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Recipe: sichuan pork wontons

When the weekend started, I wasn’t sure how things were going to pan out. We always have a plan in place – usually a form of weather-dependent exercise, lofty goals to clean some part of the house, and work. Because it has been so disturbingly warm, my usual ski tour with Erin turned into a snirt (snow/dirt) hike. Making our way up the ice-slicked trail, we agreed that despite the suckage of the snow conditions, it was nice to get outside. Banjo agreed. Before we set off in the morning, he spun about in dizzying white fluffy circles on the mudroom floor, filled with giddy anticipation of the adventure to come. Happy dogs can’t lie.

my weekly date with erin and banjo

such a good boy

The dearth of snowfall this season didn’t deter me and Jeremy from nabbing some new fat skis on super sale recently. We took them into town for binding mounts and new ski prep. Picking the skis up from the mountaineering store, I signed the credit card receipt and smiled at the cashier, “Do your snow dance!” and stepped outside into 65°F and bright sun. The forecast was sunshine and warmth until Sunday, when we would get some snow. We weren’t sure how much. It could go either way.

my new (very fun) skis

the start of something beautiful

15 inches of fresh powder monday morning

But before the snow would come, we took a day – Valentine’s Day – to drive two and a half hours south onto the flats. You know it has to be something important to make us leave the mountains on a weekend. This was very important. We spent 30 minutes meeting several very sweet dogs. If all goes well, we’ll be filling that dog-shaped hole in our hearts with a puppy in early May.

On the return drive home, we passed through Denver where I stopped by the big Asian grocery store (HMart) to get ingredients for our traditional Chinese New Year feast. I try to stick to my grocery list, but as I walked the aisles packed to the hilt with all manner of sauces, vegetables, frozen foods, and pickled things, I started cobbling together our weekly menu as well. We hadn’t had wontons in a while, and there was a Sichuan wonton recipe waiting in the wings. The first step is to make the Sichuan red chile oil.

chiles de árbol, canola oil, soy sauce, salt, sichuan peppercorns, star anise, garlic, cinnamon, black cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, ginger

smashing things: cinnamon, garlic, ginger

combine the oil, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, cloves, anise, cardamom, and cinnamon

heat until the garlic is golden (mine was a little more than golden)

When most people think of Sichuan, they think of spicy. But Sichuan peppercorns aren’t really spicy hot so much as numbing and citrusy in flavor. The hot comes from the dried chiles, although mine wasn’t nearly as hot as I had expected it to be. It’s possible that my chiles were milder than most (I bought them from a spice shop and not from the Asian grocery).

chop the chiles

place the chiles, sichuan peppercorns, salt, and soy sauce in a jar

pour the hot oil into the jar

let the oil cool

remove the ginger and garlic

let the oil sit for 24 hours

When the oil is ready, strain all of the spices out. The recipe says it can be sealed and stored in a refrigerator for up to 3 months. I halved the recipe because things that get lost in the back of the refrigerator don’t get unearthed for a while. Making the wontons is quick work because I buy wonton wrappers and this filling takes minutes to mix together.

black vinegar, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, (dry) sherry, ground pork, wonton wrappers, sichuan red chile oil, salt, garlic, egg, cornstarch, ginger

mince the ginger and garlic

the filling: pork, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, (dry) sherry, soy sauce, shaoxing wine

mix it all together

Wonton assembly is far easier than folding the pretty pleats on Chinese dumplings and potstickers. It’s like origami for dummies, but delicious! Start with a wonton wrapper and place a small amount of filling in the center. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of filling and my mom would like to point out that authentic Sichuan wontons should have even less filling than that (because people in the Sichuan region were poor and couldn’t afford much meat – so you were supposed to fill up on wonton dough). Either way, don’t overfill your wonton because it makes folding and getting a good seal difficult… and it might explode (pop open) when you cook them. Use egg or water to glue the edges together into a triangle, then fold the little arms of the triangle over one another (seal with more egg or water).

ready to make wontons: filling, wonton wrappers, egg

brush egg on two adjacent edges

fold into a triangle (sealing the edges)

fold two corners together

While you are folding the wontons, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the wontons are ready, drop them into the boiling water. They only take a few minutes (5-7) to cook and are nominally done when they float to the top. Scoop the wontons out with a slotted spoon and set them on paper towels to drain for no more than a minute. Don’t let them sit for too long, because they will stick to one another as they dry out. Place the hot wontons in a large bowl and toss them with black vinegar (Chinkiang) and the Sichuan red chile oil. I personally like a good bit of black vinegar, so adjust the amount according to your tastes.

