I turned in the first draft of the Pho Cookbook last Sunday and then went on a business trip to Las Vegas. Things have been fuzzy this week but the fact that the book is in process (it won't be out for good year because that's how long things take), it's time for celebration. Something easy and fun is in order and I thought of crab Rangoon.
Despite its name, crab Rangoon has little to do with Burma and Asia itself. However, many people love the fun, crispy deep-fried wontons filled with cream cheese. Most of what we’ve tasted inside the Chinese restaurant version of these wontons is unfortunately cream cheese. As a lactose-intolerant Asian, I’m disappointed by such a fried morsel. Where’s the crabbiness? There’s not even fake Krab!
The world is full of tasty dumplings to eat. Let's not waste time or calories on bad ones. If there’s a carb overload to be had, let’s make it really worth it, especially when deep-frying is involved. So here’s my crab Rangoon recipe.It's based on the original recipe in the 1968 Trader Vic's Pacific Island Cookbook by Vic Bergeron (a pioneer of the tiki-bar scene in America). You’ll notice that my crab Rangoon recipe contains more crab. Trader Vic’s opted for a 1:1 ratio of cream cheese to crab meat. Let’s not fool around. We’ve been missing the crab for too many decades.
Get good crab meat –-the kind you’d use in crab salad or crab cakes. Crab sold in plastic tubs in the refrigerated section of the seafood counter is particularly good. Also, I’m a sucker for black pepper with crab so there’s a nice amount in there, and fresh scallion too. But to keep the mid-century flavor, I use garlic powder in the filling.
You can fill and shape wontons many ways. If you're starting out, make a simple triangle. Seal the seam well with water and press all the bubble out, as best as you can! I like to make a little nurse's cap or flower bud.
For a primer on how to buy wonton wrappers and how to fold them, see this post.
Crab Rangoon is a fun snack that warms me up on cool days and with a tropical cocktail like a Mai Tai, it cools me down on a hot day. Actually a tiki-bar canape is welcomed any time of year.
Yield: 36 wontons, enough for 6 as a snack
- 1 (3 oz / 90 g) package cream cheese or Tofutti cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ pound (120 g) crab meat
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion, white and green parts
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon A-1, Tonkatsu, or Worcestershire sauce
- 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 36 wonton skins, homemade or purchased
- Canola oil, for deep frying
- 1 cup Sweet and Sour Sauce (the recipe in Asian Dumplings is perfect, or make this one), or purchased plum sauce
- To make the filling, in a bowl, combine the cream cheese, crab meat, scallion, black pepper, A-1, and garlic powder. Use a fork to mix well. Taste and add salt, as needed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes before using, or refrigerate up to a day in advance. Makes about 3/4 cup.
- Fill each wonton skin with about 1 teaspoon of the filling, creating triangles, flower buds, or nurse’s caps. As you work, put the finished wontons on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with cornstarch. When done, loosely cover with a dishtowel to prevent drying. The wontons can also be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours; let them sit at room temperature to remove the chill before frying.
- Put a wire rack on a baking sheet and place next to the stove. Pour oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches (3.75 cm) into a wok, deep skillet, or 5-quart Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat to about 325F (160C) on a deep-fry thermometer.
- Working in batches of 4 to 6, slide the wontons into the hot oil and fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Use a skimmer to transfer to the rack to drain.
- Arrange the wontons on a platter and serve hot as finger food along with the sauce for dipping.
- Gratitude Wontons with Sweet and Sour Sauce (a 1970s blast from the past)
- Wonton Primer: How to buy wrappers, fold wontons and recipes to try