Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter Soups (and celebrations!): Wonton Soup and Chinese New Year

I instantly liked Ashley Riherd when I met her at a group playdate. She loves her family. She loves parties. She blogs about both at The Riherds (eating Cheetos) Even though we've only met in person a handful of times, her presence in my life has been a blessing.  

Families are created in a variety of ways. Ashley's family of three knew another member of their family was in the world somewhere.  I read with tears of joy and pain as she honestly and bravely documented their adoption journey to their youngest daughter. She captures the emotions of a woman waiting for her child. Her faith and heart kept me returning to the blog for more. For a few glimpses of their story, follow these "adoption" links.  

Ashley joins us today for our winter blog series, and I'm so excited. She came with lots of recipes and ideas. Most of all, I'm thrilled to introduce more people to her and her blog. They're both definitely worth your time.

Ni Hao!
Did you know that Friday is Chinese New Year?
Well, to be honest, I probably wouldn't either if it weren't for this precious, silly munchkin.
My husband and I adopted our youngest daughter from China one year ago.
There are no words for the instant your child is placed in your arms for the first time.
There is this overwhelming sense that God planned this moment from the beginning of time.
Realizing that He is so big, yet so intricately personal.

Now before I get all mushy like a bowl of leftover lo mein, let's get to the main reason I'm guest posting:


In honor of Chinese New Year, please allow me to share with you a simple Wonton Soup recipe.

My family is currently living in Cleveland with about 10 inches of snow on the ground and a wind chill of -17. This soup is like a Chinese version of chicken noodle soup, which is especially delicious when trudging through the winter blues.

Also, before diving into the recipe, I understand that Chinese take-out is typically very affordable, which makes it tempting to just call it in rather than dirty up your own kitchen. But I've discovered it's fun to give things a try yourself every now and then. I'll also admit there is a wonderfully strong sense of pride and accomplishment when you make 30 cute, little wontons. I hope you'll give this recipe a try...


Serves 6-8

6 oz ground pork
1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP Chinese rice wine
2 teaspoons finely chopped scallion
pinch of sugar
pinch of white pepper
dash of sesame oil
30 square wonton wrappers

8 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 TBSP finely chopped scallion

(FYI: Wonton Wraps can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores, and you can find the other Chinese ingredients in the Asian section.)

1. For the wonton filling, mix together the pork, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, scallion, sugar, pepper, and sesame oil. Stir well. Set aside for about 20 minutes.

2. To make the wontons, place a teaspoon of the filling at the center of a wrapper. Fold the wonton in half and bring the opposite points toward each other and press the edges together with a little dab of warm water, creating a flowerlike shape. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. If you are a visual person (like me) click here to see a video on how to wrap the wontons.
3. To make the soup, bring the stock to a boil and add the salt and pepper. Boil the wontons in the stock for about 5 minutes, or until the wrappers begin to wrinkle around the filling.

4. To serve, put the scallions in individual bowls, then spoon in the wontons and soup.


A kid-friendly option for a side to your Wonton Soup -- Sushi Sandwiches!
Just take whatever you have on hand, roll it up, slice it, and hi-yah! your kiddos will think it's so cool!
Add some chopsticks (mine love these training ones) and really make it exciting.
(Sushi is actually Japanese, but I won't say anything if you don't...)
(photos from Pinterest)

Now, if you want a little more of a "grown-up" side dish to go along with your soup, let me recommend this recipe from my Bee Yinn Low's cookbook: Easy Chinese Recipes. You'll never have to go to PF Changs again. Well, unless you want a slice of their Great Wall of Chocolate. But I digress...


3 dried shiitake mushrooms
8 oz. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, ground
3 fresh water chestnuts, chopped finely
2 Tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed
1 heaping Tablespoon chopped green onion (scallion)

1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce
1/4 dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine or sherry
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 dashes white pepper

Spicy Hoisin Dipping Sauce:
4 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili sauce or to taste
1 Tablespoon warm water

1. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water in a small bowl until they become soft. Squeeze the mushrooms dry with your hand, discard the stems, cut and dice the mushrooms into tiny pieces.
2. Combine the ground chicken meat, mushrooms, and water chestnuts with all the Seasoning ingredients. Marinate for 15 minutes.
3. Mix all the Spicy Hoisin Dipping Sauce ingredients in a small saucer or bowl. Set aside.
4. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and then stir-fry to light brown before adding the ground chicken.
5. Using the spatula, stir the chicken continuously to loosen and break up the lumps. Continue to stir-fry until the chicken is cooked. Dish out and set aside.
6. Peel off each lettuce leaf from the iceburg lettuce carefully. Do not break the leaves.
7. Scoop two heaping tablespoons of the chicken and place it in the middle of the lettuce leaf. Wrap it up and dip the lettuce wrap in the Spicy Hoisin Dipping Sauce before eating. Garnish with green onion (scallion).

Now for dessert, I recently discovered this tasty treat:
Click here to get this simply delicious recipe.

Another kid favorite:
I actually made these last year for Valentine hand-outs for my oldest daughter's friends.
They were a hit and super easy to make.


Now let me be the first to say our family knows a tad bit more (or maybe not) than a Google search of "Chinese New Year traditions", but we're learning. The Chinese culture will always be a part of our family's fabric now, so we will continue to strive to learn all we can. Of course there are times I am sure we are doing everything wrong, but we have good intentions so that counts for something, right?

To give you a just a few basic tidbits about Chinese New Year, in case you're interested...

The Chinese New Year actually starts with a large meal on the Eve of the New Year. 
It just so happened that we had family visiting over this past weekend, so we decided to have our Chinese New Year's Eve meal a tad bit early. (Which worked out perfectly to feature this post!)

Chinese New Year is a two week celebration, which concludes with a lantern festival on the last day.
The main color during the entire two weeks is RED.

Oranges / tangerines are common gifts as well as red envelopes filled with money and/or chocolates and given to children.
Fireworks are lit at midnight to start the two week celebration and often set off on the final day of the lantern festival.
There are also elaborate dragon costumes and dances performed during the New Year.
Check around your local area to see if there are any events or activities planned. 
Many local libraries tend to have some scheduled events that would be fun for the whole family.

Now, before I go, one last thing...

Gung Hay Fat Choy!


  1. Once again, a recipe I must try...tonight. Loved "meeting" Ashley and enjoyed her beautiful story and pictures.

    1. If you haven't checked out the rest of her blog, please do, Dee Dee. I know you will like it. Let me know how your soup turns out!

  2. What a delight to meet you and your girls, Ashley - and for all the great recipes. The wonton soup will be my first try - followed by banana nutella eggrolls! Thanks, Brandi, for the intro!

    1. My pleasure, Shel. :) Those banana nutella egg rolls look divine. I think if I smelled them it might send me over the moon.

  3. It all looks wonderful--food and family! I seriously swooned when I saw the banana nutella eggrolls.

    1. I understand. I'm just imagining the salty goodness of the soup with the banana nutella combo. Oh my. Yummy.