Holiday Appetizers Through the Decades | 1990s Baked Wontons
It’s true the 1990′s weren’t that long ago (at least they don’t feel like they were). Still, it’s been 22 years since Madonna showed us how to Vogue and 20 since Bill Clinton played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show. The decade of the internet, which introduced us to phrases like “surf the web” and “you’ve got mail,” connected New Englanders to the world like never before — a world which saw the birth of the first Gulf War in 1991 and the death of Britain’s Princess Diana in 1997.
The holiday season during the 1990′s was boosted by the blockbuster Christmas movie “Home Alone” in 1990, along with Mariah Carey’s 1994 toe-tapping “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Santa’s top toys included Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo, and for the older set, a DVD player to replace the VCR and and CD player to replace the record player or tape deck. The holiday table during the 1990′s featured an array of treats prepared under the careful guidance of domestic maven Martha Stewart, but since it was also a decade of dieting, the table also saw slimmed-down versions of popular tasty dishes like these Asian-inspired Wonton appetizers.
As a reflection of the waistline-watching trend during the 1990′s, we’ve baked our wontons, but you could certainly fry or pan-sear them instead for a more flavor (and yes, more calories). I made my wontons vegetarian with carrots, mushrooms, scallions, ginger, and garlic. If you prefer you reduce the amounts equally by a bit and add in some ground pork or chicken.
To assemble the wontons, lay out the wonton wrappers (I did 6 at a time) and have a small bowl of water at the ready. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of cooked filling into the center of each wrapper, then dip your finger into the water and trace a line around the edge of the wrapper to moisten it. Pinch the edges of the wonton shut (be firm and press hard) into the shape you want. I made half of mine traditional wonton triangles, but then folded the ends up again to meet in the middle for the other half. I like how that looks better, but as long as the edges are pressed tightly and the filling stays inside, you can make them whatever shape you want.
After a quick trip to the oven the wontons emerge golden and crisp. While I did spray them before baking with cooking spray, I think next time I will spritz them instead with olive oil for a bit more flavor.
What you serve your wontons with will, of course, depend on your filling. Here I served my wontons with a simple sweet-and-sour sauce, but you could whip up a chunky chutney or ginger soy dipping sauce to suit your taste.
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Classic Holiday Quiz from the Yankee Magazine Archives
Want to brush up some New England holiday trivia while you enjoy your crispy wontons? In 1996 Yankee put together a quiz called “New Englanders Just Like to Write Christmas Songs.” We also like to sing them.