lined up


remove from the pot

drain briefly

dress with black vinegar and sichuan red chile oil

Wontons symbolize new beginnings for Chinese New Year, but regardless of meaning, these are so satisfying to eat on a cold day. My chile oil was not that spicy, but the numbing effect of the Sichuan peppercorns does build the more you eat. I made a second batch of wontons with pork and shrimp (replace half of the pork with chopped up raw, peeled shrimp) which was also fantastic. If you want to make these ahead, freeze the uncooked wontons on a baking sheet and then bag them up when the wontons are hard. Boil them straight from the freezer, but give them more time to ensure the centers are cooked through (test one to be sure). So here’s to new beginnings and a Happy New Year!

serve as an appetizer or a meal

garnish with sliced chile and chinese chives


Sichuan Pork Wontons
[print recipe]
from Saveur

1 lb. ground pork
2 tbsps cornstarch
4 tsps dry sherry
4 tsps light soy sauce
2 tsps Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing wine)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
40 square wonton wrappers
1 egg, beaten
kosher salt to taste
1/2 cup Sichuan red chile oil (see recipe below)
2 tbsps Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang), or more – I like a lot more

sichuan red chile oil
1 cup canola oil
2 whole star anise
2 small cloves garlic, smashed
2 small black cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 small cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, smashed
1/2 cup chiles de árbol, stemmed and chopped
1 1/2 tbsps Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Make the Sichuan red chile oil: In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the canola oil, star anise, garlic, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and ginger over medium-low flame until the garlic turns golden (about 15-20 minutes). Place the chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce, and salt in a 1-pint glass jar. Pour the oil and all of the contents in the saucepan into the jar. Let the oil cool to room temperature, then remove the garlic and ginger. Seal the jar and let it sit for 24 hours. Strain the oil and discard any solids. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Makes about a cup.

Make the wontons: Mix the ground pork, cornstarch, dry sherry, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, garlic, and ginger together in a medium or large mixing bowl. Place a teaspoon of the pork filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Brush egg wash on the top two adjacent edges of the wonton wrapper (same side that has the pork). Fold the bottom two edges up to match the top two edges and form a triangle while pressing the edges together to seal the wonton (push any air pockets out from the center). Fold the two side corners of the wonton in toward the center and use a little egg wash to secure them together (like crossing arms). Pinch the corners together. Repeat for the remaining wontons.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the wontons into the boiling water and let boil for 5-7 minutes. You may have to do this in two batches if your pot of water isn’t large enough. When the wontons float to the top, remove them with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Place the wontons in a large bowl and pour the chile oil and black vinegar over top. Toss to coat and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

pan-seared sichuan shrimp with glass noodles sichuan tofu celery salad fried shrimp wontons wonton soup

22 nibbles at “what’s new”

  1. Kristin says:

    First of all, squeeeeal! I hope all goes well on the puppy front! I know you can never replace the one you’ve lost, but there’re so many puppies (and kittens for me) and so much love to share! Second, I just saw potstickers on thekitchn, and now wontons here. I know what I need to do the next day I have some free time. I have only made them once and, since we love to eat them so much, I think it is time to try again.

  2. Jen says:

    Yay!! A puppy!!

  3. lilly says:

    so happy for you guys to open your hearts to a new puppy! you are very good parents and that puppy is going to be so loved!

    there are so many different types of wonton wrappers. the one’s I prefer the most for soup are the double happiness brand, hong kong style. they have very little starch, therefore don’t stick to much even if you put them together after cooking. and they freeze beautiful! your’s look so yummy and like a true Chinese, I eat them for breakfast many times!

  4. Judy says:

    Your photography is so beautiful. The food looks so appetizing and the light is so clear. But really, I’m just so happy you’re getting a new baby dog! I’m so envious but not quite ready to take that step again so I’m going to live vicariously.

  5. farmerpam says:

    Yay, a new pupster! So happy for you. These won-tons look good, can they be as good as your pork buns? I’ll have to try, cuz those buns are the best, and most requested when going to a gathering. Hard to believe it was so warm out there, we’ve been in the deep freeze, 20 below this morning. It’s not too fun, wind chill of 45 below,” not fit for man, nor beast!” Happy New Year, thanks for the new recipe!

  6. Thalia @ butter and brioche says:

    Love pork wontons, but never have made them myself before. These look delicious and are so perfect for Chinese New Year tomorrow!

  7. Kristen says:

    Puppies and wontons!

    Jenny, thank you for showing a photo of how you close your wontons. They look equally beautiful and delicious!

  8. Tegan says:

    This looks just like what a restaurant near me calls Suan La Chow Show and they serve it atop bean sprouts. I can eat exactly ONE and then my lips go numb. :-P

    I hope puppypuppy works out for you!

