~ Crab Rangoon w/More Crab than Cream Cheese ~
Crab meat, scallions and seasoned cream cheese all wrapped up in a wonton, deep-fried and served with a sweet dipping sauce (like duck sauce or sweet and sour sauce). It's a staple appetizer on most Chinese-American restaurant menus, and, an appetizer I almost never order. Why? Because 99% of the time, both the sweet flavor and delicate texture of the crab (or worse -- imitation crab) is 100% lost to the cream cheese -- akin to seasoned cream cheese spread.
With Rangoon (the capital city of Burma) in its name, most people think this is an authentic Asian specialty. It's not. It's claimed to be the creation of a chef at Trader Vic's, a California-based restaurant chain started by Victor Jules ("Trader Vic") Bergeron in Oakland in the 1950's. They became famous for exotic Polynesian cuisine, cocktails and atmosphere -- he was one of two people who claimed to have invented the Mai Tai. During the Tiki-culture-fad of the 1960's (yes, there indeed was one), as many as 25 restaurants were in operation around the world.
On the Trader Vic's menus, crab rangoon was a pricey menu item -- $10.50 when I ate there in Atlanta in the '80's. For the price, I should have loved it, but, I did not. I did, however, come to the conclusion that crab Rangoon, which is not at all hard to make, could be a crowd-pleasing appetizer that should be made in the home kitchen, where the flavor and texture could be controlled -- by me.
There's more: The investment in 8 or 16 ounces of fresh or pasteurized crab meat (both work fine -- it just depends on where you live and availability) turns out to be surprisingly economical, as, the recipe turns out enough appetizers for a nice-sized get-together: 2 or 4 dozen. When reading my recipe below, notice, I've done the calculations for you, for a small- or large-batch.
Next: Everyone always asks if Rangoon can be made ahead and frozen. Some folks say they freeze them, after assembly and short of frying, flat on a baking pan for 2-4 weeks. Hear me: I do not like the texture after freezing -- the filling gets a bit mealy, so, I don't do it. That said, I do assemble them 4-6 hours in advance, cover the baking pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate prior to deep-frying. After frying, if left at room temperature, uncovered, for a few hours (on the cooling rack placed in a baking pan), then, baked in a 350º oven for 3-4 short minutes, they will crisp up beautifully and taste wonderful. They'll stay puffy too -- can't ask for more than that.
Here's a bit more make-your-life-easier news:
8 or 16 ounces jumbo lump crab meat, well-drained, the best available
4 or 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft
1/4 or 1/2 cup 1/4"-sliced scallions, white and light-green parts only (1 or 2 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons ginger paste
1 1/2 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon Chinese-style soy sauce*
peanut oil or vegetable oil for deep-frying
2 or 4 dozen, 3"-3 1/4"-square wonton wrappers
duck sauce or sweet and sour sauce, for dipping or drizzling
freshly-ground sea salt, for sprinkling on appetizers as they come out of the fryer
*Note: To steer this appetizer in the direction of Thailand, add 2 or 4 tablespoons minced cilantro to the cream cheese mix, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon Thai seasoning soy sauce for Chinese soy sauce, and, serve with Mae Ploy (sweet chili sauce) for dipping.
~Step 1. Place the crab meat on a paper-towel lined plate, to allow the paper to absorb any and all of the excess moisture. Preheat the oil in a deep-fryer to 365°-375°. Prep and place the sliced scallions in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process to small, minced bits and pieces, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice during the processing. Add the cream cheese, garlic paste, ginger paste and soy sauce. With motor running, process until combined and smooth, about 25-30 seconds, again, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl with the spatula during the process.
~ Step 2. Transfer the cream cheese mixture to a medium or large bowl. Add the well-drained crab meat. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the crab meat into the cream cheese, doing your best to allow the meat to remain in large lumps.
Place 1 1/2-2 teaspoons of filling mixture into the center of each wrapper -- I use a small, 1 1/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure.
Lift and fold one corner of the wrapper over the top of the filling, to create a triangle, then, using your fingertips, pinch the edges together to form a tight seal.
~Step 4. Open the lid of the fryer. Using your fingertips, one-at-a-time, gently drop 4-6 filled rangoon down into the fryer basket. Close the lid and fry until light-golden, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook or the filling will being to ooze out. Using an Asian spider or a large slotted spoon, remove from fryer, transfer to a wire rack that has been placed on a layer or two of paper towels (to absorb the oily drips), and, immediately sprinkle with a fresh grinding of sea salt. Repeat this process until all Rangoon (2 or 4 dozen) are filled, fried and ready to serve ASAP.
Rangoon: filled, formed & awaiting a 3-minute deep-fry:
Special Equipment List: paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; large rubber spatula; pastry brush; 1-2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; plastic wrap; pastry brush; 1 1/4" ice-cream scoop; deep fryer; Asian spider or large slotted spoon; wire cooling rack.
Cook's Note: You can find my recipe for making homemade ~ Sweet & Sour Sauce for Seafood, Poultry or Pork ~ by clicking on the Related Article Link below. To get my recipe for ~ "Would You Like 'Duck' Sauce with That?" "Yes!" ~, just click into Categories 8, 13 or 26.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)