Classic Vietnamese Soup Gets Yiddishe Momme Twist
You could always tell the time of year by looking at my Polish grandmother Rachel’s chicken soup: If it was served with bubelach (egg pancakes) or home made lokshen (she used to fry dozens of thin omelets and slice them, very very slowly, to thin lokshen) you knew it was Passover. Kneidlach were served on just any Shabbat, and kreplach, chicken liver filled dumplings, were saved for the high holidays.
Kreplach involve a lot of work, kneading and rolling the dough, making the stuffing and shaping each dumpling. My grandmother did not believe in short-cuts and the kreplach were served only a few times a year. “We’ve been waiting for this a whole year!” she used to say in her almost perfect Hebrew.
But I’m lazy. I do make kibbeh soups, but kreplach seemed too much. Then I found the wonton wrappers, which are available in every Asian grocery store across the U.S. These come in a square or round shape, just the right size for kreplach. They’re easy to fold, fill and shape, and the wrappers are thin and let the filling take the lead.
To match the Chinese theme of the kreplach-dumplings I made a pho-inspired chicken soup. Pho is a wonderful aromatic Vietnamese soup; it is beef-based and spiced with star anise and cinnamon. The version below is a nod to the Vietnamese soup and the Polish tradition.
Pho-chicken soup with kreplach dumplings
You can make the soup up to three days in advance, and the dumplings a day in advance.
Wonton wrappers (dumpling wrappers) are available in the fridge or freezers of any Asian supermarket.
For the dried mushroom you can use any variety, including those found in the Asian markets (do not use porcini though, their strong flavor will overpower the soup).
Star anise is available in some health supermarkets, and in any Asian market.
To kasher the chicken livers use one of the methods described here.
1. Spoon filling at center of wrapper 2. Brush wrapper with water, fold to triangle 3. Fold corners together. Photo by Vered Guttman
For the soup
4 lb. chicken legs, thighs or wings
3 quart water at room temperature
2 parsnips, peeled
3 carrots, peeled
1 large onion, peeled
6 inch ginger piece, skin on, cut in half
1 oz. dried mushrooms (not porcini, which will overpower the taste)
6 star anise
2 four inch cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Kosher salt to taste
For the kreplach
4 tablespoons duck fat or schmaltz (or vegetable oil)
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb. chicken liver, cleaned
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pack wonton wrappers (thawed overnight in the fridge, if frozen)
Bunch snow peas, cut to 1 inch sections
½ cup basil leaves
½ cup chopped green onion
1. To make the soup, wash the chicken, put in a large pot, cover with 3 quart water at room temperature and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Once the water has boiled, skim the foam on top, add the rest of the soup ingredients (except the salt), bring back to boil, lower heat to low, cover and cook for 2 hours. Remove all chicken, veggies and spices from broth (you can either strain through a colander or use a hand strainer). Salt the broth to taste. Save mushrooms, parsnips and carrots to serve in the soup. Cool and soup and refrigerate overnight.
2. To make the kreplach, put duck fat in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onion until golden, 6-8 minutes, then add chicken liver and cook until fully cooked, stirring regularly, another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, mix, remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Chop in a food processor.
3. Prepare a glass with cold water and a small brush. Line a wonton wrapper on a work surface. Spoon chicken liver filling at the center. Using a very lightly wet brush, or your finger, wet the wrapper all around the filling (not just the edges of the wrapper, but the whole surface of it, to make sure it’s sealed well). Fold over the filling into a triangle, then tightly attach the two triangle corners together (see photo). Put on a large tray. Continue with the rest of the wrappers, until you finish the filling.
4. Wrap the dumpling tray with a few layers of plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
5. Before serving, remove soup pot from fridge. Skim the fat accumulated at the top of the soup, then reheat the soup, adjust seasoning and add snow peas. Slice the mushroom, parsnips and carrots you kept from making the soup and divide between the soup bowls.
6. Just before serving put soup on medium heat to simmer. Add dumplings, cook for two minutes and serve with basil and green onion on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.
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