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I made my own soup before I even knew how to spell it. At my Montessori kindergarten, there was a proper oven and stove, one that really worked and heated up nicely. I was totally fond of the thing and volunteered to make soup for all of the other kindergarteners, on every occasion (yep, breakfast, too).
Some thirty years later, I still like making (and slurping) soups. When I'm in the mood for something with as many nutrient-rich greens and vegetables as possible, soup does the trick. It's easy to make something hearty that's not too heavy.
Here, I boldly throw wontons into a miso broth, naturally, making a Chinese-Japanese (or such) fusion (of sorts). Okay, so it’s probably the same as comparing Switzerland to Sweden (God knows all Swedes and Swiss have been there). I bear the blame, and am fondly dreaming of a proper food vacation to Asia, where I can soak up all that’s to know about soup-making and spice-blending.
When it comes to folding your dumplings correctly, I admit I’m a sucker for online tutorials. There are so many and you can seriously get lost in the 1001 ways to fold a dumpling. It’s a pretty nerdy pastime but a passion I’m forever proud of.
For the wontons:
- 1 packet gyoza or wonton skins
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves, washed
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 piece (2 centimeters) ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce or other chili sauce
For the finished soup:
- 1 large piece (3 to 4 centimeters) ginger, peeled
- 4 cups vegetable and/or miso broth (I used a combination of both)
- 3 to 5 (depending on size) dried shiitake
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Sriracha hot sauce, chili powder, soy sauce, sesame, vinegar and other condiments – to taste other additions, like ramen noodles, extra shiitake, carrots (julienned), spinach leaves or snap peas
- 2 bok choy
- 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
Start by defrosting the wonton or gyoza skins, if frozen.
Now prepare the filling: Wash and pick over the spinach leaves and put in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and let wilt for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain, squeeze out to remove any excess water, and pat dry. Chop very finely and put in a bowl. Add the finely chopped shiitake, garlic, ginger, and spring onions. Season with soy sauce and Sriracha to taste. The filling shouldn’t be too moist, but the soy sauce adds a lovely flavor.
Keep the wonton skins covered with a moist kitchen towel so they don’t dry out. Take one skin at a time and place a teaspoon of filling in the middle. Brush the rim of the skin with a wet finger, then fold the dumpling to a half moon shape, removing any excess air from the inside out as you go. Take the dumpling in your hands and fold in little “pleats” now (besides looking neat, they also add extra stability).
More: Learn four easy ways to fold a dumpling.
You might want to make around 6 to 10 dumplings per person, depending on what other additions—like ramen noodles or vegetables—you plan on adding to your soup. Spread the finished dumplings on a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate until ready to use. You can also freeze them at this point, for later usage.
Now start on the soup itself: Start by julienning the ginger. Add it to a large pot together with the vegetable broth and/or miso broth (I used about half and half of each) and the dried shiitake (you'll remove these after cooking). Bring to a boil. This is the basis for the soup that you can now refine, to taste, with soy sauce (for saltiness), Sriracha, or chili powder (for spiciness) etc.
Keep the bok choy, julienned carrots and sliced spring onions at the ready as soup additions.
To finish the soup, quickly blanch (in simmering—not boiling—water) the wontons in batches (cook only the ones you will need for your first serving of soup). They’re ready when they float on the top, which takes about 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully remove them with a slotted spoon or spider spoon and keep ready on a wooden board (careful, they are quite sticky when blanched) or divide between the bowls. Shortly before serving, add the bok choy and carrots to the broth and heat through, just a few seconds.
Ladle the broth into the bowls, adding the vegetables and place the dumplings on top (some might drown, others float on the top, neatly). Sprinkle with spring onions and serve hot.
I always serve the condiments on the side for my guests to customize and refine their soup according to their taste. The things that are essentials for a good Asian (Chinese-Japanese fusion, let's say) broth according to me are soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Sriracha, chili powders (I have them in various heats and colors, even a black one that is very fancy and evil looking), sesame seeds and sesame oil, miso powders, and maybe even pickled ginger. You can even put bowls of scallions, sprouts, blanched edamame, shiso sprouts, or herbs (cilantro is nice) on the table for the guests to pick their favorites.
For a different—and particularly hearty—version, add some noodles to the dumpling soup. I like rice noodles, udon, or soba, but my favorite is the rumpled and nest-like ramen (the yellow, eggy type). You can pick them up at a well-stocked delicatessen or Asian market. They’re usually ready in a couple of minutes.
What's your go-to winter soup? Share your favorite in the comments below!