Classic comfort food perfect for any weather: silky wontons containing pork flavoured with Thai aromatic paste, springy egg noodles, rich broth, and plenty of fried garlic oil. It warms and fills without being stodgy, which is particularly good for this breezily crisp yet sunny spring weather.
(You understand, of course, that stodge isn’t inherently bad, but sometimes you want something else. This pork wonton noodle soup is here for you, if that’s the case.)
I’ve had disappointing and really good versions of this classic Thai-Chinese dish in Thailand (tip: wake up early and ask around for the best ba-mee place). Wonton dumplings are called kiao (เกี๊ยว) in Thai, and you can get them alone in clear soup (kiao nam เกี๊ยวน้ำ) or with egg noodles (ba-mee kiao บะหมี่เกี๊ยว). There’s a “dry” version where everything is dressed in fragrant garlic oil, too.
The wonton dumplings themselves are usually filled with a mix of minced pork and prawn, though you can get prawn-only filling. Wonton noodles are frequently topped with with thin slices of cha siu, chopped spring onion greens, a few leaves of tender pak choi, and crispy garlic bits. There may also be deep fried crispy pork belly, fresh lump crab meat, and various types of fish ball in addition to or instead of the pork on your noodles. It’s the best party in the city, my friends.
The version I’m giving you is largely based on the taste-memories of the bowls my dad made for me. Since I’m also feeding a non-seafood eater, I chose to make these without any prawns. It’s still delicious. These babies are seasoned with the classic Thai aromatic paste of coriander roots, peppercorns, and garlic, and I use a chicken wing stock for the broth. You can alter the filling and broth to the kind you want, and choose whatever kind of fresh egg noodle you like; I’ve seen fine, medium, and thin flat ribbon. Just ensure they’re barely cooked and springy to contrast with the soft, slippery wontons.
All of the tasks involved in making this would be a fairly tedious undertaking all in one day, so you’ll be pleased to know you can make everything in advance, which I highly recommend. It’s the only way I can be bothered to do it myself, really. Then you can simply pick bits out of your fridge or freezer and make this whenever you like, and in about half an hour (if not sooner) you could be sitting down with a comforting bowl of flavourful soup, slurpable noodles and tender wontons.
Makes 33 – 36 wontons, depending on how many wrappers come in the pack (12 is about 1 main meal serving of just wontons, 6 with noodles). About 40 – 45 minutes to mix & assemble, and 2 – 3 minutes cooking time.
Leftover cooked wontons can be drained, tossed in a little garlic or sesame oil, stored in the fridge for a few days, reheating directly in soup as needed.
These freeze beautifully. Flash freeze uncooked wontons as soon as possible after assembling. Boil straight from frozen; 5 minutes did the trick for my single serving, you may need a couple more minutes. They were just as delicious as fresh; if you have the time, it’s worth making a big batch and freezing them.
If you run out of wrappers, you can just simmer the seasoned mince in stock as I did here for kaeng jued. Add noodles or eat with rice.
2 coriander roots, or 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander stems
5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp whole white or black peppercorns, or 1/2 tsp ground pepper
Around 380 g/ 13 1/2 oz (very generous 3/4 lb) minced pork, at least 10% fat
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
Approximately 33 – 35 wonton wrappers (we used most of a 200 g/7 oz pack. Better to get more wrappers just in case. Leftover wrappers? Deep fry them! See below.)
For the wonton filling, pound together the coriander roots, garlic, and peppercorns with a mortar and pestle (if using processor, pulse the first two until a paste and then blend in ground pepper).
In a large bowl, combine the aromatic paste, pork, cornflour, and sugar with a fork until well blended and the mixture comes together in a smooth paste.
To assemble wonton dumplings (allow 30 – 40 minutes): Working with one wrapper at a time, place 2 teaspoons pork filling into the middle of each wonton wrapper. Dab a wet finger around the pork filling, then fold wrapper corner to corner to make a triangle, pressing firmly to completely seal and remove air bubbles. That’s your basic fold. You might want to pull the 2 lower corners of the triangle towards each other to make a crescent shape.
