Jacklyn Salgado likes being creative in the kitchen, and she especially enjoys fusing cuisines from around the globe.
When a friend asked the Bellevue resident to make some snacks for a birthday party, she took inspiration from two of her favorite cuisines — Mexican and Asian — and whipped up a batch of crispy fried wontons stuffed with chorizo and goat cheese.
Typically used for dumplings, crab rangoon and other Asian goodies, wonton wrappers proved to be the perfect crunchy vessel for the spicy, savory filling, she said.
Salgado is among the home cooks, chefs and others who use wonton wrappers to make bite-sized nibbles, entrees and even desserts. The wrappers are simple to use and inexpensive. Plus, you can customize them in countless ways.
On food blogs, online recipe sites and Pinterest, a pinboard-style photo-sharing website, you’ll find dozens of recipes showcasing the versatility of wonton wrappers in such dishes as taco cupcakes, chicken pot pie bundles, pizza bites and jalapeno popper puffs.
Wonton wrappers, also called wonton skins or wraps, are ready-to-use squares (about 4 x 4 inches) of a thin dough made from flour, eggs, water and salt. You can find them near the tofu in the refrigerated section of most supermarkets.
Since they have a neutral flavor, they work well with both sweet and savory fillings and toppings. You can use them with meat, seafood, herbs, vegetables, fruit, cheese, jam, nut butters and chocolate.
They’re easily folded and pinched into shape, and they can be prepared a variety of ways: baked, boiled, fried and steamed, among other cooking methods. Depending on the ingredients you use to fill them, they can take on a Spanish, Greek, Asian, French, Indian or Italian flair.
“You can do so much with them,” Salgado said. “You can put whatever you want in there.”
To use them as tart shells and pie crusts or for mini quiches, line the cups of a muffin pan with wonton wrappers and bake until golden and crispy. Layer a few baked or fried wonton wrappers with a custard or cream filling to create a stacked Napoleon-style dessert. Cut wrappers into triangles or strips, toss with oil and whatever seasonings you like, then bake or fry them to use as crackers for dips and spreads.
When Salgado needs to use up leftover wrappers, she turns them into a crunchy base for ice cream. After frying the wrappers, she coats them in sugar and cinnamon, puts a scoop of ice cream on top, then drizzles the dessert with honey, caramel or chocolate sauce.
Since they’re similar to sheets of pasta, wonton wrappers are a convenient shortcut for making ravioli and lasagna, said Steve Bell, a chef instructor at Metropolitan Community College’s Institute for the Culinary Arts.
“The great thing about the wonton wrap is the versatility,” he said. “It’s a great vehicle for culinary creativity.”
For an easy yet elegant presentation for tuna tartare, Bell makes crispy serving bowls out of wonton wrappers. He tucks a wrapper inside a metal ladle, fits another ladle on top to hold the wrapper in place, then immerses it in hot oil for a minute or two.
“When it’s done frying you have a nice little cup,” he said.
For a kid-friendly treat, Bell makes peanut butter and jelly wontons for his nephew. He freezes the filling for a few minutes until slightly firm, places a spoonful of the mixture in the center of each wrapper, wets the edges with water, presses to seal, then pan-fries them in butter until golden brown.
The wrappers also work well for an easy take on apple pie, he said. For the filling, combine thinly sliced apples, butter, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar. Trim the corners of the wrapper to make a circle, add a spoonful of filling, fold it in half for a half-moon shape and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Once assembled, the treats can be fried or baked. If you bake them, brush the outside with egg wash or butter.
Nasoya, a food company that has produced wonton wrappers for more than a decade, has seen a steady increase in sales over the years as consumers find new ways to use them, said Brad Lahrman, brand manager for the Ayer, Mass.-based Vitasoy USA, Nasoya’s parent company.
Due in part to the growing popularity of TV shows, websites and blogs devoted to food and cooking, more people are curious about creating new things in their kitchen, Lahrman said, and they’re interested in using different food products, including wonton wrappers.
Their small size makes them ideal for appetizers, finger food and bite-sized party snacks, he said. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, he added, his company typically sees a spike in wrapper sales.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re working with wonton wrappers. Store them in the refrigerator, but let them come to room temperature so they’re easier to handle. When assembling, keep wrappers from drying out by covering them with plastic wrap or a slightly damp towel. Make sure the edges are well-sealed to keep the filling inside during cooking.
“They’re pretty resilient and easy to work with,” Bell said. “Your job is to make the filling nice and flavorful and delicious.”