Since my mother moved back to Shanghai a couple months back, I've found myself not only missing her (terribly) but reminiscing back to all the Chinese traditions that she's instilled in me over all these years. I almost feel less Chinese without her -- no more ancient Chinese medicines, no more meditation practices, no one to speak Chinese to, no one yelling over my shoulder "AIYA JOY put that back, why you always buy buy buy?? SAVE MONEY!" It feels weird to not have my mother completely accesible -- I'll pick up the phone to call her with a question only to realize she's 13 hours ahead of me.
I miss her. I miss laughing loudly with her, Collin would constantly complain about us making his ears ring but we couldn't help it -- we have way too much fun together. I miss going to the asian markets with her, it's been a tradition since as young as I could remember. My mother worked a lot and the little free time she did have she spent coooking for us. Every Sunday for 13 years I followed her to the market where we'd do our shopping for the week and she'd always let me get a little snack as a treat for tagging along :). I miss eating her food, I realize maybe I don't make Chinese food as much as I should because it just doesn't taste quite like Mom's. It's just not the same.
My nostalgia left me feeling a little empty and found myself craving for some type of comfort. I called my mom and told her --
"Mom not having you here makes me sad, it also makes my tummy sad."
"I miss you Joy! Why your tummy sad? You get fat?"
"...NO (yes)! Mom that's not the point, I wish you were here to make me food."
"OOOH fancy girl! Become milloinaire and mommy move back to cook for you."
"You better watch out mom, I'm already half way there..."
" Why you no make wonton? You make you freeze you eat whenever you want!"
But of course, WONTONS what could be more soul comforting that that? It's like getting a big warm hug without my mom even being here! Best part is, everytime I make these they do taste just like mom's! I'd remember during the holidays my mom, aunts and cousins and I would gather around the table making wontons. We'd set up an assembly line almost, I'd be in charge of taking the wonton peels apart, my aunt would divide up the filling and my cousin would fold the wontons and my mom would cook them up. Best part is, any wontons we didn't eat my mom would freeze and then portion out into individual bags for later use.
Ingredients for My Mother's Wonton Soup: (makes 48-54 wontons)
Wash the shrimp, squeeze out the excess moisture and chop coarsely. Mix together with the ground pork, egg white, cornstarch, sesame oil, salt, sugar, rice wine and ginger. Take your wonton wrappers and wrap them in a moist towel, this keeps the wrappers from drying out. Wrap one teaspoon filling in each wonton wrapper. You can fold them as the way I've shown or just gather and twist the edges together to form a little purse.
Bring the chicken stock and salt and white pepper to a boil and pour into a soup bowl. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and drop in the wontons. Cook until the wontons rise to the top, about 5 minutes. Remove the wontons from the water and place in the prepared chicken broth. Top with scallions, cilantro and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve immediately.
***** A trick my mom would always use to adjust the flavorings for the filling is she would make a wonton and cook and taste it first. That way you're able to adjust the flavorings according to your taste (i.e. add more salt to the filling or more sugar or more wine).
***** My mom use to steam the wontons and then place them in the broth. This keeps the wontons from falling apart and becoming over cooked. If you choose to steam the wontons you can use a bamboo steamer (as pictured) and steam for 10 minutes on high heat. You can also eat the wontons plain without the broth and serve them alongside a dipping sauce.
***** also note the orange slices serve no purpose in the broth except for a nice garnish and color contrast, do feel free to leave that out.
So as I promised awhile ago I'd share some pictures of my mom that I took before she left. Thankfully she's not able to see my blog in China because she specifically told me "Do not put my old face on your website, who wants to see an old lady?" That's where I think she's wrong. My mom is in her mid 50s and she looks anything BUT old -- I can only HOPE that by the time I reach her age I look as good as she does.
Please note that I did not use any blurring or retouching of her face because I wanted everyone to observe the quality of her complexion. Her secret? Well where do I start....she has never tanned once in her life, she's never eaten fast food for the 25 years shes lived here (aside from the occasional ice cream cone from McDonald's), her daily diet usually consists of boiled vegetables, very little meat and virtually no salt. She never wore makeup, only lipstick and a little brow pencil, never a smoker or a drinker, and she always has a glass of warm lemon water first thing in the morning.
When we go out, people always ask "Are you guys sisters?" Now while my mom is soaking it up and giggling like a little school girl, I'm standing in the back looking extremely unamused. "NO WE'RE NOT SISTERS." I'd reply with a scowl. But with all jokes aside, I worry sometimes. I worry that despite having her genes once you factor in all the environmental effects I've done on my skin, maybe I won't look as radiant and beautiful as mother when I'm in my 50s. She always tells me though "The secret is prevention. Always protect yourself when you're still young." Good advice from a wise wise woman.
I love you mom and miss you everyday, and though this wonton soup doesn't completely make up your absence it does help bring comfort to my belly and soul. I can't wait to see you next year and no matter how old you become you will always be the most beautiful woman in my eyes. I hope you guys enjoy this recipe as it holds a very special place in my heart and plus its a Shanghainese recipe so therefore you know it's freakin bad ass. ^_^ ENJOY!