Wonton Soup - Mi Hoanh Thanh
Moderate - You'll be right
Dumplings are a global delicacy, nuanced by the flavours and cooking techniques of their origin countries. Mandoo, pierogi, tortellini, shiu mai and wonton are just some of the dumpling variations that can be found around the world. In Vietnam, a common dumpling that is very similar to Chinese wontons is hoanh thanh (pronounced won-tan).
Vietnamese wontons are plump, juicy, moreish, and usually served steeped in a bowl of homemade bone broth filled with natural umami flavours and the sweetness of dried shrimps, fish sauce and anchovy salt. You can find these dumplings in abundance in the bustling Chinese district in Saigon, Vietnam.
Growing up in a Vietnamese household wonton soup regularly appeared on our dinner table which had me puzzled, as I’d always thought wontons were Chinese not Vietnamese. That is until one day my grandpa said to me, “You are Chinese”. He’d migrated to Vietnam from South China, and it was mum who had learnt how to make hoanh thanh from her South Chinese in-laws. Grandma always wrapped her wontons meticulously and efficiently; making up to 20 wontons in a minute. I was lucky enough to learn this technique later in life from mum. “A firm pinch is all it takes”, is what she would often say. Firm enough to allow the wonton to stick but not too firm that it’d layer up the wonton pastry—this will cause it to not cook through.
When boiled these wontons make the perfect snack but pairing them with a Vietnamese broth is what elevates the flavour experience. To create the perfect bone broth, use pork bones as they have an ideal balance of sweetness and richness. Dried shrimps are also critical to provide the broth with an umami element, and create a culinary bridge between the broth and the prawn wontons. You can round out the meal by adding a serve of egg noodles and bok choy to create a hearty winter’s noodle soup.
If dumplings are already popular in your household, grab some prawns, pork, dried shrimp and anchovy salt, to make Vietnamese wontons that will certainly be a family favourite.
Pork bone broth:
1.5kg pork neck bones
1 brown onion (bottom removed)
1 small knob of ginger, crushed
15g dried shrimps
3 tablespoons premium fish sauce
½ teaspoon anchovy salt
1 ½ tablespoon sea salt
30g rock sugar or 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons preserved radish (optional)
1 bunch coriander roots (optional)
500g prawn cutlets
500g pork shoulder minced
½ bunch spring onions
1 ½ tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon anchovy salt
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon white pepper finely ground
250g wonton wrappers (approx 25)
400g fresh egg noodles
2 bunches of choy sum or bok choy
½ bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
1 bunch coriander (optional)
How to make wontons:
1. Separate tail third of prawn from main body, cut into small pieces and set aside.
2. In a food processor, add the main body of the prawns, ¼ teaspoon anchovy salt, ½ teaspoon sea salt and ½ teaspoon sugar, and blend into a paste.
3. Add the paste and remaining wonton mixture ingredients (except wrappers) into a mixing bowl, mix well with hands until combined, then gently fold through the prawn tail pieces.
4. Place 1 teaspoon of wonton mixture in the center of a wonton wrapper, then bunch together with light but firm pressure with your fingers to seal wonton. Continue with remaining wonton wrappers.
Duncan’s tip: Got left over wonton mixture? Freeze then defrost it when feeling like wontons or use it in my Vietnamese pumpkin soup recipe.
5. Boil in batches in lightly salted water for 4–5 minutes or until they rise to the top.
6. Remove, strain and set aside.
How to make bone broth:
1. Place pork bones in a large stock pot and add water to cover. Bring to the boil then strain and rinse bones to remove impurities.
2. Return pork bones to the stock pot and add remaining bone broth ingredients. Bring to the boil then leave on a gentle simmer for 2½ hours.
3. Season with more sea salt and sugar as required.
How to cook egg noodles:
1. Spread noodles on a baking tray to create a thin layer, and bake in oven for 10 minutes at 40°C. Alternatively spread them on a large plate and microwave for 1 minute.
2. In a large pot, boil egg noodles in lightly salted water for 45–60 seconds, then place in a cold water bath and strain well.
3. In serving sized batches, briefly return noodles to boiling water for 5 seconds to warm through. Remove, strain and place into serving bowl.
4. To the serving bowl add wontons and blanched bok choy. Pour over a ladle or two of pork bone broth, then garnish with spring onions, coriander, a teaspoon of fried shallots, cracked black pepper and a gentle drizzle (½ teaspoon) of sesame oil.
Duncan’s tip: If you love gnawing meat off the bone, add a few to your bowl and enjoy them dipped in a side of soy sauce and crushed chillis for that extra indulgence.