January has been a roller coaster. It hasn’t been entirely bad – there were some fun nights out with friends and a fancy belated birthday dinner at Acquerello. But there have been some less than thrilling moments. I am so ready for it to be over.
My dad had emergency colon surgery at the beginning of the month. And while his surgery went well considering the circumstances, it really magnified all of his other existing ailments. So it’s taken the majority of the month to nurse him back to health. It has been an eye opening experience to say the least. Getting old sucks. And realizing your parents are getting old sucks even more.
The man hadn’t eaten real food since late December. The days following his surgery he was only allowed one cup of ice chips every eight hours, then eventually moved on to a clear liquid diet of juice and broths. When he was finally allowed solids, I was horrified by what he was fed in the hospital. Standard issue hospital food is just plain nasty. There. Someone had to say it. So when he was released from the hospital, I was determined to feed him in a healing, healthful way. But feeding someone who has just had colon surgery can be challenging. Especially if that person has other dietary restrictions on top of being a somewhat picky eater. It involves a low fiber, low fat, low everything diet. Vegetables and fruit cooked into submission. No carbonated beverages or alcohol. It requires some thought and creativity.
I figured out that soup was a good place to start. I made a pot of chicken soup the first day. But I could tell he wasn’t that excited about it, even though it was made entirely from scratch, with extra TLC, including the chicken stock (I personally thought it was one of my best soups). I made applesauce. We made him try yogurt for the first time. When he started to regain his strength, he requested jook, then winter melon soup. That’s when I realized that my Western low, low everything diet was not really his jam, and what he wanted was Chinese comfort food.
How about some wonton soup?
I’d never made wontons on my own, but I helped make them as a kid. I had to watch a Youtube video to learn how to fold them. I actually had to watch it a couple of times before I really got the hang of it. Once you’ve got the folding down, it’s easy peasy. It’s kind of therapeutic.
The beauty of wontons is they’re kind of a twofer. You can toss them in a pot of stock for soup. Or you can throw them into some hot oil if you’re in the mood for some crispy fried goodness, which is what my sister and I did with the leftovers. They’re super satisfying either way.
On a lighter note, Happy Lunar New Year, folks!
adapted from about.com
makes 30-40 wontons
1/2 pound boneless lean pork
1/2 pound shelled and deveined medium shrimp
3 whole water chestnuts, or about 1/3 cup sliced, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
3 green onions, sliced thin, plus more for soup
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine, dry sherry or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
a few drops sesame oil
ground white pepper, to taste
6 – 8 cups chicken stock
cilantro, for garnish
Finely chop the pork and shrimp. Combine the pork and shrimp with the water chestnuts, minced ginger, green onions, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, sesame oil, and white pepper. You can also do this in a food processor by pulsing a few times until just combined.
To fill the wontons, lay one wonton skin in front of you. Cover the remaining wonton skins with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Moisten all the edges of the won ton wrapper with water. Place a heaping teaspoon of wonton filling in the center.
Fold the wonton wrapper in half lengthwise, making sure the ends meet. Press down firmly on the ends to seal. Use thumbs to push down on the edges of the filling to center it. Keeping thumbs in place, fold over the wonton wrapper one more time. Push the corners up and hold in place between your thumb and index finger. Wet the corners with your fingers. Bring the two ends together so that they overlap. Press to seal. The finished product should resemble a nurse’s cap. Repeat with remaining wontons.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the wontons, making sure there is enough room for them to move about freely. Let the wontons boil for 5 – 8 minutes, until they rise to the top and the filling is cooked through. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.
Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the wontons and bring the soup back to a boil. Add green onion, remove from heat , and add a few drops of sesame oil, stirring. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with a few leaves of cilantro.
**Deep-frying the wontons: Heat oil for deep-frying to 360°F. Add wonton in small batches and fry, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.