Keep both finished wontons and unused wrappers covered with a damp cloth or paper towel to prevent drying.
To cook wontons: Either boil them directly in your soup or plain water for 2 – 3 minutes until floating, the filling is firm and the wrappers are slightly translucent.
I prefer to cook them directly in the soup base. Providing your soup base is decent, savoury-sweet and rich with gelatine, the wrappers will take on some of the flavour and become extra silky. Also, it’s less hassle. The dumplings will absorb liquid, so have extra stock to hand.
To deep fry leftover wonton skins: In a small pot, heat 1.5 inches of vegetable oil until moderately hot. It’s ready if a fragment of wonton skin instantly blisters and bubbles when added. Add 1 – 2 wonton skins to the pot and fry, turning. They should expand, bubble and take about 10 seconds each side to blister and become golden and crisp.
Drain and repeat until finished. It’s alright if it doesn’t blister–it’s still crisp and delicious–but it’s sublime if it does.
Add fried skins to soups at the last minute, or simply snack on them. I imagine you could carefully store these in a cool dry place to add to future noodle soups, but I eat them too quickly to think about that.
PORK WONTON NOODLE SOUP
For 2 generous servings as a main meal. Scale up or down as needed. Best eaten immediately; broth and wontons can be made in advance.
You can of course have the wonton soup only. If you’ve filled the wontons as in the recipe above, allow at least 10 – 12 per serving.
To have these dry, simply cook everything boiling water, drain well, and toss with as much fried garlic oil as you please. Season with soy sauce and white pepper.
veg + noodles:
A handful of pak choi or other leafy vegetable
A dash of vegetable oil
Approximately 150g/5 1/4 oz fresh egg noodles; this is 2 small portions of any kind you like
2 tsp fried garlic chips and 4 tsp of fried garlic oil, or more to taste (recipe here)
Dash of ground white or black pepper, or more to taste
broth + wontons:
600 ml (about 2 1/2 generous cups) any kind of stock you prefer. I use homemade chicken wing stock boosted with 1/2 cube of Thai or Filipino chicken Knorr stock cube (it’s closer to a noodle shop broth that way).
2 spring onions, finely sliced, light and dark parts kept separate
Small handful of roughly chopped celery leaves, or Chinese celery (optional but recommended)
Sea salt and sugar to taste
12 uncooked pork wontons
additional toppings, amounts given per serving:
4 – 5 thin slices cha siu, or thicker ones of crispy belly pork
4 – 5 fish, fried fish/prawn, or pork balls as you please
Heaped tablespoon or two of lump crab meat
Deep fried wonton skins
Any type of chilli oil and/or dried chilli flakes to taste
For the vegetables and noodles, bring a separate large pan of unsalted water to the boil. Blanch the pak choi for a few seconds til just wilted, transfer to the soup bowls.
Return water to boil, add a dash of vegetable oil, and cook the fresh egg noodles according to packet instructions–you want them firm and snappy. For fine wonton noodles, this was just 30 seconds. Drain and rinse noodles thoroughly in running hot water for a minute or two. Thoroughly press out any water, then transfer to the soup bowls.
Immediately drizzle the noodles with as much fried garlic oil as you like and sprinkle with 1 tsp fried garlic bits (start with 2 tsp oil and 1 tsp garlic bits per bowl). Dust with ground pepper. Toss everything until thoroughly coated, adding more garlic oil or garlic bits l if you wish.
To make the broth and cook the wontons, heat the stock in a medium saucepan with the white parts of the spring onions and and chopped celery leaves.
Simmer for a few minutes, then start tasting and seasoning with salt and sugar. It should be deeply savoury and just a little stronger than you want. Bring to a boil and add 12 wontons. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes until the dumplings float, the wrappers are soft and slightly see-through, and the filling is completely cooked. Add a splash of water if the broth is too thick.
Pour over hot broth and divide the wontons between the waiting bowls. Sprinkle with chopped green spring onions and add any toppings you like.
Let each diner adjust the seasoning of their bowl as needed and slurp away.