On soup for sick days

As the seasons change, cooler weather prevails and with it arrives cold season (joy). I happen to have the world’s worst immune system and so fall prey as an early victim every year. This time though I was determined to stay as healthy as possible while sick instead of being my usual grouch-on-the-couch-amidst-leftover-Halloween-candy-wrappers (though that may have also happened in minuscule amounts 😉 )

Anyway, I made a fairly healthy veggie wonton noodle soup. The hot brothy, noodle-y soup was exactly what was needed to bolster the day. While it did entail quite a few steps (my ever stalwart husband graciously assisted me), it was well worth it. Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy and here’s to hoping for healthy weeks ahead!

Bok Choy

Vegetarian Wonton Dumpling Noodle Soup

I find that making this in stages is best. Firstly, because you can make and freeze the dumplings ahead of time and drop ’em into the soup whenever you make it. Secondly, the broth itself can be frozen and saved for a rainy day. Finally, the dumplings take the longest and if you ain’t got time for that then just make the very flavorful broth, dump in your favorite veggies and noodles and be done! boom.

Stage 1: Broth

-8 cups vegetable stock (or 4 cups stock, 4 cups water) – your choice. I used low sodium boxed broth OR you can always make your own veggie broth if you fancy
-chopped baby bok choy stems (save the leaves for later)
-shiitake mushroom stems (again save the tops for later)
-2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster mushroom sauce
-1/2 cup soy sauce
-1tsp salt
optional ingredients:
-1 stalk of lemongrass sliced lengthwise
-1 jalapeño, sliced in half and deseeded

Put everything in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes.

That’s it for the broth! Once done, strain and save the liquid. This you can freeze and bring out for any time you’re feeling sniffly (Or hungry. Whichever).

Stage 2: Dumplings

-wonton wrappers (hong kong style, thin, square-shaped)
-shiitake mushroom caps
-bok choy leaves
-1 egg
-1 green onion
-1 tbslp water
-2 tblsp sesame oil
-1 tbslp oyster mushroom sauce
-1 tblsp regular soy sauce
-1 tblsp of dark soy sauce (thicker and sweeter than regular)
-1 tsp sriracha hot sauce
-1/4 tsp salt
optional ingredient:
-vegetarian mock meat (easily found in your neighborhood asian grocery store) or you could always use firm tofu

Finely dice the vegetables and the mock meat/tofu into small cubes and combine in a mixing bowl. You want very tiny pieces because the filling should meld together well inside the dumpling.Chopped mushrooms
Dumpling filling
Heat a saucepan on medium heat and add the sesame oil. Once hot, add the cut veggies and mock meat and saute for 1 minute. You only want to heat through the veggies without over wilting them since that little bit of crunch adds nice texture. Add the oyster mushroom sauce, regular and dark soy sauce, sriracha and salt. Mix well and saute for another 3-5 minutes. Once some of the moisture is gone, turn off the heat and transfer the mixture back to the bowl to cool.

In the meantime, prep the glue for the dumplings by cracking the egg and adding water to a small bowl. Whisk to mix together.

I suggest setting up a little assembly line – wonton wrappers, then veggie filling, then egg glue mix, end with a lined/greased baking pan to easily store your finished dumplings. Cover with a damp paper towel to keep the dumplings from drying out as you make them. Take a wonton wrapper and add about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle. Then using a brush or your finger, dip into the egg mixture and coat the four edges of the wrapper. Don’t be shy with glue. Fold over into a triangle and press the edges together to seal. You can leave it there, or fold once more to secure the edges. Here’s a great video from CHOW on how to fold a wonton.

Shaping dumpling
The most important things to remember when making wontons are:
1. A little filling goes a long way. Do not overstuff your wontons.
2. As you fold, push out the air around the filling and seal with your fingers. Yes, you will get a little messy but sometimes it’s fun to play with your food!

Repeat to make as many wontons as you want (you can always freeze and save the filling) but using it all makes about 20-25 wontons or around 5 servings. Set aside as you prep your soup.

Stage 3: Cooking this hot mess of dumplins

Bring your soup broth to a boil. Turn down the heat slightly so its bubbly without being too crazy otherwise you risk breaking the dumplings. Slowly add in the dumplings. If you notice the bubbles stop, increase heat slightly. You want to keep it at a simmer without becoming a full on boil. The dumplings will cook in about 4 minutes so keep watch. Once done fish out the dumplings, lower heat and cover the broth.

NOTE: Another way to handle the dumplings is to steam them separately before adding the cooked dumplings to your final soup bowl. Benefits to steaming:

1. Dumplings are not jostled around in the pot therefore limits the chance your bundles will break open.
2. Dumplings cooked in the soup tend to thicken the liquid in your pot. If you prefer a thinner broth, steam dumplings separately.

Stage 4: Noodles! or in my case, one pot stop!

Theoretically, you’re supposed to take your wonton noodles (typically thin, long, wheat-noodles) and blanch them in boiling water for about 2 minutes and drain, portioning out what you want to eat into bowls. However, IMO less pots = less dishes to wash = happy me, and so everything went into one big soup pot. I added, in this order, cut gai-lan (or leafy Chinese broccoli) and sliced shiitake mushrooms for an added veggie punch (totally optional) and the noodles and boiled for about 2 minutes. Then, splashed in my cooked dumplings and turned off the heat letting it stand, covered, for about 1 minute. The hot broth was enough to blanch the veggies and noodles. Ladle the steaming soup into bowls and because I liked the color, I topped it off with more green onion.

Soup pot

Final thoughts: Yes, it’s a lot of steps. Yes, it’s totally worth the effort. Can you skip the time-intensive dumplings and will it still be delish? YES! Again, because you can make this ahead of time, it’s perfect to pull out of the freezer to heat up on days you’re not feeling well. Enjoy!

Finished soup

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