It all started with three dollars.
‘Twas the night before payday,
and all through the place,
not a crumb of food lurked,
no way to stuff my misfit face.
So after taking inventory of the kitchen (organic cocoa, Kashi cereal, spices, 8-10 edamame pods…seriously?), Bad Mama Genny and The Boy set off in search of dinner with nothing but hope and three dollars.
That’s right, misfits, we were, how you say, “living on a prayer.”
After considering the familiar options (one and a half tacos from the taco truck, or perhaps a bottle of malt liquor and a package of expired fried plantains from the “grocery/deli” that actually offers zero deli meat), we decided to venture into the unknown, to take a risk and hang our hopes upon a star!
A red star, to be exact. Chinatown, bitches.
No, no, not the ridiculous, touristy Chinatown in Manhattan, where frightening old Asian ladies lurk around every corner, ready to offer you an imitation Coach bag at half the price of a real one. I’m talking Flushing–the more authentic, cheaper, and arguably better Chinatown. There is a bus that will take you back and forth between Chinatowns–I imagine you could ride it all day if you wanted, enjoying loop after endless loop of Chino-trippy overstimulation…but I don’t want, so I won’t, but you misfits should tell me if you ever do it yourselves!
But I digress.
Dinner was found that night, my fellow underpaid, underfed, city lurking misfits…with CHANGE TO MOTHERFUCKING SPARE WHAT WHAT!!
A steamed bun, as big as two fists, stuffed with pork and vegetables, endowed with glutenous joy that is at once both fluffy and chewy, and ONLY SIXTY CENTS! For those of you who might wish to recreate this experience, try the dumpling shop under the LIRR tracks, on 41st Ave, at the corner of Main St., across from Starbucks. The Boy and I hurriedly collected several buns from the bun-lady, ran back to the car, and savored every last cent-worth of our dinner in the warm car as we watched screaming feral cats and passerby scurry about in the freezing air. Then we joined them.
The passerby, not the cats. Next time.
The hours that followed took us on a journey down Main St., bopping in and out of bakeries, observing, though not purchasing, other items for sale ($0.95 for a chocolate nut pastry? Who do they think we are, like, people who just got paid? Chya!), and checking out the booths set up by anti-Communist groups hoping to find converts to their cause.
As we walked by each booth, I took care to wear the face of one who was interested in and approving of the message, but who had coincidentally already been converted by the last guy.
When The Boy and I were finally ready to end our adventure and scurry home (edamame cocoa, anyone?), we were chilled to the bone, rosy-cheeked, and busting with the sense of having discovered some secret place–sort of like The Secret Garden, but with concrete instead of a garden, and you visit a bun-lady instead of a sickly handicapped boy, and to get into the garden–I mean bun shop–you need sixty cents instead of a special key…also, there are Communists instead of British people. So not at all like The Secret Garden. Whatever, clearly, my point is that I was inspired me to make wonton soup. Clearly.
Makes a metric shit-ton
1 lb. ground beef (or pork or chicken or whatnot)
approximately 60 wonton wrappers
1 gallon flavorful stock (I had some homemade lamb stock in the freezer)
4 large carrots
4 stalks celery
6 scallions (green onions)
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage (or bok choy, or brussels sprouts…get crafty)
salt and pepper
tamari or soy sauce, to taste
Finely chop 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 3 scallions, and the garlic, and mix it with the beef, egg, and some salt and pepper. Combine the mixture thoroughly (your hands work well for this).
Lay out a wonton wrapper and place a scant tablespoon of filling in the center (be careful not to overfill, or the wontons will explode in the broth). Use your finger to moisten all four sides with water and place another wonton on top, squeezing the edges shut to seal them, and working any air bubbles out, if you can. Repeat with remaining meat mixture until you run out.
Set the stock over medium heat and cover it. Slice the remaining carrots, celery, and green onions. When the stock has begun to boil, add the carrots, celery, and shredded brussels sprouts to the stock and turn the heat down to a simmer. Then, using a slotted spoon, gently lower the wonton one or two at a time into the broth.
Let the wontons simmer in the broth over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally (gently) to keep them from sticking together while they cook. After about 15 minutes, or when the meat mixture appears dark through the wonton, take one out and cut it open. When done, the meat will have no traces of pink and the vegetables will be crisp-tender. At this point, turn off the heat and stir in the sliced green onions. Serve with a splash of tamari or soy sauce stirred into each bowl. Enjoy!