So crab Rangoon has little to do with Asia itself but many of you have an affinity for the crispy deep-fried wontons filled with cream cheese. Your comments here and on Facebook made me think that yeah – crab Rangoon deserves to be in the pantheon of Asian dumplings. The thing is that most of what we’ve tasted inside the Chinese restaurant version of these wontons is cream cheese. As a lactose-intolerant Asian, I’m disappointed by such a fried morsel. Where’s the crabbiness? There’s not even fake Krab!
The world is full of tasty dumplings to eat so I don’t like to waste time or calories on bad ones. If there’s a carb overload to be had, let’s make it really worth it, especially when deep-frying is involved. So here’s my crab Rangoon recipe. If you contrast it to the original recipe in the Trader Vic’s Pacific Island Cookbook, you’ll notice that my crab Rangoon recipe contains more crab. Trader Vic’s opted for a 1:1 ratio of cream cheese to crab meat. Let’s not fool around. We’ve been missing the crab for too many decades. Get good crab meat – the kind you’d use in crab salad or crab cakes.
Also, I’m a sucker for black pepper with crab so there’s a nice amount in there, and fresh scallion too. But to keep the mid-century flavor, I opted to use garlic powder. I was out of A-1 sauce and found a worthy – if not better—substitute in Japanese Tonkatsu sauce, which I had around from making the Japanese takoyaki dumplings (octopus balls). You could use a drop of Worcestershire or black vinegar too.
I was skeptical for a brief moment after I fished the fried crab Rangoon from the hot oil. But while I fried, my husband mixed a tropical cocktail. We snacked and sipped and realized that the tiki-bar canape and cocktail were a splendid hybrid of America and Asia.
Makes 36 wontons, enough for 6 as a snack
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese or Tofutti cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ pound crab meat
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion, white and green parts
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon A-1, Tonkatsu, or Worcestershire sauce
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
36 wonton skins, homemade or purchased (see wonton skins buying tips, if needed)
Canola oil, for deep frying
1 cup Sweet and Sour Sauce (Asian Dumplings, “Basics Chapter”), or purchased plum sauce
1. To make the filling, in a bowl, combine the cream cheese, crab meat, scallion, black pepper, A-1, and garlic powder. Use a fork to mix well. Taste and add salt, as needed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes before using, or refrigerate up to a day in advance. Makes about 3/4 cup.
2. Fill each wonton skin with about 1 teaspoon of the filling, creating triangles, flower buds, or nurse’s caps (the shape I used here). As you work, put the finished wontons on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with cornstarch.
When done, loosely cover with a dishtowel to prevent drying. The wontons can also be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours; let them sit at room temperature to remove the chill before frying.
3. Put a wire rack on a baking sheet and place next to the stove. Pour oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches into a wok, deep skillet, or 5-quart Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat to about 325F on a deep-fry thermometer.
4. Working in batches of 4 to 6, slide the wontons into the hot oil and fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Use a skimmer to transfer to the rack to drain.
5. Arrange the wontons on a platter and serve hot as finger food along with the sauce for dipping.
See Asian Dumplings for classic wonton recipes. On this site, there are a couple modern recipes that creatively use wonton skins:
How about a Rangoon ruby cocktail with crab Rangoon? They’re perfect together.