Wonton Soup

Wonton Noodles

Looking at the photo you may be asking where the wontons are. Before I answer this question you first have to undertand that texture is an important part of wonton noodle soup; the texture of the noodles, the texture of the wonton, and even the texture of the shrimp inside is critical to a really great bowl of wonton noodles.

Because youmian (lit. thin noodles) is so thin, if they sit in the broth too long, they get soggy. That’s why wonton noodles are served in small bowls with the wontons underneath the noodles. This keeps the noodles afloat, insuring you have very al dente noodles that border on crunchy (in a good way).

Boiled wontons

If you’ve ever had shrimp in an authentic chinese restaurant, you’ve probably noticed that the shrimp are extremely supple. To say they’re crunchy is a weird description but they’ve traded in the normally soft and stringy texture for a firm springy texture. In Chinese, there’s even a phrase for this: shuǎng cuì (爽脆), which literally means “invigorating and crisp”. Getting your shrimp shuǎng cuì is of utmost importance for most Chinese dishes and wontons are no exception.

Traditionally shrimp were soaked under cold running water for hours to achieve this texture. As it turns out, the texture has less to do with the temperature of the water and more to do with the fact that in some areas of China, the water is naturally alkali. You can replicate this at home, by adding something alkali to your water to raise its pH. While baking soda will work to some extent, using a strong base like potassium carbonate works better. In case you were wondering, this is also what gives ramen noodles their yellow color and firm bite.

Alkali soaked shrimp

In the photo above, the shrimp on left was soaked in a potassium carbonate solution for 24 hours, while the one on the right was not.

Because the shrimp needs to be soaked, and the stock takes a bit of time, this isn’t a quick weeknight meal. But for your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with wontons that rival some of the best shops in Hong Kong in a rich savory broth that will have you rue the day you ever have to eat wonton soup at a Chinese American restaurant.

Dried pollack for wonton soup

While it does take some time, it’s not difficult to prepare provided you can find a few items in the US. The traditional soup broth is made with dried flounder and shrimp, but I’ve found that dried pollack is a lot easier to find in the US and has a very similar flavor. It can be found in most Asian or Korean grocery stores as Bugeochae (북어채).

For the shrimp shells and heads, you can try asking your fish monger, but personally I just keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer which I add shells to every time I use shrimp. That way I always have a supply of shells and heads for making stock. Lastly the Potassium Carbonate is sold under the brand name Koon Chun in Asian grocery stores. You could also use food grade lye but you’ll have to experiment to figure out how much to add.

Equipment you'll need:

Wonton Noodles
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These Hong Kong style wonton noodles packed with firm shrimp in a savory seafood broth.
Wonton Noodles
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  • 5
Votes: 7
Rating: 3.57
You:
Rate this recipe!
These Hong Kong style wonton noodles packed with firm shrimp in a savory seafood broth.
Servings Prep Time
30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45minutes 2040minutes
Servings Prep Time
30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
45minutes 2040minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons potassium carbonate Koon Chun sells it in bottles
  • 300 grams shrimp medium sized
  • 250 grams shrimp shells including heads
  • 15 grams dried pollack or dried flounder
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 scallions green and white parts seperated
  • 1 tablespoon sugar - granulated
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoon potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger juice
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar - granulated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 280 grams thin yellow Chinese noodles
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • toasted sesame oil
Units:
Instructions
  1. The day before you want to make your wonton soup, peel and devein your shrimp. If you want your shrimp to look whole, you devein them without slicing them open by using a toothpick inserted along one side of the vein, to dig the vein out. Once it's peaking out, you should be able to pull the vein out with your fingers.
  2. Put the cleaned shrimp in a bowl and cover with just enough cold water so that the shrimp is submerged. Add the potassium carbonate and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. To make the stock, add the shrimp shells, dried pollack, water, sugar, salt, and soy sauce to a stock pot. Trim the green parts of the scallions and add them to the pot, reserving the white part for the wontons.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer continuing to remove any foam as it accumulates. Cook until the broth is very flavorful 30-40 minutes.
  5. For the wontons, drain and rinse the shrimp with water. Dry the shrimp off, and then slice off about 3/4" of the thickest part of each shrimp. Add the thick pieces to a bowl.
  6. Use a knife to mince the tail ends of the shrimp into a chunky paste. Add this to a separate small bowl. Finely mince the white parts of the scallions and add 2 teaspoons to the minced shrimp, saving the rest for later.
  7. In the bowl with the minced shrimp, add 1 teaspoon of potato starch and 1 teaspoon of Shaoxing wine, along with the oyster sauce, ginger juice, and a dash of white pepper. Mix well to combine.
  8. In the bowl with the thick shrimp pieces, add 1/2 teaspoon of potato starch and 1/2 teaspoon of Shaoxing wine, along with the sugar, salt, and a dash of white pepper. Mix well to combine. Let this marinate for 20 minutes.
  9. Prepare a small bowl of water. To make the wontons, put one wrapper in the palm of your left hand (or right hand if you're left handed). Add about 1 teaspoon of minced shrimp filling.
  10. Top with 1 large piece of shrimp, wet two edges of the wrapper and fold in half diagonally to make a triangle. Seal the top corner, then work your way down, sealing bowl sides making sure there is no trapped air inside your wonton. Repeat until you run out of shrimp.
  11. To finish your soup, soup through a large sieve, into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract as much broth as possible. You should have about 3 cups of broth. If you have less, add water to make 3 cups. Strain this through a very fine mesh sieve (such as a tea strainer) into a clean pot to remove any fine particles. Adjust the salt to taste.
  12. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and boil your wontons in batches for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl with a slotted spoon and toss with a splash of sesame oil to keep them from sticking.
  13. Boil your noodles according to the package directions. If you want them al dente, you may want to reduce the cooking time by up to 30%.
  14. Divide the wontons between 3-4 bowls, then divide the noodles evenly. Top with the reserved minced scallions, then finally our the soup over each bowl of wonton noodles. Serve immediately.