  9. Joyce says:

    Sigh…… Now I can get my “puppy fix” through you again! We have our kitty for we at this time are not able to handle a dog and give it the total attention it would need. We love our mr kitty……he is the king of the kingdom here but we do so miss a dog in our home. We used to wait excited each day to hear about your doggie. That is how we feel in love with you blog…….and yes, your recipes are AMAZING too. :)

  10. Anna Engdahl says:

    There is an Italian stuffed pasta called cappaletti. Different filling, but formed exactly the same way but smaller. It’s a small world.

  11. Barb says:

    Just knowing that there is a new puppy in your future brings tears to my eyes. I am thrilled for you!! It’s just not a home without a doggie, is it?

    Thanks, too, for sharing the pictures of Banjo! What a great dog he is!! He looks like he is just the most fun!

    Happy Chinese New Year! It holds all the promise of a wonderful new year!!

  12. Barb says:

    Reading that you are adding a new puppy brings tears to my eyes. I know only too well that you can never replace one beloved pet with another, but you can always find plenty of room in your heart to love a new puppy. I’m so happy for you! I think we are all looking forward to this happy event!!

    Thanks too for sharing the sweet pictures of Banjo – what a great dog! Looks like he’s always smiling and up for fun!

    And, of course, thank you for sharing all of your fabulous recipes! Everyone of them makes me drool!

    Happy Chinese New Year!!

  13. Cindi says:


  14. Chefhelen says:

    We here in the southeast have found your misplaced weather. You’re welcome to come and get it!

    The wontons look great, but the prospect of a new pup is just joyous! We aren’t in a position to have a dog right now but I found an awesome kitty who fetches better than the dogs ever did and who filled the hole in my heart. Pets are the greatest!

  15. jill says:

    That Banjo is a cutie pie! I hope he is equally impressed with puppy breath! Not a recipe I could replicate, but they look so so yummy. Looking forward to May!

  16. Christine says:

    I love reading your blog and have been doing so for many years. I’m so not trying to preach, and I cried when I read about Kaweah’s passing so I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for you to go through, but I urge you to consider adoption (unless I understood wrong). There are so many worthy puppies and senior pups being overlooked in our shelter system. I know you guys will make the best decisions for yourselves :)

  17. magicfish says:

    A new puppy……such a fortuitous beginning for this New Year! <3

  18. SKA says:

    Happy year of the sheep!!!

  19. jenyu says:

    Kristin – thank you! We are excited too :) Wontons are definitely the easier cousin of dumplings – sort of like a quick fix without all the work!

    Jen – :)

    lilly – thank you. I’ll have to look for those because I’ve tried several different brands and some are definitely worse than others.

    Judy – you’re so sweet, thank you! And I completely understand that not everyone is ready to make that commitment. It is a *big* commitment and one that we don’t enter lightly. xo

    farmerpam – :) The wontons aren’t as good as the pork buns, but they’re far faster and easier to make. Stay warm!

    Thalia – super easy! I hope you gave them a try!

    Kristen – you’re welcome :)

    Tegan – ha ha, that sounds like a good recipe! thanks!

    Joyce – you’re incredibly sweet. I hope you’ll love the new pup as much as we all loved sweet little Kaweah. xo

    Anna – yes, I’ve had them before (in a broth – at a restaurant) and it was SO good!

    Barb – it really isn’t, you’re so right! Banjo is a super sweet boy. He’s my buddy! Happy new year!

    Cindi – :)

    Chefhelen – ha ha, I wish I could! Pets really are so special <3

    jill - Erin is excited for Banjo to meet the puppy, but my experience introducing puppies to adult dogs results in adult dogs getting tired of little puppies pretty quickly ;)

    Christine - Thank you for sharing your feelings on the matter, but we are not adopting for several well thought out reasons. Ultimately it is not only about providing a good and loving home for a pup, but finding the right pup for our lives, our lifestyle, and the environment we live in. We don't make a 13-15 year commitment like this lightly.

    magicfish - :)

    SKA - thank you!

  20. becky says:

    Jen, this meal looks so amazing! Why do I torture myself right before bedtime with reading your blog?!!

    I’ll be dreaming of homemade wontons tonight. :)

  21. sylvie says:

    Banjo looks as if he could talk, love this dog! Love the meal also but I’m always going mad to form wontons. But I keep on trying, again and again!

  22. LizzieBee says:

    A puppy! I’m so excited for you guys! I’m excited to ‘meet’ him/her in May!

    You know, I’ve never made wontons, but this looks pretty tempting :)

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