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A healthy take on the ‘crab rangoon’

Alice Choi

These baked veggie wontons are so quick and versatile that you’ll never have to scramble for a vegetarian party appetizer again. I even added cream cheese for a veggie-spin on crab Rangoon, because we all need a little rich and creamy in our lives every now and then, right?

Up until a couple of years ago I saved my intricate wonton-making for once a year — New Year’s Day — when I would make homemade wontons, or what we Koreans like to call mandu.

As a child, I watched my mother as she carefully and skillfully folded, shaped and formed about 200 of these in under an hour. She was a machine, and her wontons were so beautiful and perfect. I didn’t get that gene. I’ve never had the patience or dexterity to make perfect-looking wontons.

What was I to do? I love eating mandu, but I needed something a little faster and easier. One day, I discovered that all I needed to do was pinch the opposite corners together like a pillow. I even bake these guys so they get nice and crispy without needing to deep-fry.

Now I make these all the time because they are so quick and easy. These veggie- and cream cheese-filled wontons are perfect for your next dinner party or a quiet dinner at home. You can also add some ground beef or ground turkey for the meat lovers in the family.

Baked Vegetable Wontons

The dipping sauce recipe comes from “The Kitchn’s” Emily Ho.

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

1 to 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 to 3 medium- to large-sized carrots, shredded

1 bunch asparagus (about a pound), ends trimmed and stalks sliced

1 8-ounce package cremini mushrooms, diced

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen

1 bunch scallions, diced

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds, plus more to garnish (see note)

1 heaping teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional, for some heat)

1 12-ounce package square wonton wrapper skins (about 50 skins)

7 ounces cream cheese

Egg wash, made with 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water mixed together

Roasted sesame seeds or seaweed gomasio, for garnish

Dried salted seaweed (or gim), cut thin or crumbled, for garnish

For the dipping sauce (makes 1/4 cup):

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons gochugaru

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, crushed or whole

1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 scallion, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Warm the sesame oil in a large wok or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Wait a minute or two for the pan and oil to heat, then add the onions and garlic. Saute for a few minutes, or until the onions begin to soften.

Add the carrots, asparagus and mushrooms, and mix together. Cook the vegetables until they just start to soften, 3 to 4 more minutes.

Add the peas and scallions. Season the vegetable mixture with salt, pepper and soy sauce. Taste and adjust any seasonings as needed. Cook until the vegetables become soft, 2 to 3 more minutes.

Add a teaspoon of sesame seeds and a few pinches of crushed red pepper, if desired. Toss together one last time, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

To assemble the wontons, set up a work station with a small bowl of water close by. Fill one wonton wrap with about a tablespoon of the veggie filling and top with a 1/2 teaspoon of cream cheese; feel free to use a little more if desired.

To fold the wontons, dip your fingers in the water and wet one corner of the wonton skin wrapper. Pinch this corner together with the opposite corner, over the filling. Wet the other two corners and connect/tuck them into the middle. Press the corners together firmly. This should create a “pillow” shape.

Repeat with filling and shaping the remaining wonton wrappers. Transfer all the wontons to a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment. Brush the wontons with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

Remove the wontons from the oven and allow to cool slightly before garnishing with more seaweed gomasio and the dried seaweed (gim).

For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust quantities, if desired. Serve with wontons. Makes about 50 wontons.

Recipe notes:

These wontons can be made a few hours ahead and then served at room temperature. You can also prepare the wontons through assembling them, then cover them and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake. Brush with egg wash just before baking.

For the sesame oil, I love the Kadoya brand “pure sesame oil.” This is what I use for all my Asian cooking. This brand can be found at any Asian or Korean market.

Roasted sesame seeds can be found at any Asian market. I like the Assi brand Roasted Sesame Seeds. Seaweed Gomasio is a blend of sesame seeds, seaweed and sea salt, and it can be found at Whole Foods.

Per serving: 52 calories; 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 52 percent calories from fat); 6 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 9 mg cholesterol; 145 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber.