Put It In a Wonton
Here's a fantastic anti-leftovers hack — which is also fantastically delicious
I am not a fan of leftovers—I feel like life is too short to eat the same meal twice. So, if I am eating leftovers, they have to be remixed into something completely new. Enter wonton soup, one of my favorite vehicles to turn yesterday’s leftovers into today’s new dish.
If you haven’t read Kerri and Mark’s piece on The Four Truths of Easy, Flexible Soups, I recommend starting there. A pack of store-bought wonton wrappers is a fridge staple for me, so my kitchen truth number one of The Four Truths— You’ve already got whatever you need—still holds. Maybe this will inspire you to pick up a pack of wrappers next time you’re at the market so it can apply to you, too. Wrappers are usually sold in packs of 30-50 in the refrigerated section of major grocery stores (usually in the area with kimchi, tofu and vegan sausage); leftover wrappers can be stacked, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container; use them within 6 months.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve used almost every type of leftover imaginable in a wonton: leftover brisket, roasted salmon, sheet pan veggies, oxtail and collard greens, garlic spinach from last night’s Chinese takeout—they all work. And a little bit of leftovers will go a long way—1 cup of filling will yield about 30-40 wontons.
As for actually making the wontons, which may seem daunting, I find folding any kind of dumpling a meditative practice, so I don’t mind zoning out and spending about 15 to 20 minutes to fold a few dozen. Keeping the fold simple makes the work fast.
Start with the broth
This leads us to truth number three of The Four Truths: Broth is just flavored water. Use homemade stock if you have it, or just season up some water. For a quick wonton soup, I go with the “season and simmer” method—for one serving I start with 1 ½ cups broth, 3 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, a dash of white pepper and salt or MSG—plus, sometimes, 1/2 teaspoon mushroom bouillon, or a piece of star anise and a dried chili for a warm, spicy moment. Taste, and adjust the seasonings until it’s something you’d like to sip on. Start on the broth and keep it simmering while preparing the wontons.
Keep fillings fine and dry
Fillings should be finely chopped—large pieces of food can poke through and rip the delicate wrappers. Before using, the filling should be cold or room temperature.
As for seasoning the fillings, I like to keep it simple—grated garlic, grated ginger, white pepper, a drizzle of sesame oil—adjusted to taste and adapted based on what you’re using. For spices, a dash of Chinese Five Spice powder is a nice way to remix roasted veggies. Be aware that any liquid seasoning added to the filling—such as that sesame oil—should be minimal: If the filling is too wet, it can soak through the wrapper, making leaks more likely.