The recipe for Shrimp Wonton Soup needed clear soup broth, which was to simmer for “three to four hours till fragrant”. I could cook this stove-top or I can make the broth in the Instant Pot, I said to myself. I chose the former so that I had a reason to sit quietly, tune out, and devour the books by Filipino American author Cecilia Manguerra Brainard.
Sometimes, our souls and our palates need a change. I made a batch of shrimp wontons from the new cookbook This Is A Book About Dumplings by Brendan Pang. Instead of the usual pork filling, I used chopped fresh shrimps, flavored with ginger, scallions, rice wine and seasonings. I set the wontons aside in the refrigerator while the savory pork broth simmered on the stove, the steam creeping out from the stockpot’s cover. The soup’s aroma reminded me of my mother’s cooking during my childhood in the Philippines.
I was so engrossed reading these books by Ms. Brainard, that I almost failed to hear the kitchen timer beep, announcing the bubbling broth was ready. I took out the shrimp wontons from the ref. The steamy vapors from the clear soup hit my cheeks. I dropped the shrimp wontons into the deep stockpot. It only took minutes to cook. The soup meal was ready when the leafy vegetables softened. I had enough time to go back to reading the short stories again. Consider these books by Cecilia Brainard as holiday gifts. And this soup is superb, as well. The soup and the books make good gifts and soothe the soul.
Book review: Now, let me tell you about these two books from Filipino-American author Cecilia Brainard. The first one was Acapulco at Sunset and Other Short Stories Published. This is a collection of 17 short stories, inspired by the author’s experiences. The stories were grouped into four categories, descriptive of the settings: Long Ago Tales, Stories from the ‘60s and ‘70s, Stories from the ‘90s, and American Tales. These stories reminded me of a beautiful bouquet, thoughtfully put together about the Filipino spirit which is strong, resilient and hopeful. They are about family values we cherish, love and romance, bittersweet life experiences, and valuable lessons. My personal favorite was Butterscotch Marble Ice Cream which had me craving for both the ice cream and more stories from Cecilia.
That led me to Ms. Brainard’s second anthology Woman With Horns and Other Stories. The fascinating tales deal with the themes of Philippine culture clashing with foreign influences during historical times from centuries ago. The author’s mythical place “Ubec” (inspired by the province of Cebu, spelled backwards), is the setting for most. Each story is a gorgeous gem from the past. Strung together, the twelve literary pieces glow and remind you of a beautiful world gone by, in provinces where time was ethereal. My favorites were Woman with Horns and The Balete Tree. These made me long for days of the past.
About the Author: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is a Filipino American multi-awarded prolific author of literary anthologies and novels. She founded and runs PALH (Philippine American Literary House) and is an active member of the Phil-Am literary community. Her books are sold on Amazon.com. Read more about her on ceciliabrainard.com
Shrimp Wonton Soup - Instant Pot + Stovetop
- Large Stockpot - for stovetop cooking
- Instant Pot - 6 to 8 quarts - for pressure-cooker cooking
For the pork bone broth
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 ¼ pounds pork neck bones, or use pork chuck bones
- 1 Tablespoon sliced fresh ginger
- 6 cups cold water
- 1 whole medium-sized onion, chopped
- 2 stalks scallion whites, chopped
- 1 pinch salt
For shrimp wonton filling
- 500 grams raw fresh shrimps, peeled, heads/tails removed, chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon or calamansi juice
- 2 stalks scallion whites, chopped fine
- ½ teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 Tablespoon Shao xing rice wine
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper powder
- 24 pieces square wonton wrappers, thawed room temperature
- 1 bunch bok choy, end trimmed, leaves separated; or use any leafy greens available
- 2 stalks scallion greens, chopped, for garnish
To cook the pork bone broth - on the stovetop:
- In a large stockpot, over medium high heat, add the oil. When oil is hot, add the pork bones.Add half of the amount of ginger, the whole onion and chopped scallions. Saute for 1 minute.Pour the water. Season with salt. Cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. The broth should be fragrant by the end of cooking. Keep heat to a medium when ready to add the shrimp wontons.
To make the shrimp wontons:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients: Chopped shrimps, lemon or calamansi juice, scallions, ginger, rice wine, sesame oil, salt and white pepper. Mix well. Refrigerate the filling for about 30 minutes, covered.To assemble, lay out the wonton wrappers on a flat, dry surface like a chopping board or large tray. Place 1 teaspoon of the shrimp filling in the center of the wrapper.Brush the edges of the wrapper with water. If using a square wonton wrapper, fold the ends to form a triangle. Press the edges to seal. Set wrapped wontons on a dry plate and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
To cook the Shrimp Wonton Soup:
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork bones, leaving only the clear broth. Set aside the pork bones.In the simmering stockpot of broth, over medium heat, drop the shrimp wontons one at a time. Use a large cooking spoon to separate the wontons in the broth, in case they cling together. Cook the wontons in the broth for about 6 minutes.Add the bok choy vegetables to the broth and shrimp wontons. The leafy vegetables will soften in about 2 to 3 minutes.Garnish with chopped scallion greens. Serve piping-hot in individual bowls.
To cook the broth and Shrimp Wonton Soup in the Instant Pot:
- Click Saute on the keypad.Pour vegetable oil into the inside pot. When the oil is hot in 1 to 2 minutes, add the pork bones. Stir around.Pour the water.Add the ginger, scallions, chopped onion and salt.Click Cancel to turn off the Saute function.Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing.Click Manual/Meats and cook on High Pressure for 35 minutes.When beeper sound comes on to announce cooking is complete, do a Quick Release.Carefully unlock and uncover the lid. Set the lid on a dry place on the counter.Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork bones and set aside, leaving the clear broth.Add the shrimp wontons to the broth. Add the bok choy leaves. Stir gently to accommodate the ingredients.Close and lock the lid. Click Keep Warm and let the residual heat cook the shrimp wontons and leafy vegetables for 10 minutes. Click Cancel to turn off Keep Warm function. Carefully unlock and uncover the lid.Garnish with chopped scallion greens. Serve the soup piping-hot.
- You can also use a cooked leftover chicken carcass to make the soup broth if you prefer chicken. Sometimes, I use the leftover from rotisserie chicken. If some meat falls off the bone while simmering, you can add the chicken slivers to the soup if desired. Same holds true for the pork bones. Discard all bones which won't be used.
Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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Disclosure: The books were gifts from the author and publisher. I was not compensated to review these books. This is not an ad. My opinions are my own.