When Ole and I first got married, we ate on the cheap. I worked for a nonprofit (and after that for myself), and he was finishing his graduate degree. It was during this time that we started experimenting with the art of bringing the restaurants to our house, specifically of the Americanized Asian variety, to our kitchen table sans the white takeout box with its metal handle and splintery chopsticks.
A staple on this menu? The fried cream cheese wonton. With its crisp outer shell and perfect, creamy center, these buffet favorites were a must-have for our mock takeout menu. Turns out most of the work is in the folding, but when you invite your dinner guest over 30 minutes early, there’s plenty of time to demonstrate the how-to and put them in charge of the frying while you pull the rest of the meal together.
First, gather your tools. I buy my wonton wrappers. They are usually near the bagged salad section of the store. They’re pretty cheap considering how many you get, and it’s convenient. Cream cheese is also an obvious necessity. I prefer Philly. It’s a taste thing. The others just can’t compare. Also get a wet towel ready to cover the folded wontons. This will keep them moist and prevent possible cracking and subsequent spitting and squirting once they hit the oil.
Slice the cream cheese into smallish pieces, about 2 teaspoons or so each.
Grab a small dish of water to help seal the wonton edges.
Method 1: Plop a piece of cream cheese down and wet two edges of the wrapper. I just use my finger, but I suppose you could use a pastry brush for this.
Fold the dry edge and wet edge together so they are touching and press firmly to seal, squeezing out any air pockets as you are sealing.
Wet the tip of one of the ends, bring together and press to seal.
Want to get fancy?
Method 2: Similar to method one, we’re going to wet the edges, but this time wet all four of them.
Pull two opposite corners together at the top.
Then pull the other two corners up and press along the edges to seal, wet edge touching wet edge.
Place wontons on a lightly greased flat surface after they’ve been folded. I grease my surfaces to prevent stickage that can result in ruptured wontons.
Place the damp towel over the tops of finished wontons while you continue folding. This keeps them moist that will also prevent rupture, this time from the oil.
Enlist help. Artists make wonderful wonton-folding partners. Right, Joel?
When you have more than you can eat, stop folding and heat the oil. Any size and shape wonton is acceptable as long as the cream cheese is contained and all edges have been sealed.
Gently place the wontons in the hot oil. Stand back and watch.
After about two minutes (depending on the temperature of your oil), flip them over and brown the other side. It should only take another 90 seconds or so. Remove from the oil and drain.
Eat hot while the cream cheese is still velvety and smooth, but not so hot to leave you with a raw tongue. Nothing is worse than a raw tongue.
Besides, raw tongues make it hard to taste the General Tso’s chicken that accompanies the cream cheese wontons. (Stay tuned…)