Málà Pork Wontons with Orange Chile Oil

Makes 30 wontons, serves 3–4. Inspired by recipes from Fuchsia Dunlop and Maggie Zhu of The Omnivore’s Cookbook.

Wontons are a beloved street food in the Sichuan province of China where they are slurped out of steaming bowls swimming with sweet and sour soy sauce and bright red, ‘numbingly hot,’ málà chile oil.

We’ve added Málà Salt to the filling and its distinctive tingle of Sichuan peppercorns and aromatic orange zest makes these wontons sing. The wontons are easier to make than you might think — while the filling marinates in the fridge make the sauce and chili oil for serving, then rope in the whole family to help you fold them!

For the wontons:
2 tablespoons scallions, white and green parts, very finely chopped (about two large scallions)
½ teaspoon neutral-tasting oil, such as grapeseed or canola
8 ounces ground pork, at least 15% fat
1½ teaspoons Málà Salt
1½ tablespoons ginger, grated on a Microplane or very finely minced (or ½ tablespoon dried ginger)
2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine, dry sherry, or dry white wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon egg white
30 square or round store-bought wonton wrappers 

For the sweet-and-sour soy sauce:
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 slice of ginger, lightly crushed with the back of your knife
¼ teaspoon Sichuan Five Spice (or a tiny pinch of cinnamon and a grind of black pepper)
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons Chinkiang black vinegar or rice vinegar (or a tart balsamic vinegar)

For the orange chili oil:
¼ cup oil, such as grapeseed or peanut
1 tablespoon Sicilian chile flakes*
½ teaspoon Málà Salt
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 thick slice of ginger
1 whole star anise (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest 

For garnish:
Málà Salt
Thinly sliced scallions
Cilantro (optional)

Make the wonton filling  Mix the scallions and ½ tsp oil in a small bowl; set aside until you’re ready to fold the wontons. 

Put the pork, Málà Salt, ginger, wine, cornstarch, and egg white into a large bowl and use a fork or your hands to work these ingredients into a homogenous, smooth paste. (You can’t over mix; you want the filling to be sticky and tacky!) Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the filling firm up and the flavors meld.

Make the sweet-and-sour soy sauce  Put the soy sauce, brown sugar, Sichuan Five Spice, ginger, and orange juice into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about a third and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool slightly, then add the vinegar. Remove the ginger before serving.

Make the chile oil  Put the chile flakes, sesame seeds, Málà Salt, ginger (and star anise and bay leaf, if using) into a medium heatproof bowl. Put the oil into a small saucepan set over high heat; when the oil shimmers, carefully pour the hot oil into the bowl over the chile flake mixture — the oil will bubble up when you do this. Stir the oil and flakes until the bubbling subsides. Stir in the orange zest and set the mixture aside to cool completely. Remove the ginger, star anise, and bay leaf before serving.

Note: If you want to test that the oil is hot enough, drop a tiny piece of ginger into the oil. The ginger will immediately sizzle when the oil is ready.

Prep your workspace  Set out the packet of wonton wrappers, a kitchen towel laid out flat to work on, a small bowl of water, and a sheet pan lined with baking parchment. Put a large pot of water on to boil — you’ll cook the dumplings as soon as they are folded to prevent them from falling apart in the water.

Fold the wontons  Stir the scallion-oil mixture into the filling. (The scallions are coated in oil and added at the last minute to prevent them from weeping liquid and making the wrappers soggy.)

Place a wonton wrapper on the kitchen towel with one corner of the wrapper pointing at you. Using a spoon, place about a teaspoon of the pork filling in the center of the wrapper (over-filling makes the wontons harder to fold and likely to burst while cooking).

Dip your pointer finger into the bowl of water and use your finger to paint a half inch border on the two sides of the wrapper furthest from you. Take the corner of the wrapper closest to you and fold away from you, over the filling, to form a triangle. Gently press on the triangle to make sure there are no air pockets around the filling. Seal the triangle edges by pinching them closed with your forefinger and thumb. Pick up the two points of the triangle’s base and bring them towards each other, over the bump of filling; pinch the points together firmly. Your wonton should look like a little man with crossed arms (which is where the Mandarin name for these wontons comes from!).

Place the wonton on the waiting sheet pan and continue folding until you have used all the filling. (If you don’t want to eat all of your wontons right away, you can freeze as many as you like on the sheet pan. After they are fully frozen transfer them to a ziplock bag for storage.) 

Cook the wontons  Drop the wontons, one by one, into the pot of boiling water (no more than 10-12 wontons in the pot at a time), stir the gently to keep the wontons from sticking to each other or the bottom of the pot. After the wontons are added, the water will stop boiling — this is good for wontons; rapidly boiling water can cause them to split. Set a timer for 3 minutes, keep the heat on high. Watch the pot while the wontons cook — if the water starts to boil add ½ cup of cold water to the pot to cool it down. After three minutes of cooking, the wontons should be floating on the surface of the water and feel firm to the touch.

Serve  Put out the chile oil, sweet-and-sour soy sauce, sliced scallions, and cilantro (if using) in small serving bowls. Use a slotted spoon or wire spider to transfer the wontons into individual bowls. Let each person top their wontons with a drizzle of sauce, a drizzle of chile oil, some scallions and cilantro. Those who like an even more lip-numbing tingle can sprinkle on more Málà Salt!

*Feel free to substitute any chile flakes you have on hand! But remember: the spicier your chile flakes, the spicier your oil will be. For a milder chile oil try Maras, Aleppo, or mild Korean gochugaru chilies. You can even use chili powder in a pinch! (but half the amount). Depending on the type of chilies that you used your oil may not be bright red — that’s ok, it will still be delicious!



Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing