Red Oil Wontons
Chengdu: City of Gastronomy #3
Hóng yóu chāo shǒu – 红油抄手
Pork filled wontons in a spicy chili oil infused broth.
Sichuan style wontons are spicy, of course. Well, the wontons themselves aren’t spicy, but the most popular way to eat them in the province is in a chili oil broth. In Chinese, it’s called hóng yóu, which literally means ‘red oil’.
Another difference between wontons in Sichuan, and wontons in the rest of China is the name. In Chinese, wontons are húntún. It easy to see why we call them wontons. In Sichuan though, they’re called chāo shǒu which means folded hands. If you look at an uncooked chao shou, you can see why they might call it that – cause it looks like a little person with their hands folded. But some people claim the name comes from the fact that they’re folded by hand and the words just got switched around. Hand folded wontons become folded hands.
In this video I go for Lǎo má chāo shǒu. Lǎo má just means old mother. It’s kind of a nickname.
Sichuan’s wontos are a little different from the traditional Cantonese version. They’re usually a bit bigger, and they’re folded differently. You take a square skin, fold it corner to corner creating a crescent moon shape. This folding technique makes a little scoop for holding more of the delicious sauce.
In other parts of China, they’ll sometimes look more like a comet with a ball and a tail of wrapper.
In Shanghai, they’re often bigger and they look like a beefed up tortellini.
The filling is usually a mixture of pork, chives, and ginger. Sometimes they’ll include some cooking rice wine or other sauces to moisten it all, or even some egg to bind it.
I eat chao shou for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (just not all at the same time). They only cost about $1.25 for a big bowl, they fill you up, and they’re incredibly tasty.
If you’re in Sichuan province or Chongqing municipality, chao shou will not be difficult to find. Many noodle shops will also have wontons. Watch for the symbols 抄手 (chāo shǒu). Sometimes you’ll even see someone folding them in the restaurant.
Where to Find Them in Chengdu
In Chengdu, there are so many great wonton places that it’s hard for me to recommend just one, but here goes:
纯阳馆 – Chún yáng guǎn
Address: 吉祥街6号附6号 – 6 Jixiang Street
This place is classic Chengdu. They have a bunch of different noodle options, so if you’re in a group I suggest trying a few different things.
Other things to order:
- Fish fragrant pork rib noodles – 鱼香排骨面 – Yú xiāng páigǔ miàn (this is actually their specialty)
- Fish Fragrant pork rib wontons – 鱼香排骨抄手 – Yú xiāng páigǔ chāoshǒu
- Spicy beef noodles – 椒香牛肉面 – Jiāo xiāng niúròu miàn
- Cow pea noodles (the long Chinese green beans) – 豇豆面 – Jiāngdòu miàn (includes pork)