Flaming Pork WonTons. (Jessica J. Trevino/Detroit Free Press/TNS)
Photo: Jessica J. Trevino
Photo: Jessica J. Trevino

Test Kitchen recipe: Serve lucky dumplings for the year of the dog

Several years ago, P.F. Chang’s had a special Flaming Pork Wontons dish on their menu for Chinese New Year. It was a terrific-tasting appetizer that I shared with a friend. We liked it so much we almost asked for another order.

Soon after I recreated the dish and came in with great results. I’ve made them plenty of times since with a few little tweaks here and there. These are best served as an appetizer. And they are like deviled eggs or pigs in a blanket, the first thing to be gobbled up.

What really makes these dumplings sing, is the sauce, which gets its spiciness from chili paste Sambal Oelek. You’ll find the sauce at most grocery stores in the ethnic aisle or Asian specialty stores. You can use any variety of a red chili paste. While, the sauce is spicy, you don’t need a big gulp of something to cool it off — the sugar balances it.

It’s also a soy sauce-based and I recommend using a reduced sodium soy sauce. My favorite is Trader Joe’s because it has flavor but 60 percent less sodium than their regular soy sauce.

The only bit of a challenge is shaping the wontons. But once you make a few, you will develop your own rhyme for shaping them. Look for round or square wontons in the produce section of most grocery stores. What you don’t use you can freeze.

Chinese New Year, also known as the spring festival, is tied to the Chinese Zodiac as well as the elements metal, wood, water, fire and earth. And this year the dog, the eleventh sign of the Chinese zodiac, is paired with earth. The element is not the same for every birth year associated with the dog.

Traits of those born under the dog are considered loyal, honest and kind. You fall under the dog sign if your birth year is: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018. Some famous people born under the dog but with different elements, include presidents Donald Trump, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Other well-knowns are Mother Theresa, Elvis Presley and Madonna.

Flaming Pork Wontons

Makes: 36 (4 servings)

Prep time: 40 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

1/2 pound ground pork

2 tablespoons minced carrots

2 tablespoons minced green onions

1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

36 wonton skins


1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce (at least 50 percent less)

2 tablespoon rice vinegar or white vinegar

1 tablespoon chili oil

1 teaspoon chili paste (Sambal Oelek) or more to taste

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Sesame oil to taste

For cooking

1 to 2 tablespoons of canola oil

1 cup chicken broth, divided


Sliced green onions

Chopped cilantro

In a medium bowl, combine the pork, carrots, onions, ginger, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Make sure the mixture is smooth. (If you don’t have ground pork, process a 1/2-pound piece of pork tenderloin in a food processor until it’s in very small pieces.)

Have ready a small bowl of water and a brush. Working with six wontons at a time, set out the squares on a work surface. Place a scant 1 teaspoon of the pork mixture just slightly above center in the wonton. Moisten all the corners. Fold over in a triangle, sealing the edges. Grab the two corners at the long edge and bottom and turn them toward the center to meet. Pinch together.

In a small saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, keep warm, taste and adjust seasonings to your level of spiciness.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat a small amount of vegetable oil over medium heat. Working in batches, add half of the wontons and cook until the bottoms are slightly browned. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth, cover with a lid and cook 8 minutes. Remove to a platter, cover to keep them warm. Repeat with remaining wontons.

Using a shallow bowl or serving plate, pool desired amount of sauce on the bottom and place the wontons in the sauce. Garnish with green onions, cilantro and, if desired, a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Adapted from several recipes.

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis per 1 wonton.

47 calories (22 percent from fat), 1 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 6 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 313 mg sodium, 5 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber.

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