By Angela Denstad Stigeler
Spring has sprung — on the calendar if nowhere else, so it’s time to search for any signs of it we can plate up. Although this time of year has never been one of wanton extravagance, we can still find a few greens: spring onions, snow peas, a few delicate asparagus tips. All of these are welcome in this Asian-inspired offering, which is my twist on a traditional Chinese soup. Homemade wontons give the soup substance, while the broth and greens keep it fresh and light — just right for the season. So with wanton disregard for the snow outside, we’ll leave capricious spring to warm and cool as she pleases. Meantime, I’ll be wantonly sipping my hot soup and eating my wontons along with a fresh taste of spring.
Spring Wonton Soup
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 small bunch scallions
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
¼ pound ground pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more for seasoning
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pinch brown sugar
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
20 wonton wrappers (3 ½-inch squares)
1 cup assorted spring green vegetables (peas, peapods, asparagus tips, spinach, etc.)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Place the stock in a large soup pot and add 3-4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias, along with 3 smashed garlic cloves. Thinly slice half of the ginger and add it to the broth. Bring to a simmer. You may wish to add water or additional broth, up to 4 cups, for a looser soup, which will help keep the wontons from sticking together. Adjust the broth to taste, seasoning with soy sauce if desired.
Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of the broth in a medium bowl until smooth. Mince the rest of the ginger with one or two scallions and the remaining garlic clove. Add to the cornstarch mixture, along with the tablespoon of soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, sugar, and optional red pepper, stirring well to combine.
Fill a small cup with water and set it nearby. Line a small baking sheet or plate with wax paper, place the wonton wrappers on it and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Starting with one wonton wrapper, dip your finger in the cup of water and moisten all four edges of the wrapper. Place about a teaspoon of the meat mixture along the center line of the wrapper and fold it in half to form a triangle. Press firmly along the sides to seal, being sure to remove any excess air bubbles. Moisten the left and right corners of the triangle and bring them together, pressing into a circle. Bend the top corner backwards, place standing up on the prepared baking sheet and cover with the towel. Repeat to fill all the wontons.
Gently add the wontons, one or two at a time, into the simmering broth, making sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add in the green vegetables and simmer gently, about 5 minutes, until the wontons and vegetables are cooked through. Stir in the cilantro and serve hot.