Wontons, shui gao and ramen

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Every time I tell my friends I eat ramen a lot, they seemed shocked because I’m the active chef amongst us. However, my ramen is often a feast!

The most important part of a delicious ramen meal is to start out with a good brand of ramen. Choosing ramen can get to be a lengthy process as there are different types of noodles, flavors and even the difference between the “instant” cup/bowl varities and bags is great. Here are my favorite kinds:

  • Korean Nong Shim shin ramyum – a thicker noodle with a spicy soup. I usually only use half the soup packet otherwise my mouth is on fire and I can’t taste anything.
  • The classic Chinese CQYD by Nissin – a delicious, more typical ramen style noodle that doesn’t get soggy if it sits in the soup for a while. There are at least a dozen flavors and XO Sauce is by far my favorite.
  • Sau Tao ho fun – a thin, flat rice noodle with a great soup base. Mushroom or chicken abalone are delish!
  • Matsuda rice vermicelli noodles also hold up well and have a good soup base, but I buy them in the bag and not instant bowl.

A good bowl of ramen wouldn’t be filling without wontons or dumplings of some sort, so I make my own wontons and shui gao (water dumplings). I usually go nuts and make them in bulk, then freeze them for future consumption. Quick recipes as follows:

Wontons

My family made wontons on occasion when I was a child, so I’ve followed what I remember of my parents recipe with some of my own modifications. This will make roughly 2/3-¾ of a package of wonton skins.

  • ½ lb. lean ground pork
  • ½ lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined (I buy the frozen shelled and deveined shrimp at Costco)
  • 3 baby bok choy (a.k.a. Shanghai bok choy)
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp. sesame oil
  • ½ tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of white pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten into mixture

Chop up the bok choy so it fits into a food processor. Turn it on “chop” until you get small pieces, but not too fine. Do the same with the shrimp, being sure you have peanut sized pieces and not shrimp paste. Stir together in a large bowl with the ground pork; add seasonings, mix well. Beat in egg until well incorporated. Then follow this awesome tutorial by Rasa Malaysia on how to wrap a wonton. Voila, you’re done!

Shui gao recipe is pretty much the same, except I add more shrimp than pork. Maybe 2/3 lb. shrimp, 1/3 lb. pork. I also add in about half a finely shredded carrot and 3 finely chopped shitake mushrooms. Don’t add beaten egg, though. Wrap with shui gao wrappers, which are round instead of square like wonton wrappers, and finish with a shui gao press (you can buy this at an Asian discount store for $1).

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Adding the chopped up bok choy to your wontons or shui gao adds a fluffy, lightly crunchy flavor to the dumpling. Recipes usually call for 1 tbsp. of cornstarch to achieve this, but I like the taste of the bok choy. Freezing the dumplings are easy – just freeze them on a plate in a single layer for an hour to two, then throw them all in a ziploc freezer bag. To cook, just add to boiling water until they float, which indicates their doneness.

So back to the ramen. I add a bunch of extras to my ramen to make a whole meal out of it – some fish cake, wontons and/or shui gao, enoki mushrooms, seaweed and poached egg. This makes a hearty meal that’s also quick and easy!

My friend Joe asked me about the cost per serving of my ramen.. I calculated it out to be roughly $1.25 for each meal. A bowl of ramen at my favorite ramen shop is ~$9 with tax and tip.