Collard Wontons

Cynthia Chen McTernan

A Common Table: 80 Recipes and Stories from My Shared Cultures

"When I think back on wonton nights, I hear the light pitter-patter of wonton wrappers hitting the table and see my dad’s impossibly quick, origami-like folding, producing beautifully uniform wontons with their little chests puffed up proud and boisterous, as though they knew how well they were made. When my parents had Shanghainese friends over, they’d join the process as though they’d been there the entire time, filling and folding the wontons seamlessly the way my dad always had—I was startled the first time I saw it, surprised that anyone else knew what I’d thought were our own wonton family secrets, but food, as I’ve learned over and over, is a language you don’t need to grow up speaking together to understand.

My mother typically uses a pungent, fragrant Chinese vegetable called shepherd’s purse, or ji cai, but since this is hard to come by even in some Asian supermarkets, I’ve swapped in an unlikely but worthy substitute native to my childhood home—collard greens. Surprisingly, collards add just the right bite to the wontons, mimicking the slight spicy kick of shepherd’s purse so closely that I might not know the difference if I hadn’t made it myself. If you can’t find either of these, though, any hardy leafy green will do (kale, Swiss chard, or cabbage all work).”—JBF Award nominee Cynthia Chen McTernan



  • 1/2 pound roughly chopped collard greens,
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (2 to 3 scallions)
  • 3 tablespoons  Shaoxing rice wine, dry sherry, or sake
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 70 to 80 wonton wrappers


  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (2 to 3 scallions)


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the [collard] greens and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until the [collard] greens are bright green and beginning to turn tender, but still have some bite, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and add to a food processor. Pulse until finely shredded.

In a large bowl, combine the greens, pork, scallions, ginger, rice wine, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar (if using), salt, and white pepper. Using chopsticks or a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until all ingredients are well combined and the filling forms a thick paste.

Prepare a small bowl of water for sealing the wrappers. For each wrapper, place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center. Dab a bit of water on one edge and fold the wrapper in half, taking care to seal the wrapper well around the filling. Dab the water on one corner of the folded seam and bring the two folded corners together to form a small bundle. Place on a tray and repeat. You should end up with 70 to 80 wontons. To save them for later, freeze on the tray, then place them in a Ziploc bag. They’ll keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

When you’re ready to cook the wontons, in a large pot, bring the water and chicken broth to a boil. Add about 20 wontons, stirring gently to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the water comes back to a boil and the wontons float to the surface, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the wontons to a plate. Repeat with the remaining wontons until they’re all cooked. To cook from frozen, use the same method, but boil for 4 to 6 minutes, until the wontons float.

Divide the wontons among several small bowls and ladle a bit of the cooking broth over each bowl. Drizzle lightly with soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil, and then top with scallions.

Collard Wontons is excerpted from A Common Table © 2018 by Cynthia Chen McTernan. Photography © 2018 by Cynthia Chen McTernan. Reproduced by permission of Rodale Books/Crown Publishing Group. All rights reserved.


4 to 6 servings