Our version the fried won ton dessert is a testament to the fact that sleepless nights sometimes do have their uses. We spent several days trying to come up with novel ideas for sweet won tons, and had some promising thoughts (pineapple was a recurring theme, with either mint or a little jalapeno pepper) – however, it didn’t quite have the novelty and Vietnamese influence that we were seeking. Then, at about 3am one morning, The Monkey remembered that when he eats at one of our favorite local Vietnamese places he often orders the plum soda: salted plums mashed up with a little sugar and topped with soda water. So, why not make some sweet and salty plum won tons?
We found some sugar plums at our local Farmers’ market – apparently the last week they would be available, so we were lucky with the timing of this challenge! Here is the recipe:
Sweet and Salty Plum Wontons
1 lb sugar plums (about 16)
1 tablespoons kosher salt
2 oz granulated sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
¼ - ½ tsp Li hing powder* or other spice(s) (optional)
Thin, square won ton wrappers
*Li hing is a sweet-and-sour tasting powder flavored with plums; it’s used among other things for making salted plum candies (li hing mui) and is particularly popular in Hawaii. (We obtained ours from a local Hawaiian store; I expect it can also be mail ordered)
Wash and de-stone the plums, cutting them into quarters, and spread out in a non-reactive baking dish or tray. Mix together the salt and sugar, and sprinkle liberally over the plums, tossing to coat them. Roast the plums ar 325F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, shuffling occasionally; they should get soft but not brown or caramelized. Remove to a chopping board, add a squeeze of lemon juice and roughly chop until they form a chunky paste. At this stage you can add the optional li hing powder; I think other spices might be nice too, such as cinnamon, clove, star anise or five spice powder.
We chose to make them into candy roll shapes (caramella in Italian?). To assemble these, place the wonton wrapper on a clean surface and put about 1 tsp filling in the middle, in a roughly cylindrical blob with about ½” at either side. Roll the wonton so that it forms a cylinder; moistening the un-rolled edge before you complete the cylinder so that it sticks together. Crimp the ends with your fingers, twisting slightly to make a wrapped candy shape. You’ll probably end up with about 16-18 wontons, depending on how generous you are with the filling.
To fry the wontons, heat 1-2 inches of oil in a thick-bottomed pan until it reaches 350F. Lower the heat and test with a small piece of wonton wrapper; it should sizzle and stat to turn brown in 15-20 seconds. Carefully drop the prepared wontons in the hot oil in small batches (no more than 3 at a time) and flip them around occasionally so that they get evenly browned – this should take about 20 seconds. Remove to a plate covered in kitchen paper and drain off any excess oil.
In keeping with the Vietnamese theme, we served the wontons with some lemongrass-scented crème anglaise.
Lemongrass-scented Crème Anglaise
1 cup whole milk
1 egg yolk
4 oz granulated sugar
1 stalk lemongrass
Chop the lemongrass into small pieces, a bit larger than grains of couscous. Heat the milk in a saucepan until almost boiling, then remove from the heat and stir in the lemongrass. Leave to cool; it’s OK if it’s still a bit warm when you add it in the next step below. In a separate saucepan, cream together the egg yolk and sugar until pale and smooth-looking. Put the egg and sugar pan over low heat and gradually add the milk through a strainer (to remove the lemongrass), stirring well with a wooden spoon. Bring almost to the boil and keep stirring. Don’t panic! It will seem like it’s going to be way too runny, but after a few minutes the custard will thicken so that it forms a viscous coat on the back of your spoon.
Arrange the wontons around a little pool of the lemongrass-scented crème anglaise and sprinkle with a dusting of li hing powder (or one of the other spices suggested for the filling). Delicious, if we say so ourselves!