Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Crab Rangoon

Culinary Cory posted about his mishaps with Crab Rangoon recently, so I thought maybe I could help out.

My mother-in-law Joyce loves these crispy morsels, so I made up a Crab Rangoon recipe for her when I was on summer vacation in July 2004. Crispy and filled with a cream cheese and crab filling, these fried wontons are a standard offering at American Chinese restaurants and restaurants with a pan-Asian flair.

Some tips when making Crab Rangoon:

1) Use real crab if you can instead of the imitation crab. I like a one-to-one ratio of crab to cream cheese.

2) Use Asian wonton wrappers or eggroll wrappers that you can find in the Asian grocery stores or more well-stocked national chains and preferably not the "fake" wonton wrappers in national chain grocery stores in the U.S., which I find gummy and unpalatable.

3) Taste your filling and adjust the seasonings before you stuff. Its flavors should be more pronounced than if you were to eat the filling alone, because it has to add enough taste to "carry" the wonton skin. If the filling tastes bland to you before you fill the wontons, it will definitely taste bland after it's cooked, so taste, taste, taste. Still not sure? Make a few sample wontons, fry them, and taste the finished product; adjust the seasoning as necessary and check if you're happy with the amount of filling you have in the wontons. I always do this when I'm making these or Filipino spring rolls. Even though I have to heat up the oil to do a test, it's completely worth it to me, because I don't want to invest all the time in making the wontons if they don't come out tasting great.

4) I used to shape these in the traditional wonton shape, but I now think the simpler, the better. The minimalist triangle shape is actually better for tasting the filling and makes for easier eating of the crispy edges.

5) Use beaten egg white to seal the edges. This is important when frying, because you want a good seal so they don't open.

6) When you seal the wonton, seal right next to the filling, pushing out any air bubbles. Air bubbles will make your wontons explode when frying, particularly if you are using the thinner wonton wrappers vs. the thicker eggroll wrappers (And I do mean eggroll wrappers vs. spring roll wrappers or rice paper wrappers ... I know, it's confusing.).

7) Freeze your wontons for an hour before frying. Unlike meat or veggie-filled wontons, these wontons have a tendency to explode in the oil because as the cream cheese melts, it releases moisture which turns into steam which then needs to find its way out. Freezing the wontons helps minimize this process. To be extra sure, use eggroll wrappers instead of the wonton skins because they are thicker and will hold up to the steam.

8) Get a deep fryer which is really convenient, whether you fry a lot or just once in awhile. We have a Delonghi deep fryer. It closes, so you don't have to worry about spatters and odors. It regulates the temperature, so you don't need a fry thermometer. The oil can stay in there and be used again (you'll know when you need to change it if there's an off odor or it's really dark in color), so you don't have to keep looking for a receptacle to store the oil you just used in a pan.

6 oz.-8 oz. jumpo lump crabmeat (fresh preferable (the cheaper claw meat is fine too), but canned, or artificial crab can be substituted)
8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 tsp. soy sauce
A shot of worcestershire sauce or patis (fish sauce)
A shot of tabasco or a sprinkling of cayenne pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice (to taste)
Salt and pepper
1 egg white, beaten

Wonton wrapper package(about 50) or eggroll wrappers (these are bigger in size so when you use them, you have to cut them in 4 smaller squares)

Combine ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Open wonton package and cover it with a damp paper towel so the wontons don't dry out. If you're using egg roll wrappers, cut them horizontally across the middle and vertically down the middle, being as accurate as possible, to make four smaller squares. I usually take a stack of them, fold the top one in half to get a light crease, and then use a knife to cut through the stack along the crease. The stack should be big enough that you can be efficient, but not so big that some of wonton sheets will slide when the knife goes through and creates some wonton sheets that are unevenly cut. Cover with a damp paper towel.

Take a wonton skin and put it on your board. Brush edges with beaten egg white. Put about a teaspoon of filling in the center of the dough. Fold over wonton, so that it looks like a triangle, lining up the edges. Starting from the filling, press the wonton skin together and out toward the egdes, sealing and pushing out any air bubbles while you do this. Set wonton on a non-stick tray (I use a Silpat or non-stick aluminum foil to make sure the wontons don't stick to the tray) and repeat until done. Do not overstuff, as wontons will open during cooking.

Cover wonton-filled tray(s) with saran wrap and put in the freezer for an hour. If you're planning to keep them frozen and use at a later date, put them in a plastic zip-top freezer bag after they've been flash-frozen on the trays.

Deep fry at 370 degrees until golden brown (a couple minutes). You'll likely have to turn the wontons over for them to cook evenly. If a wonton starts leaking, turn over the wonton immediately and let it finish cooking with the hole on top.


Culinary Cory said...

Your photos look AWESOME! I love how perfectly golden they are. Thanks so much for the tips. I'm going to have to try my hand at making these again. BTW: I twittered your recipe @culinarycory.

~Carole said...

Ninette, your blog is among my favorites. I've never had crab rangoon, but after reading your post, I'll have to try my hand at making it.

I appreciate the detailed tips, especially about the deep fryer. I can't stand odor like that. I'll have to look into the Delonghi one you mentioned.

Oh, and thanks for the taramind paste tip for pad thai on my blog. Don't know where to find it, but I'm going to look for it.

Carrie said...

I adore crab rangoon, but I've yet to make it at home. I'm going to save this post for when I do...so many great tips! Thank you!

Leela said...

Wow. Lots of great tips here, especially the one about freezing the wontons before frying. Thanks a lot. These look amazing. Brava, Ninette.

Ninette said...

Thanks, everyone, for your nice comments. I really appreciate it!

mary said...

These look delicious. Crab rangoon is one of my favorite appetizers.

Thanks for the dumpling press link, maybe I will give it another whirl.

Anonymous said...

I'm making crab rangoon today for my family for the first time and this is the most detailed and wonderful recipe that I've found. Thanks for the awesome tips!!

nilla cookie said...

I made a batch of these the other day that completely exploded in the frying oil. Thanks so much for the tips, I will try them next time for sure!

Aaron Michael said...

I made Crab Rangoon last night to go with my General Tso Chicken recipe I found online. (Which was fantabulous) I noticed that they swelled up a lot more than you see in the restaurants. Having worked at a fast food place for years, I immediately thought of freezing them, but wanted to check the interwebz to see if my suspicion was right.

Thank you for confirming. :-)

Great article.

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Anonymous said...

I tried earlier tonight to make crab rangoons and they kept exploding and I couldn't figure out why. Thank you so much for posting your blog and clearing it up!

e111 said...

looks good

Annie - Little Chief said...

Your photos look so delicious! I like how good they are. Thanks so much´) Your blog are fancy and I like you tips :D

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for the tips! Making any sort of dumpling is time consuming and messy. When you go to the trouble and the filling explodes, it's disappointing. I will definately use less filling, freeze them, and use a deep fryer. My filling was delicious, but I fried them in a wok, without a thermometer. What a mess. I talked to a lady at the Asian market, and she said Asian people never use thick eggroll wrappers found in American groceries because they absorb too much oil. She said to use the thinner ones for crispy wontons. I added a few extras- 1 green onion(white part only),1 tsp finely chopped red onion, and 1/2 T powdered sugar. I used an even ratio cream cheese to crab meat, but next time I will add a little more cream cheese so that they're a bit creamier.