To be completely honest, I didn’t even realize these crispy bites were referred to as crab rangoon until recently. Growing up, these crab and cream cheese filled wontons were known as crab cheese puffs at my family’s favorite Chinese take-out spot. I’m pretty sure those guys were skimping on the crab because all I can remember is chomping down into a warm glob of scallion-flecked cream cheese. Don’t get me wrong, dipped into hot Chinese mustard and highlighter-red sweet and sour sauce, I wasn’t complaining. Today, wiser and bit more sophisticated, I need that crab.
It’s dungeness crab season here in the Bay Area, and while there might be better dishes out there that highlight the sweet, succulent flesh of these delicious creatures, crab rangoon seems like a perfectly festive nibble to serve as an hors d’oeuvre at any last minute holiday parties. My version features a bunch of thinly sliced green onions, Worcestershire sauce for added savory depth and just a bit of grated ginger and lemon juice to cut through the richness of the cream cheese.
CRAB RANGOON WITH SWEET AND SOUR DIPPING SAUCE
There really isn’t much to putting together this recipe. Filling and sealing the wontons can be tricky at first, but after you complete a few of them you’ll get in a groove and bang out the rest in no time. If you’re having any difficulty sealing the wrapper around the filling, start out by using less filling until you get the hang of the process. Make sure to eliminate as many air bubbles as possible when sealing the wontons as they can result in holes once they hit the hot oil. The wontons will have the propensity to float to the surface when frying, so stand guard and keep them submerged with a wire spider/skimmer and flip them periodically to ensure even browning.
- 1/2 pound fresh crab meat, picked over for any shell fragments
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1-2 green onions, sliced paper thin
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 24 store-bought wonton skins
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 egg yolk
- Oil for frying
- In a large bowl, combine the fresh crab meat with the cream cheese. Fold in the remaining ingredients up to the wonton wrappers. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
- Create the wonton sealing mixture by dissolving the cornstarch in the 2 tablespoons of water. Add the egg yolk and stir until well-incorporated and smooth. Set sealing mixture aside.
- Working one wonton at a time, place a dough wrapper on a work surface and fill it with 1 heaping teaspoon of the crab filling. Dip your finger in the egg/cornstarch sealing mixture and lightly paint the border of the wonton wrapper. Fold over the edges of the wrapper to create a triangle while encasing the crab filling, pressing to seal the edges with your fingertips. Using the back of a fork, ensure that the wontons are sealed by gently crimping the borders to create a fluted edge. Repeat with remaining wontons.
- Preheat oven to 200°. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches the temperature of 350°. Working in batches, fry the wontons until crispy and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Drain the wontons on paper towels and keep them warm in the oven while you continue frying the remaining batches. Serve warm with sweet and sour dipping sauce and/or hot Chinese mustard.
Makes 24 wontons
SWEET AND SOUR DIPPING SAUCE
Adapted from Irene Kuo’s, The Key to Chinese Cooking
Much more complex in terms of flavor and not quite as sweet as the translucent, neon-red version served in most Chinese restaurants, this sweet and sour sauce is a terrific compliment to homemade crab rangoon. Batter and fry up some pork, chop some fresh pineapple and toss in a few tablespoons of sauce for a homemade version of sweet and sour pork. If the sauce isn’t sweet enough for your tastes, whisk in the optional honey while the sauce is still warm.
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons of water
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
- Combine the sugar, salt, vinegar, soy, sherry, and ketchup in a bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. In a separate small bowl, combine the cornstarch/water mixture with the sesame oil and set aside.
- Heat the peanut or vegetable oil in a medium saucepan set over moderate heat until hot. Add in the garlic and stir, pressing on the clove until aromatic and lightly browned.
- Pour in the sauce slowly and stir with the back of a wooden spoon until the liquid comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and add in the cornstarch mixture, stirring until sauce begins to thicken. Add in the water slowly, stirring until the sauce is smooth and bubbly. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool. The sauce can be made in advance as it holds well in the refrigerator for many days and can be frozen for weeks without losing flavor.
Makes about 2 cups