Why It Works
- While actual crab is not the primary focus of crab rangoon, either imitation crab or the real stuff adds necessary flavor.
- The best shape for crab rangoon is a four-pointed star: It concentrates the filling and maximizes surface area for more crunch.
I asked the folks over on my Facebook Page what their favorite Chinese restaurant appetizer is. I was expecting dumplings, spring rolls, perhaps hot and sour soup. What I got instead was a deluge of crab rangoon, with more than twice as many votes as any other dish.
The people have spoken, so I shall deliver.
Crisp, bubbly wonton wrappers with a molten center of oozy, tangy cream cheese lightly scented with scallions and a vague hint of crab. Who can argue with that?
Crab vs. Krab
This, of course, raises the question: Do you even need to use crab in there? And what about real crab versus krab, a.k.a surimi the red-dyed sticks of ground and formed fish that resemble crab-flavored string cheese? I fried up a few batches, one made with real crab, one made with fake krab, and one with no crab at all to gauge the difference.
Certainly, no crab was not the way to go. I mean, they were tasty and all, but it turns out that crab, even artificial crab, adds an essential flavor to the crispy puffs. A little salty, and a little briny. As far as real vs. fake, it's a toss-up. The real crab had a much more distinctly "fishy" flavor which might turn some people off. The krab was a lot less assertive: One of my party guests is a hardcore no-fish eater, but even he didn't mind the flavor of the fake stuff.
The only other question is shape. Simple folded triangles are the easiest to form, but they have a tendency to puff up like a balloon and blow out as they fry, spewing hot crab into the oil and causing it to bubble, pop, and probably burn your arms (or worse, if you, like me, enjoy frying topless). You can also fold and twist them into little tortellini or bunch them up into little purses. But the king of shapes, the crab rangoon ne plus ultra, is the four-pointed star. Not only does it bunch up all the filling into an easily burst-able sphere, it also maximizes surface area on the skin, giving you more crunch per wonton.
For the Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons red chile flakes (more or less to taste, see note)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks or canned chunks, drained
For the Crab Rangoon
8 ounces softened cream cheese
6 ounces picked crab meat (or surimi, cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
6 scallions, whites only, finely sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 pack square wonton wrappers (preferably yellow), about 40-50 pieces
2 quarts peanut oil
Combine vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, chile flakes, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking to combine until sugar is dissolved. Combine remaining tablespoon water and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk with a fork to form a slurry. Whisk into sauce and bring to a boil. Allow to cool while you form the crab rangoon.
Combine cream cheese, crab, and scallions in a medium bowl and fold with a spatula. Lay one wonton wrapper out on a cutting board (keep the rest under plastic wrap or a damp towel) and place a small amount of filling in the center (about 1 1/2 teaspoons). Moisten the edges with a wet fingertip, then seal by either folding it in half in a triangular shape, or by pushing the four edges in towards the center to create a four-pointed star. Be careful not to allow any air to remain inside as you seal them. Transfer to a large plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and repeat until all of the filling is used.
To finish the sauce, add pineapple chunks and puree with an immersion blender or by transferring to a standing blender.
Heat oil in a wok or Dutch oven to 375°F (190°C) as registered on an instant read thermometer. Carefully add 10 to 12 wontons to the oil. Cook, adjusting flame to maintain temperature and agitating and flipping them constantly with a wire mesh spider until crisp and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain, season with salt, and serve immediately with sweet and sour sauce.
Crab rangoons can be frozen after step 2. Space them out on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen, then transfer to a zipper-lock bag. They'll keep for up to three months. The two teaspoons of chile flakes in this sauce will make it moderately spicy. You can adjust the heat level to your taste (or omit it entirely).
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 26g||34%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||41%|
|Total Carbohydrate 41g||15%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 18g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||21%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|