Thursday 25 February 2016

Crunchy Prawn Wonton Soup 虾云吞汤

Wonton is a smaller version of sui kow or dumplings, often with a thinner and and smaller skin. Just like its cousin, you can put almost any proteins to be wrapped in that silken skin. Prawn is a very popular ingredient for wonton. Unfortunately, we seldom find places selling good prawn wonton soup in Malaysia. I suspect fresh prawn is pretty costly, hence, making the business of selling prawn wonton soup unattractive.

My hometown, Ipoh, is famous for its prawn wonton kuey teow (flat rice noodle) soup. I don't know if this soup is popular elsewhere but this Ipoh version is my ultimate favourite. The wonton is made entirely of crunchy prawns cooked in this very flavourful prawn infused soup, served with chives and a few drops of prawn oil. The soup itself is boiled in prawn shell to add that sweetened prawn flavour. As you can see, the Chinese really make use of every part of this precious prawn to make the most delicious bowl of wonton soup.

Today, I am going to reciprocate this dish, minus the msg. In order to do that, I used more ingredients to infuse the soup. I used anchovies, chicken carcass (or pork bones if you prefer) and of course, prawn shells.  As this is my own creation, bear with me if you find a differing method.

The prawn is a different story. It needs a whole lot of tender loving care to get it into its crunchy texture. I am letting you into this best kept secret in the industry. You see, the prawns needs to be treated with alkaline to get that crunch. In Chinese restaurants, the prawns are first marinaded (previously with borax which is harzardous when used a lot) and left under cold running tap water for a period of time in order to get that crunch (Chinese call it 吃水). I however do not favour this method as the prawn loses its flavour when it is soaked for too long. Other alternatives are baking soda and alkaline water. In this recipe, I use baking soda. It is convenient, it is cheap and it doesn't leave much aftertaste. Depending on the degree of crunchiness you are looking at, your prawns could be marinate longer and with a stronger substance for extra crunch. The more translucent it turned, the more crunchy it is. I personally prefer a mediocre crunch as making it too crunchy would alter the texture and taste of the prawns totally.

Prawn Wonton Soup 虾云吞汤


Wanton wrappers
Chives for garnishing, cut into 2-inch long
1 tbsp chopped spring onion (optional)
200 g shelled prawns (save shell for soup)
1 tsp baking soda

Prawn Marinade

1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
a few drops sesame oil
1/2 tbsp egg white
2 tsp cornstarch

The Soup

2 litre water
300 ml prawn broth
25 g rock sugar
5 tsp salt
1/2 chicken carcass/pork bones
1 tbsp anchovies
4 cloves garlic

Cooking Instructions

1.  Prepare prawns. Rub prawns with baking soda and set aside for 1/2 an hour. Rinse prawns in running tap water for about 15 minutes. By now, the prawns would have changed to slight translucent. (If you want it more crunchy, increase 1/2 tsp baking soda and marinade the prawns longer). Cut into chunks. Combine all marinade ingredients with the prawn and mix well. Marinade for at least 2 hours  (I did mine overnight).

2. Prepare prawn oil. Heat up about 1/2 cup of oil into a saucepan. Put crushed prawn shells into oil and fry in medium fire for about 10 minutes or until the oil becomes amber in colour. Strain the oil and set aside for soup later.

3. Prepare soup. Saute anchovies and garlic until fragrant in the same pot. Add 2 litres of water in and return prawn shells to the pot to boil making sure there are enough water to submerge all the shells. Add in chicken carcass to be boiled together.  Simmer in the smallest fire for 1/2 hr or until all the flavours have developed. Strain and remove all the residue. Return soup to boil and add in rock sugar and salt until dissolved. Set aside until needed.

3. Meanwhile, remove marinaded prawns from chiller. Add spring onion (if using) and wrap with wonton wrapper. Boil a pot of water with a little salt added. When water comes to boil, throw wonton in and boil until it floats. Remove and add to soup. Serve with a sprinkle of chives and some prawn oil on top.

1. Wonton skin would lose its texture after soaking in hot water for too long. Therefore, it is advisable to cook only when about to serve. Alternatively, soak the wonton in cold soup after cooking.
2. This prawn wonton soup is normally served with kuey teow (flat rice noodle). In Hong Kong, this wonton is served with wanton mee.

Can't get enough of dumplings? Try its other cousin, Sui Kow:

Pork Dumpling

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