Recipe 33: Twisted Walnut Date Crisps

The idea of using Wonton wrappers as a dessert is likely a North American phenomenon. To most Chinese the idea of their beloved savory being turned into a deep fried sweet item is somewhat blasphemous but, after spending almost 20 years of my life in the Chinese community I can safety say, I know many who have enjoyed this dessert. These crispy bites are a perfect hors d’œuvre (appetizer) or a yummy snack. Made with store bought wonton wrappers they are easy to make. Holiday season often has us looking for something outside of shortbread cookies and eggnog to serve our guests that will have mass appeal. I haven’t found one person in the last 20 years that hasn’t at the very least LIKED these morsels of crispiness. I have created many different treats over the years with wonton wrappers and continue to experiment with them. Deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar they are great along side ice cream or served with a fruit compote dipping sauce or cut into thin strips and deep fried they add crunch to a salad. The Chinese were definitely onto something when they invented these little jewels and while I love the traditional savory wonton there are just So many ways to use wonton wrappers the ideas are endless.

Wonton originated in Northern China. Handmade, they were once a sealed stuffed bun (much like a dumpling) without holes called “Huidun” meaning chaos. The food later became known as “wonton” in line with the formation rule of Chinese characters.

During the Tang Dynasty confusion with the use of the term Wonton was finally separated. The Wonton wrapper was now it’s own entity made from a delicate flour product, which is transparent after being cooked. The filling of  a wonton is usually pork, shrimp, vegetables, shallot and ginger. Today there are many types of  wonton such as Sichuan hot & spicy, Wuxi Sanxian (stuffed with pork, dried shrimps, and preserved pickle), Guangdong wonton noodle, Hong Kong fried wonton and Shanghai small pork wonton.

Throughout the Tang and Song Dynasties numerous wonton restaurants could be found in the larger cities. In ancient times, it was a custom in some regions to eat wontons during the cold winter months, which may have had a connection to a famous doctor – Zhang Zhongjing. To help cure villagers who had suffered frostbite he would stuff wontons with medicinal ingredients. Information relating to wontons as a medicinal dish was also recorded in the Compendium of Materia Medica.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

20 to 30 pitted dried dates
3/4 cup walnuts
2 tblsp brown sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon
30 wonton wrappers
1 egg, beaten
oil for deep frying
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

In a food processor or by hand roughly chop dates and walnuts. Add sugar and cinnamon, mix well. Lay one wonton wrapper flat and centre a small spoonful of mixture. Brush edges with egg mixture and place second wrapper on top. Lightly press edges to seal.  Gently twist opposite ends to form a slight bend in wrapper.  Place onto wax peper and repeat until all wrappers have been used. Heat oil to 350 F and deep fry a few at a time until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towel to drain. Serve warm with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

FOOTNOTE: Wonton wrappers can be used with many other ingredients. Try inventing your own variations of sweet fillings and see what you come up with. One suggestion is to make sure fillings are not overly runny or moist. Ice cream does work, but , you have to be fast and cook only one at a time.

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