Today is the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year. For anyone that doesn’t know, Chinese New Year is determined by the lunar calendar. The holiday falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (Dec 21). That’s why, each year, the New Year in China falls on different dates between January 21 and February 20.
I honestly grew up in a very Americanized family setting. Any memories I have of The Lunar New Year stem from my grandparents. I would receive hongbao (red envelopes with lucky money) from my grandparents and we would talk on the phone with them (since we did not live close enough to have a reunion dinner with them) about the New Year, but also family and other family updates.
My memories of food with them rooted in both traditional (Chinese and Singaporean) and Chinese American foods. My grandmother has always enjoyed a good cream cheese wonton (crab rangoon) and my grandfather enjoyed anything and everything fried, but I remember having steamed dumplings, fried rice, and many other foods too.
However, most of my food memories are with my parents, as I grew up in Wisconsin (most of my parents’ families are down south or in Singapore). At this time, most of my Lunar New Year experiences are a distant memory. As an adult, I try to share the small memories I have of the Lunar New Year with my children. Hopefully, I am instilling a little bit of that enjoyment and goodness in them that they can share with their children as well.
These recipes are ones that I created based on recipes I was taught or tried in the past.
Let’s start with what you need:
2 - 12oz package of wonton wrappers (you’ll use one for the pork and one for the cream cheese).
½ of a bunch of green onions sliced
2 garlic cloves - chopped and smashed ( one per filling)
1lb of ground sausage
8 oz crab (or imitation if you can’t get crab) - chopped
8 oz of cream cheese at room temperature
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
4 teaspoons of soy sauce (split into 2 teaspoons each)
4 teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce (split into 2 teaspoons each)
¼ cup of warm water
salt and pepper
Oil for frying
OK, let’s start with the cream cheese wontons.
In a large bowl, add the cream cheese, crab, one of the smashed and chopped garlic gloves (you want this to be chopped into small pieces and smashed well or you’re going to get a BIG burst of garlic when you eat one), the lemon juice (all of it), 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, the Worcestershire sauce, and all the dark green parts of the green onions you just sliced. The light green and white parts of the onions will go into the pork, so set them aside.
Mix it all together. I use a hand mixer because I like to have chunks of crab, but if you want that creamy texture like at many Chinese American Restaurants, use a food processor, and blend it until smooth. Then transfer it back to your mixing bowl (this filling also makes an amazing dip, just put in an oven-safe dish and bake until bubbly).
Next, you’re going to want to set up a little station. Place a cutting board in front of you, a small bowl of warm water above the cutting board, your bowl of filling, and half of the wonton wrappers next to the water (See images below).
I have my water to the right of the cutting board as well as the wrappers because I am right-handed.
Using a teaspoon, dollop a small amount of filling onto the center of a wonton wrapper. Then take your finger and gently tap it into the water and wipe a small amount of the water onto each side of the wonton wrapper (dip your finger as many times as needed to get all sides damp). Slide through the image slider below for details.
Then, fold the sides together in your choice of shape folding (see images below for different fold options.
Square Present Shape
After wetting all sides of the wrapper:
Now, press all sides together creating a box.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I like to start at the "top of the triangle. Take one corner and bring it together with the triangle on the exact opposite side, press together. then press down the sides, make sure to press the air our as you go.
You’ll want to make these in batches that will fit in a single layer in your fryer. I like to make mine in batches of 6-8, then fry those, take them out, then make 6-8 more. If you make them too far ahead of time, the filling may leak through the bottom.
You will need to watch them closely as they cook, they don’t take long, and you will need to flip them so they are golden and crunchy on all sides.
Even the square ones need to be flipped or held down for a few seconds to get golden brown.
Once golden brown, remove and lay on a rack to “dry”.
This is a great opportunity to get your older kids (or friends, spouse, roommate...) to help. I usually have my tween son help with this, while I do the frying. It makes quick work of the process and he actually has fun making the shapes.
Ok, on to the pork sausage filling.
Cook the pork in a pan on medium heat. Salt and pepper. Once fully cooked, strain the meat in a bowl to get rid of the excess grease.
As the meat is draining, place the pan back on the burner (set to medium-low this time), add the green onion bottoms, and the remaining garlic. Cook until fragrant. Then, turn off the heat and re-add the cooked meat, soy, and Worcestershire Sauce.
Pour into a bowl, let cool to room temp and repeat the same process of assembly as with the Cream Cheese Wontons.
For best results, serve immediately with soy sauce or your fav sauce.
I wish you all good fortune according to your wishes!
Happy New Year
ENJOY and Share!
Photograph © 2021 Jenn Smith of Smith Country, LLC