Keeping my Resolutions: Homemade Wonton Soup

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These are the finished wonton noodles, prior to cooking them.

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The finished soup.

In one of my “Five Easy Resolutions for the New Year” series, I resolved to learn how to make wonton soup, and now I can check it off my list (though I will definitely be making it again, it was that good). I followed this recipe — Simple Wonton Soup from The Woks of Life blog — and followed it to a T, with the exception of using regular Japanese soy sauce instead of Seasoned Soy Sauce (a Chinese soy sauce that reportedly has a different flavor from the Kikoman soy sauce that most of us buy) and fresh-ground black pepper in place of white pepper. The recipe only calls for a very small amount of both these items, so I didn’t see the sense in purchasing new products when what I had on hand was close enough.  I did, however, make a special trip to an Asian grocery store to purchase the specific type of wonton skins described in the recipe’s instructions, as well as a bottle of shaozing wine, which is a dark rice wine. You only use a tablespoon of the latter — it goes in the filling for the wontons — but as rice wine is quite different from most other wines, and distinctly Asian, it seemed essential to purchase it.

For the broth, I used my husband’s homemade turkey broth, which is slightly richer than chicken broth, but still a light broth. Homemade broth is, in my opinion, the only way to go for this recipe. Whereas the western tradition of soup-making typically involves incorporating a lot of ingredients into the broth — the diced vegetables and meats simmered in such soups flavor them to the degree that you can often get away with using a canned broth from the grocery store (especially if you’re also adding a cream to the base of the soup and pureeing it) — the Asian tradition is often towards a clear-brothed soup, and it’s essential for that broth to be tasty and stand-alone good. (A boxed or canned broth in this wonton soup would be too flat and wan-tasting.)

Even using the richer turkey broth (rather than chicken), my husband characterized this wonton soup as being “more delicate and also more complex” than the soup we get at our favorite Chinese restaurant. I’d have to agree — I have no complaints about the restaurant soup (it’s a favorite of mine), but this homemade version was more elegant in terms of its tastes. I’m glad I put it on my New Year’s Resolution list because I would never have gotten around to making it; I would have kept saying that I was going to do it someday, and then kept ignoring it in favor of making the steady rotation of soups that are already in my cooking repertoire because, you know, they’re easy. Not that making wonton soup is particularly difficult, but for someone unaccustomed to filling and folding dumplings, it was more time consuming than my normal style of cooking. I knew it would be, so I made it on a day when I had no other obligations and could relax. I set my computer and headphones on my workstation and listened to YouTube videos while I filled and shaped the wontons. Doing this reminded me of why I made my New Year’s Resolutions the way I did. When resolutions involve big changes or daunting challenges, chances are you won’t do them. I’d rather make a list of a bunch of things to incorporate in the year ahead, and have them be just challenging and out-of-the-ordinary enough that they get me out of my normal routine. And if they add an element of joy to my new year, all the better!

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my final installment of my “Five Easy Resolutions” series. I realize it’s the end of January and most people aren’t thinking about such things anymore, but I still am. 🙂

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My Five Easy Resolutions for the New Year Series. Second Up, Resolutions for Learning Something Fun!

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1) Learn how to make the perfect Irish Coffee. When I was in college, I dated a boy whose heritage was Irish-Italian, and whenever I went home with him during various breaks in the semester, his mother delighted in making me all kinds of culinary treats. Irish Coffee was a drink she made beautifully, and I was always impressed with the way she layered Bailey’s Irish Cream on top of the dark brew, spooling it perfectly such that it never mixed with the coffee until one dipped one’s spoon in and purposely swirled it.

 

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2) Learn how to braid my short (bob-length) hair. It never really occurred to me that you could braid short hair and have it look chic. For the past year I’ve been growing out my once pixie-length hair into a bob that is now chin length, and anyone who has done this knows how frustrating the process can be: hair that is growing out is often hair that looks awkward. But there are so many beauty posts on Pinterest that show women with short hair rocking messy braids that impart a sense of youthfulness, femininity, and a “just-go-with-it” naturalness to their style. And this photo of actress Carey Mulligan with a fishtail braid in her wispy bob convinces me that even someone with fine hair, like me, can manage at least a little braid (and have it make a big difference). Of course, she has youth and beauty on her side, but I’m still going to try it!

 

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3) It’s not my first time attempting this, but I’d like to learn how to speak Italian. I took an introductory class many years ago and loved it, and then two years ago I purchased a language-learning software package that I stayed faithful to for about a month. By stating this as a resolution here on my blog, I hope to put true resolve in my intent, but if I’m to be honest, I’ll probably only be successful if I can find a class to attend. What is on my side, though, is motivation: after spending a week in Rome in the fall of 2013 (with my husband and two perfume blogging friends), I’ve been longing to go back! Not only to Rome, but to Tuscany (some year, pretty please!).

 

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4) Learn how to write a compelling movie review, Roger Ebert-style. Though this blog isn’t proof of it, due to its daily format, which has the tendency to make a writer lean towards breezy posts, writing is one of my fortes. (This is more evident in my other website, Suzanne’s Perfume Journal, where I write essays and reviews of perfumes, often connecting them to films, books, art, and childhood memories). Over the past few years, thanks to video streaming sites like Amazon and Netflix, I’ve watched a lot of films that really move me, and part of me thinks I would like to start a film-review blog. What’s holding me back? I think it’s actually quite challenging to write a review of a movie without giving away its salient plot points or revealing too much of its story line, because those very exquisite turning points are the very things that make you excited and make you want to write.  Of all the subjects one could review (art, food, wine, books, gadgets), I think films are the most difficult for this very reason. Still, I’m going to make a stab at writing at least a few of them here on this venue.

 

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Image Source: The Woks of Life Blog (click for recipe)

5) Learn how to make wonton soup — because this is my favorite of all soups. A lot of people favor soups that are thick and hearty. For some reason, I prefer soups with a clear broth: they taste cleaner to me, and when they have noodles, the texture of the noodle, as well as the taste, is accentuated. Considering how often I run up to our local Asian restaurant for a take-out quart of wonton soup (a quart of it makes the perfect supper), I ought to learn how to make it at home. Not because it will be easier or less expensive — I don’t think I can beat our local restaurant on either count — but because it’s such a lovely soup to behold, and why not have it in my cooking arsenal since it’s a favorite, right? Plus, I just found the perfect recipe: Simple Wonton Soup by Sarah at The Woks of Life blog. She includes great photos for every step of the process, as well as the finished soup — which is the photo pictured above.