Testers: For now, just fold the wontons into half moons, don’t worry about the illustration guide.
Zen Wonton Spinach Soup
Serves 4 or more
This is a golden broth with little islands of tender wontons and the occasional drift of spinach; a riff off a popular soup at NYC veggie Chinese eatery Zen Palate. A shortcut to making the broth is using the lightest colored vegetable broth available; shop around and avoid dark brown or greenish broths in favor of golden broths. In this instance I’d recommend using a boullion cube stock, preferably one that’s “chicken” flavored for a golden color and light, saltier flavor. The generous amount of dumplings in this soup solves the age-old problem of “do I save the dumplings for last, or eat them all immediately?”.
The key seasoning component for the broth are Schezwan peppercorns, which are not part of the pepper family at all, but white pepper makes a decent substitute. This is a light soup that’s best enjoyed as a starter to a richer and more complex meal, or if you’re feeling under the weather this gingery and peppery broth will do wonders for your sinuses.
Tip: Use finely minced Pressed Baked Tofu instead of seitan in the wontons, if that’s what you prefer.
8 cups light colored vegetable broth, preferably “chicken” flavored broth from boullion
1 tablespoon Szcehwan peppercorns or white peppercorns, gently crushed with a mortar and pestle OR ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 inch cube ginger, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds and gently pounded with the butt end of a knife (see How to Cook page XX for details)
6 scallions, green and white parts divided and finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 cups baby spinach leaves, firmly packed
1/2 inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cutlets 5 Spice Seitan or one 8 ounce packages purchased seitan, grated or ground up
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
26 to 28, 3 inch wide wonton or gyoza wrappers, thawed if frozen
1. In a large 4 quart pot combine all of the soup ingredients except for the green parts of the scallion and the spinach. Bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat, then turn down the heat to low. Partially cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the soup stand for 5 minutes.
2. Line a large metal mesh sieve with two layers of cheesecloth and arrange over a 3 quart bowl. Strain the soup through the sieve, then lift up the cheesecloth and give it a good squeeze. Discard the cheesecloth. Return the soup to the pot, cover and place it back on the stove.
3. While the soup is simmering, start making the wontons. Combine all of the wonton filling ingredients plus half of the reserved, finely chopped green tops of the scallions. Set aside the other half of the green scallions for garnishing the soup. Use 1 heaping teaspoon of filling to assemble a wonton; use the dumpling folding illustrations on page XX as a guide. Trace the edges of the wonton or gyoza skins with water before sealing shut. Make sure to seal the dumplings as firmly as possible to prevent them from opening up during the cooking process. Place assembled dumplings on a clean, dry dinner plate.
4. When all of the dumplings are assembled, bring the soup to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Gently lower the dumplings, a few batches at a time, in to the soup. Gently stir the soup; the dumplings will cook in about 2 to 4 minutes and float to the surface. Carefully stir in the spinach leaves and green tops of scallions; after a minute or two the spinach should be wilted and tender. The soup is ready to serve. Ladle the broth with spinach leaves into large, deep serving bowls. Distribute the dumplings evenly among the bowls and serve immediately!