The temperatures in NYC are dropping fast. We somehow went from highs in the 90s to lows in the 40s, which means it’s official soup weather! A popular favorite that many 上海人 Shanghainese often make at home is wonton soup 馄饨 (hún tūn). Today I’m making a kosher-friendly beef filling of classic, authentic Shanghai wontons.
Shanghai cuisine 沪菜 (hù cài) is milder and sweeter than the 四川 Sìchuān and 湖南 Húnán cuisine I often feature on this site. There are two main types of Shanghai wontons: 小馄饨 (xiǎo hún tūn) small pork wontons served as a snack, and 菜肉馄饨 (cài ròu hún tūn) large meat and vegetable wontons served as a meal.
If you don’t eat pork or shellfish, these are for you. Plus the uncooked wontons freeze perfectly for a soul-warming meal that’s on the table in 15 minutes!
There are two all-important steps in making perfect Shanghai wonton soup:
- the meat filling must be solid (not crumbly) but juicy
- the wontons must be properly sealed to keep the filling flavorful — if water gets in, the resulting wontons will become bland and watery
Of course, I have all the details on how to achieve them!
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Wonton Filling （洁食版）馄饨馅
There are two main ingredients in 菜肉馄饨 Shanghai wontons, 菜 vegetables and 肉 meat. For the vegetable component, I’m using carrots and watercress. For the meat component, I’m using 80/20 ground beef instead of the more traditional pork and seafood.
The veggies add moisture to filling but not wetness to the dough. And unlike most vegetables used in wonton or dumpling fillings, the two I’ve picked don’t need to be salted to draw out the moisture.
The best way to handle the carrots is to grate them on the coarse side of a box grater. We want the carrots to maintain some shape when cooked, but they shouldn’t be crunchy. The watercress is best finely minced. I like the filling to be about half vegetables and half meat by volume, and about 2:1 carrots to watercress by volume.
Springy wonton filling 上劲
When making hamburgers, conventional wisdom says to work the meat as little as possible for a juicy and tender burger. But for Chinese wonton or dumpling fillings, the opposite is true. When we bite into these Shanghai wontons, we want a cohesive and springy filling. In Chinese, we call this 上劲 (shàng jìn, “energetic”), and it’s the difference between a great, satisfying wonton and a sad, grainy wonton.
The key to a good dumpling filling is to stir the meat vigorously to activate the myosin, the protein in the muscle fiber that makes meat sticky. I got my workout in today and did it by hand, but the paddle attachment on a Kitchenaid stand mixer is an excellent way to save yourself some work.
The addition of an egg as a binder further helps with our cohesive, springy wonton filling. The seasonings are simple:
- light soy sauce
- finely minced or grated ginger root
- white pepper
- dried Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and finely diced — optional, for extra umami 提鲜 (tí xiān)
- sesame oil (optional)
- Shaoxing cooking wine (optional)
We’re beating the meat and seasonings until the mixture is sticky. It’s ready when you see a thin film of fat that sticks to the bowl. If you’re doing it by hand, use a good sized mixing bowl, curl your fingers like a claw, and stir vigorously in one direction. I highly recommend wearing a food service glove; the wonton filling will get very sticky! When the meat mixture is fully mixed, add in the veggies and stir well to combine.
Folding Wontons 包馄饨
Wonton Wrapers 最佳馄饨皮
Traditional Shanghai meat and vegetable wontons are big and satisfying, while the small wontons are light and wispy. Twin Marquis 真味 (zhēn wèi) is my favorite brand for dumpling wrappers, wonton wrappers, and fresh noodles.
Foolproof Folding Technique 完美馄饨技巧
There are about 1000 ways to wrap wontons. My favorite technique yields generous, well-sealed wontons that hold together and don’t leak. This is much easier described in video rather than words, so please check out my video for the step-by-step instructions.
A quick summary
- Wet 3 edges of a wonton wrapper (the side with less starch if there is one)
- Add filling to the center of the wrapper, in a rectangular shape (long side parallel to the dry edge of the wrapper), making sure to stay inside the wet part of the wrapper
- Fold into a rectangle in thirds, first with the dry edge of the wonton wrapper, then the opposite (moistened) edge.
