join the process as though they’d been there the entire time, filling and folding the wontons seamlessly the way my dad always had — I was startled the first time I saw it, surprised that anyone else knew what I’d thought were our own wonton family secrets, but food, as I’ve learned over and over, is a language you don’t need to grow up speaking together to understand.
My mother typically uses a pungent, fragrant Chinese vegetable called shepherd’s purse, or jìcài, but since this is hard to come by even in some Asian supermarkets, I’ve swapped in an unlikely but worthy substitute native to my childhood home — collard greens. Surprisingly, collards add just the right bite to the wontons, mimicking the slight spicy kick of shepherd’s purse so closely that I might not know the difference if I hadn’t made it myself. If you can’t find either of these, though, any hardy leafy green will do (kale, Swiss chard, or cabbage all work).
Yields 70 to 80 wontons, or enough for 4 to 6
½ pound collard greens, roughly chopped
1 pound ground pork
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions (2 to 3 scallions)
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger root
3 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine, dry sherry, or sake
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
70 to 80 wonton wrappers (15 to 16 ounces, or about 1⅓ packages; keep unused wrappers covered in plastic wrap, sealed in a Ziploc bag, and frozen for later use)
4 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce, for serving
½ teaspoon sesame oil, for serving
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions (2 to 3 scallions), for serving
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the greens and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until the greens are bright green and beginning to turn tender, but still have some bite, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and add to a food processor. Pulse until finely shredded.
2. In a large bowl, combine the greens, pork, scallions, ginger, rice wine, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar (if using), salt, and white pepper. Using chopsticks or a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until all ingredients are well combined and the filling forms a thick paste.
3. Prepare a small bowl of water for sealing the wrappers. For each wrapper, place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center. Dab a bit of water on one edge and fold the wrapper in half, taking care to seal the wrapper well around the filling. Dab water on one corner of the folded seam and bring the two folded corners together to form a small bundle. Place on a tray and repeat. You should end up with 70 to 80 wontons. To save them for later, freeze on the tray, then place in a Ziploc bag. They’ll keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.
4. When you’re ready to cook the wontons, in a large pot, bring the water and chicken broth to a boil. Add about 20 wontons, stirring gently to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the water comes back to a boil and the wontons float to the surface, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the wontons to plate. Repeat with the remaining wontons until they’re all cooked, or freeze a portion of the uncooked wontons for later. To cook from frozen, use the same method, but boil for 4 to 6 minutes, until the wontons float.
5. To serve, divide the wontons among several small bowls and ladle a bit of the cooking broth over each bowl. Drizzle lightly with soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil, and top with scallions. Enjoy immediately.