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  • Serena

    I love your photography. Could you share a recipe for tofu steak?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Serena thanks! Tofu steak is really simple to make. Just get extra firm tofu, slice and drain it on paper towels for a bit. Then fry both sides in a oil until browned. Drain the oil, and then use the ingredients and steps in this beef teriyaki recipe for the sauce: http://norecipes.com/blog/beef-teriyaki-recipe/

  • Heather

    This looks and sounds delicious!! Are pork wontons authentic too? Does all authentic wonton soup contain the Chinese noodles? I have never seen it served with those.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hong Kong style wonton soup always has noodles, but it may vary by region. As for pork, it’s sometimes just pork, or sometimes a mix of pork and shrimp. Also, the soup is sometimes made with pork bones as well.

  • http://twitter.com/FoodStoriesBlog Food Stories

    Wow … I learned so much from this post. Thanks, Marc :-)

  • http://twitter.com/PukkaPaki Sumayya

    I will so be making this! One of my all time favs and now I know how to make it the ‘right’ way! thanks Marc!

  • http://twitter.com/IGredux IGredux

    marc, thank you for taking me to school with such invaluable –never knew before– information via this post. grateful! :-)

  • http://kellysiewcooks.com/ Kelly Siew

    Yum!!! A simple but good bowl of wantan noodle soup is actually quite a lot of effort. But one of the most comforting dish ever. I love wantans!

  • Vivian

    You could also ask for (sheng mian) 生麵. That’s a traditional name to go by.

  • Yogicfoodie

    Your pictures are making me cry… T.T They look so great~~~!!!!
    Thank you so much for posting this. After your tonkotsu ramen recipe, I am a believer!!! May I tell you that I’ve made ramens five time already?!
    Mark, your utilization of different ingredients like 북어채 amazes me…
    I will surely be making this real soon and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
    Thank you again.

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  • valentina

    What a beautiful, delicious looking wonton soup!

    I was led to your blog a while ago, through either Tastespotting of Foodgawker (can’t remember), and then tonight I was watching Chopped, and there you were! They should have definitely kept you around to see your amazing culinary talent! Cheers!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/cook62 Elmer E. Encinas

    I’m sure this will be so yummy,Chef Marc…

  • http://twitter.com/blizzystorm Franchesca

    The shrimp filling recipe, would that work for Shumai also? :O
    It would be cool if you posted a recipe for dumplings/dimsum/shumai :)
    I already saw the Nikuman one, and I want to try it soon!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Shumai is a little different, but you’re in luck because I’m working on a recipe now. Should be up by the end of the year!

  • Tan

    Dear Marc, I can’t find potassium carbonate at my area, what is the best substitute to use and what is the amount to use?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Tan, you can use any food-safe base. Baking soda in water will also work, Use about 2 teaspoons per cup of water.

      • Tan yang Ming

        Ok tks. Will try. I assume your cup measurement is the standard cooking cup measurement right?

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Yep, they’re US cups, 1 US CUP = 237 ml.

          • Tan

            I have alkaline water. Is this the same as potassium carbonate?

          • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

            Hi Tan, “alkaline water” is a generic term that can be used to refer to any water with a pH over 7, without knowing what’s in it and in what concentration it’s hard to say whether it will work or not.