- Pinch the two short edges to seal into a rectangular pillow
- Pinch together two corners on the same long side. Seal with a dab of water to form a perfect Shanghai wonton
Easiest Freezer Meal
We keep a stash of these in the freezer for an easy 15 minute freezer meal. Individually quick frozen, they’re easy to portion out and cook in minutes. When folding the wontons, I place them directly onto a quarter sheet tray with space between the wontons. The whole tray goes directly into the freezer. When the wontons are frozen solid (about an hour), pull them off the sheet tray and store in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag with the air pressed out. They keep this way in the freezer for months!
Cooking Wonton Soup
I like to cook my wontons in broth for a steaming hot bowl of wonton soup. My usual go-to is Better than Bouillon (low sodium chicken). I season 2 quarts of broth with light soy sauce and salt to taste, bring it to a rolling boil on high heat, and then drop the heat down to medium-high (7.0 on my trusty Duxtop induction cooktop).
The same method applies for frozen and fresh wontons, the cook time will differ slightly. Drop the wontons in one at a time so they don’t clump together. Stir occasionally to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
After they float to the top, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes while you prep the soup. Add a handful of finely chopped scallions, a dash of ground white pepper, and a splash of sesame oil to the bottom of the bowl. Ladle in boiling hot soup to cook the scallions slightly, and then serve up the wontons in soup.
Did you try this dish?
If you’ve never had homemade wontons, I guarantee these Shanghai beef wontons are 100x better than your local Chinese takeout. The filling is springy yet tender, the skins hold together perfectly, and the soup is totally slurpable. Plus, they’re fun and surprisingly easy to make! As always, if you try this dish, we’d love to hear how it went in the comments below. And if you take pictures, please use #thericelover and tag us @thericeloverblog on Instagram!
Shanghai Wonton Soup with Beef, Carrot, Watercress 上海菜肉馄饨
- Box grater
- Quarter sheet tray (for freezing)
- Large pot, min. 3 quarts (Dutch oven, soup pot, saucepan)
- 1 pack Twin Marquis Shanghai style wonton wrappers 真味上海云吞馄饨皮，1包
For the Filling
Make Wonton Filling
- Combine ground beef, carrots, watercress, ginger, egg, light soy sauce, salt to taste, white pepper to taste in a mixing bowl. Beat vigorously in one direction until the mixture is very sticky, either by hand (wear a
plastic glove) or with the flex-edge paddle attachmentof a stand mixer.将牛肉，胡萝卜，西洋菜，鸡蛋，姜末生抽酱油，盐，和胡椒搅拌均匀。向一个方向搅拌至上劲
- Dip fingertip in tap water, and wet three edges of a wonton wrapper (use the side with less starch if there is one)馄饨皮三边沾水
- Add 1-2 tsp of filling to the center of the wrapper, shaped in a rectangle with the long edge parallel to the dry edge of the wrapper (stay inside the wet edges)馄饨皮中心加入适量肉馅
- Fold the wrapper into thirds: fold down the dry edge and fold up the opposite edge. Run your fingers over the seam to seal.馄饨皮叠成长方形：将没沾水的边先折下来，再将对边折上，封紧
- Squeeze the two short sides of the rectangle to form a little rectangular pillow, squeezing out any air pockets将两边按紧
- Pinch together two corners on the same long side to form a wonton, seal with a dab of water将长边的两个角折叠，沾水封紧
Cook Wonton Soup
- Season broth to taste with soy sauce and salt. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat高汤大火煮至沸腾
- Turn the heat down to medium-high, and add wontons to soup one at a time. Cook the wontons until they float to the top, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, then cook an additional 2-3 minutes火候降至7成，加入馄饨。馄饨浮起来后再煮2-3分钟
- Add minced scallions, white pepper, sesame oil to the bottom of a bowl. Ladle over hot soup to cook the scallions. Serve wontons in soup.碗底加入葱花，白胡椒粉，麻油。加入热汤将葱花烫熟，再加入煮好的馄饨
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