Retro Cooking

Retro Cooking: 1972’s Wonton

I’ve always been a big fan of Chinese food. All my life, my family would have its annual dinner at our hometown’s Chinese restaurant (because it didn’t seem reasonable to eat that much food more than once a year).  It was always one of the most exciting meal of the year for me. As I got older and tried a variety of Chinese dishes in many restaurants, I realized that my childhood idea wasn’t that close to American or real Chinese food.

This annual Chinese meal also inspired my dad and I to go on a quest for the perfect wonton soup. Wonton soup is my all-time favorite soup. I remember loving it as a child and asking for extra servings. We’ve since tried some delicious ones as well as some less than good ones.

When I saw a recipe for homemade wontons in the 1972 Chinese Cookbook by Virginia Lee and Craig Claiborne, I knew I had to try making them.


While I normally share the recipe I used, since this book is still published, I don’t want to get sued so here is the link to buy the cookbook (including a convenient Kindle version!).

I went to my favorite international market to look for the ingredients. Most of them were pretty easy to find, although it did crack me up to see monosodium glutamate (MSG) listed as an ingredient. Since it was available at the store, I did buy it to get the full flavor expected in the recipe. I also found a new wonton broth mix by Knorr and decided to try it as well.

I’ve made dumplings many times in the past but it was my first time making wontons. The technique was very similar, even simpler than dumplings, when it comes to the folding.

While I felt like working on an assembly line, I quickly got the hang of it. I went from making the wontons one at a time, to three, and then four at a time. I was definitely glad to be done in the end, but especially glad to be filling up my freezer with homemade wontons. 🙂

The wontons turned out great. While the recipe suggested to cook them in water before adding them to the broth, I cooked them directly in the broth, mostly out of laziness. I really wish I could have cooked them all and eat them until I burst, but I decided to be reasonable. The wonton flavors reminded me of many great soups I’ve had in restaurants before. The combination of pork, shrimp, watercress and seasoning was just perfect.

To freeze the leftovers, I placed the uncooked wontons on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer until they were in a solid state. Then, I placed them all in a labeled freezer bag.

I enjoyed the broth a lot as it had more depth than chicken broth. I already promised my parents I’d bring them some on my next trip home.

To conclude, you know what food photographers don’t usually show you? Have a look at the two pictures below. Of course, I could choose to only show you the close up on the soup…but then you wouldn’t know that a hungry cat was desperately trying to jump on the table (or directly in the soup) while I was trying to take the picture! 🙂


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