          • Tan

            Sorry it’s lye water (alkaline)
            Ingredient : purified water, sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, salts of phosphates

          • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

            Hi Tan, I’m a little confused because “lye” is usually used for strong alkali’s like sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. Provided it’s food grade, that would definitely work for the noodles (though how much you add will depend on it’s concentration). Sodium bicarbonate is baking powder and probably will not work, but sodium carbonate is a stronger base and should work. Having not tried it though I can’t guarantee it or tell you how much you should add. Give it a try. If it works you should see the flour turn yellow when you add it.

  • Yogicfoodie

    Hi Marc,
    Can I make ahead just the wantons and freeze them for future use? I don’t have enough shrimp shells to make the broth at the moment. If it’s ok for me to freeze the wantons, do I need to blanch or steam them first or just freeze the freshly made made wantons?
    Thank you as always!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi yogicfoodie, I’ve never tried freezing them before so I can’t guarantee it will work, but if you freeze them as soon as you make them, it should work in theory. The reason you need to freeze them quickly is because the wrappers will absorb liquid from the filling and get mushy if you wait too long. Just put done some parchment paper on a sheet pan and make sure the wontons aren’t touching. Once frozen you can transfer to a freezer bag. When you make the. Just drop them frozen into the boiling water. Alternatively, you could freeze the filling and wrappers separately and then defrost and wrap them just before making. As for the shrimp shells, it won’t be quite the same, but you could add the shrimp shells you have now to chicken stock to make the soup.

  • Yogicfoodie

    Hi Marc,
    Can I make ahead just the wantons and freeze them for future use? I don’t have enough shrimp shells to make the broth at the moment. If it’s ok for me to freeze the wantons, do I need to blanch or steam them first or just freeze the freshly made made wantons?
    Thank you as always!

  • joe

    Hi Marc, do you think i can replace the flounder/pollack with haddock, cod or another arctic fish? I live in iceland…

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Joe, the dried dish is to flavor the stock, so any dried fish that will release a stock would work.

      • joe

        that’s great thanks! I’ll try it with non-salted dried Icelandic haddock and report back soon

  • Yogicfoodie

    Hi Marc, I made it last weekend. wontons were great. Question for you…
    The soup base tasted very flavorful, and I understand that all those shrimp shells are needed for the flavor, however, at the end, the soup had quite cloudy orange color b/c of shrimp shells, and I was envisioning the bright and clear yellow like the ones at Chinatown…
    Your pic. above also shows yellow. I throughly skimmed off all the foam and impurities when making the stock. Could you give me a pointer plz?
    Thank you as always.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Yogicfoodie, the yellow hue you’re seeing in the photo above is from the noodles, the soup is actually more of a cloudy reddish tan. While you could clarify the stock, there’s really no need to as it does not effect the flavor. Go check out this post http://norecipes.com/dueling-wontons/ where I have photos from some of the best wonton noodle shops in Hong Kong, the soup is a cloudy tan color. The reason the soups you’re used to seeing in Chinatown are clear yellow is most likely because they’re using powdered or canned chicken broth.

      • Yogicfoodie

        Thank you so much. We’ll be making this again soon!

  • Krys

    May I put the shrimp shells and dried pollack into a cheesecloth so I don’t have to drain it later on?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Krys, you may still need to strain the soup even if you put the shells in a cheesecloth (because the juices from the shell tend to coagulate), but it’s worth a try.

  • Lars

    I read this with great interest – I have travelled a lot to Hong Kong and always eat as much wonton mein as I possibly can while there. On a recent trip to New York I had it in Chinatown and got my love for the dish renewed, so now I decided I need to try this out for myself.
    It surprises me to read that the broth is made from dried flounder/fish. I always assumed it was a chickeny-pork like broth since I never noticed any fishy smell from it.
    Thanks for taking your time to post this thorough and instructive recipe and including all the explanations. Will be looking for the needed ingredients next time I go to my local Asian grocery store here in OC, CA.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Lars, most of the wonton soups I’ve had in the NYC chinatown tasted like they were made with canned chicken broth. Definitely a different soup base than the good wonton spots in Hong Kong. This broth definitely has a fish flavor (though I wouldn’t call it fishy). If that’s not something you’re into you may want to swap the broth out for something chicken or pork based.

  • rafaela

    I looked for youmian in a chinese shop and didn’t find them… i don’t know hoy they look like uncooked though, would you please post a picture of them? Thank you!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Rafaela, they usually come in bags and are shaped in serving sized nests. I wasn’t able to find any pictures of the noodles in packaging, but there’s a picture of them in a a bowl here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youmian they are very thin and yellow in color.

  • Theresa Conarello

    Hi Tan I have seen little pinkish red dried shrimp sold in a shelf stable bag in Hispanic groceries. Is this the shrimp you mean?

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!