Enjoy these not-at-all authentic wontons, loaded with an al-pastor inspired filling of earthy chili and grilled pineapple.
Certain festivals and events are always associated with recipes. Grilling on Memorial Day weekend, Lamb or Pork at Easter, Turkey at Thanksgiving and so on. Other events can inspire recipes, such as Chinese New Year, which was the catalyst for this crazy adventure in fusion cooking.
Authentic Chinese cuisines (there’s way more than one!) are actually very nuanced, with delicate layers of flavor, fiery sichuan spices, precisely-chiseled garnishes and scorching hot woks to kiss veggies to seared perfection. They are also a food-style that I know very little about cooking. I don’t own a wok, let alone a jet-like flame to heat one properly.
So gimme a little leeway as I admit that my Chinese New Year inspired dish is only Chinese because of a wonton skin… The next best idea I had would be to embrace a cuisine I am more familiar with. Living in Texas has not only boosted my BBQ and Chili cred, but exposed me to a wealth of Mexican cooking and some seriously badass tacos.
Al Pastor is one of the most famous porky taco fillings, along with carnitas. It’s punctuated with hints of orange, earthy chili powders and sweet nuggets of seared pineapple. Usually, it’s made with small chunks of pork shoulder, but I was pretty confident that the same flavors could work with ground pork. Good news, they totally do!
2–3 rings of fresh pineapple (roughly 1 cup when chopped finely)
1 lb ground pork
large handful cilantro, finely chopped
zest of one orange
2 teaspoons guajillo powder
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon annatto powder (optional)
4–6 cups vegetable or peanut oil for frying
Heat a grill or stove-top griddle, and spray with a little oil. Remove any skin from the pineapple. Once hot, place the pineapple rings on the griddle, and sear for a few minutes per side until color develops. Remove from griddle then allow to cool. Once cool, remove the core (if tough) and chop the pineapple into small pieces, less than 1/4 inch in size. You want to keep some texture, but if they are too big they will create problems when it comes time to fill the wontons.
In a large bowl, place ground pork, cilantro, orange zest, guajillo and chipotle powders, garlic, cumin, salt, oregano, onion powder and annatto. Mix and combine well so spices are evenly distributed. Add in pineapple pieces and stir to combine.
Prepare a station with a board, a plate or tray, a small bowl of water with a pastry brush, the wonton skins and the filling. Working one at a time, take a wonton skin and place 1-2 teaspoon of filling inside. Be careful not to overfill. Use the pastry brush to spread a little water at the edges, then fold one side over the other to seal the wonton, making sure there are no air bubbles. You can use your finger to spread a little water if you dont have a pastry brush. Place formed wonton on the plate/tray. Finish forming all the wontons.
A note on folding: the easiest shape will be to simply fold into a triangle. The ones you see in the pics above are ‘nurses caps’. To make these, fold the wonton over the filling in half, then bring two sides together and pinch to hold, sealing with a little water. As long as you seal the skin properly, any shape will still be delicious.
In a small sized pot or medium saucepan, heat the oil to 375f. The smaller pot allows you to fry more efficiently in batches. Line a large plate with a paper towel to receive the wontons once they are finished frying.
Working in batches of 4-6, place the wontons in the oil and fry until deep golden brown. You may need to turn them frequently to make sure they brown on all sides, as they will float to the surface. I find it easiest to use a spider or skimmer, you can simply hold the wontons under the oil so they cook evenly. Repeat frying until all remaining wontons are cooked, allowing the oil to come back up to 375f between batched. Serve immediately.
The assembled (pre-fried) wontons can be frozen in batches.