I have to admit I am a little burnt out on Jewish food after the hefty string of Hanukkah posts so I though I would cure that with a little bit o’ trayfe for Christmas. I also thought, what better way to do that than to simultaneously reinforce the stereotype of Jews eating Chinese food for Christmas. Like most stereotypes this one is based in some truth, being that in the past, Chinese immigrants often didn’t celebrate Christmas either and Chinese restaurants would be open on the holiday. These days, especially in the Bay Area, people are significantly more integrated (and inter-married, for that matter) and the majority of Jewish and Chinese-American families have some sort of celebration to attend with family or friends on Christmas, but I still know of some Jewish families who hold on to the tradition of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas. I still had some wonton wrapper in my freezer heading toward freezer burn that were leftover from making Aushak, the Bay Area is smack in the middle of dungeness crab season, and I really didn’t get in enough frying over Hanukkah so I decided to make some crab cheese wontons for my Chinese food for Christmas edition.
Crab Cheese Wontons or Crab Rangoon has it origins in Oakland, and originally appeared as an appetizer at Trader Vic’s (now in Emeryville), in 1957. I, on the other hand, developed an affinity for them after spending countless nights as a teenage hanging out, after hours, at Hunan Chef Wong (now The Hunan Chef) in Pleasanton. A friend of mine from high school’s family owned the restaurant, so he usually worked until closing there and I was waiting table at a pasta place in town and would usually drive past on my way home after my shift to see if he was still there. This was a pattern for a number of people and on any given weekend night there would be anywhere from 4-20 people hanging out, drinking beer and playing cards or dominoes. At some point, due to the various substances consumed, we would get the munchies. Sometimes we would just wander over to the 7-11 or Jack-in-the-box for snacks, but on occasion we could convince my friend would cook for us. This restaurant was not only a fun place to hang, but they actually have really good Chinese food and if we were really lucky he would make us our favorite… crab cheese wontons. I have never been able to recreate his recipe (mostly because he would never tell me what it was), but even the passable facsimile I make conjures up warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia. My friend still owns the place, although I haven’t been there since I moved from Pleasanton. From the website it looks like they remodeled and I immediately thought of the night a bunch of us created a bizarro time-capsule out of a recently emptied Patron tequila bottle and hid it under one of booth seats. I imagine it was found by a very confused contractor.
recipe after the break
Crab Cheese Wontons
- 6oz of crab or imitation crab in small chunks
- 4 oz (half a package) of cream cheese
- 2 green onions chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 Tbs soy sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 20 wonton wrappers
- oil for frying
- In a bowl mix together crab, cream cheese, onion, garlic, soy sauce, salt and pepper.
- Lay out your wonton wrappers and place about a teaspoon of the filling the the middle of each.
- Dip your finger in some water and dampen the edge of the wonton wrapper. Pinch the edges together to seal and try to get most of the air out in the proceess.
- Heat your oil to about 350°F. Fry the wontons until golden brown. Be careful not to do too many at a time because they are done in about 30 seconds.
- Place on paper towels or a wire rack to cool and serve with soy or sweet and sour sauce.