Wanna's Won Tons
Booyah! This is one grandaddy of a post. I have to tell a few stories first. When we moved back to Iowa in 1979 (I was 6) there was a place in town called Wanna's Wonton Inn. It is a legend in my hometown. It is closed now and I have since found out that it relocated to another top secret location in Iowa. I am not sure if Wanna still has anything to do with the restaurant but back in the day she was always there, greeting customers and keeping a sharp eye on the way the place was running.
I have so many thousand memories from Wanna's. I will just relate a few of them so that you can get a Gestalt of what the place was like. In the early days the buffet wasn't as big of a deal. That was back when people still slept in double beds and could fit into Ford Escorts. Whenever we went we would never get the buffet because there was only ever fried chicken and a few fried buns and a rice dish and maybe a couple entrees. Besides, the food we got straight from Wanna was always custom made for us. I would always get the pepper steak. Wanna called it Green Pepper Steak. I can't quite remember what my mom would get but it was some sort of crazy seafood concoction. My older sister always got the almond chicken. Eating at Wanna's allowed me a rare treat - soda pop. I used to get the exotic Mountain Dew. She served our pops in short metallic mugs filled with ice. After 30 seconds or so the sides of the mug would moisten with dew droplets.
There were two dining rooms then and you could see into the kitchen from both of them. Wanna would take your order, walk through a curtain of hanging beads and yell something in Taiwanese that sounded very angry and pissed off. The other thing I remember was that there were really fancy Chinese lanterns, dragons, figurines etc. A lot of this stuff - including a bead curtain - made it into our house eventually. Especially neat were these very intricate carvings made of cork and then set into glass frames. I am sure some poor Chinese man lost his vision making those.
Now is time for us to get down to the meat of this post. Wanna's Wonton Inn was famous, and by famous I mean WORLD FAMOUS for its wontons. They were addictive to the extreme. I defy anyone to eat just one. I triple dog dare you to eat just one. Everyone from my hometown who ever had one of these wontons has sung the praises. You know how there are a few things that you eat in your life that you have dreams about? Wanna's wontons will wake you up in the middle of the night with cravings so bad you'll be driven crazy. My sister once had an attack of these cravings so horrifying that she drove 5 1/2 hours for a dozen of them. This is no joke. Furthermore, this is not a unique story. When my college roommate Easy E, A.K.A the toothkiller (he's an oral surgeon) and I were at college we would be struck by cravings for wontons and be half raving mad missing the tasty treats. We regaled our friends with tales of porky fried bliss. Most of them were saying to themselves "yeah right they're full of crap as usual." Then one of us got married in the hometown and invited said friends. Needless to say we took them on a trip to Wanna's and their heads exploded. Wanna's fame has spread at least as far as Kansas City, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Fran, just from the few people I have taken there from out of town.
I got this recipe from a combination of trial and error and some snippets of insider information. One of my relatives was dating one of the cooks at Wanna's for a while with the sole intention of getting the wonton recipe. She wasn't able to get all of it but what she couldn't figure out I got by trial and error over the next 10 years. The most valuable inside information was in the form of the 'recipe' for the wonton sauce. I would not have easily figured out the sauce on my own. And without further delay - Wanna's Wontons!
Ground pork - most typically I use Jimmy Dean Regular pork sausage because of easy availability.
Extremely finely diced onion
Extremely finely diced garlic
Mix the pork with a little bit of onion and a little bit of garlic. For 1/2 of a Jimmy Dean sausage (comes in a plastic sleeve) I put 1/8 of an onion and 1 clove of garlic. Put about 1 1/2 teaspoons worth of meat in the center of a wonton skin. Fold over into a triangle to enclose the meat, sealing the edges by dipping your finger in water and running it over the edge of the skin before pressing it together.
Really its that easy. Remember, these have to be made by highschool dropouts who can't speak a lick of English.
Fry the wontons in vegetable oil. I am pretty sure that the oil at Wanna's didn't get changed all that often and was used to make Wanna's naughty fried chicken as well. You don't need a fryer. You can do this in an inch of oil in a small saucepan.
Wanna's Sweet, Sour, and Spicy Wonton Sauce
Mix ketchup with vinegar, cayenne pepper and sugar. How much of each you add depends on your tastes. One of these times I will measure how much I put in but you're on your own for now. Just mix those 4 ingredients up until it tastes like something you would want to dip something porky and delicious in.
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