Ahh… crab Rangoon, how much I loathe thee. The staple appetizer on Chinese-American restaurant menus has now become ubiquitous on Thai ones as well. Not because it is Thai, it’s not even Chinese, but because they sell. For some reason, the combination of grease, salty cream cheese and non-existent fake crab meat strikes a chord with American taste buds. I have nothing against the crab Rangoon per se, just the belief people hold that it’s Asian, especially that it’s Thai.
Asians don’t eat cheese. Dairy is not a big part of the Asian diet. The only part of Asia that truly consumes dairy as part of their cultural diet is northern China where it borders Russia. The closest thing Asians have to cheese is tofu which is coagulated soy milk. Also, there is no “Rangoon” in China or Thailand; however, there is a Rangoon in Myanmar, aka Burma. Though, the history and origin of crab Rangoon is hazy, it might be possible it was created in Myanmar since it was once a British colony, and the British do consume cream cheese. As far as I know, as of today, if you can manage to get into Myanmar and order crab Rangoon they would have absolutely no clue what it is. Definitely, if you go to China, the people there would have no clue what crab Rangoon is or more than half of what is on the menus in the American- Chinese restaurants.
I have also heard that crab Rangoon was created at a restaurant called Trader Vic’s, a Polynesian-themed restaurant, in the 50s. Trader Vic’s became madly popular back then, I’m sure because of the Pacific-side of World War Two where Pacific island life surely influenced the people stationed there. “Polynesian” food was the “it” food back in the 50s as the “Smith” families back in the day wanted to spice up their lives with a bit of the exotic. Whatever the truth is behind the creation of this addictive, fried morsel, this much I know is true, it is definitely not Thai.
Another thing that irks me about crab rangoon is how it is made. It is just so boring. In many of the restaurants these things are made with hardly any effort — just wonton skins with cream cheese and minuscule bits of crab. It’s astonishing how something so simple can sell so well. So many customers come into the restaurant asking if we sell them, and when I emphatically respond, “NO!” the looks of total and utter disgust and confusion in return are priceless. I particularly enjoy, “What kind of Thai restaurant is this!?! No crab Rangoon! You definitely aren’t Thai.” I’ve been quite hesitant to put it on the menu just for principle’s sake. I have appeased the idea a smidgen by offering a suped up idea of the infamous crab Rangoon in the form of my Lobster Dumplings as a special every now and then. These crispy dumplings are a more sophisticated cousin of the crab Rangoon. Sinfully delicious I must say. Here’s the recipe so you may satisfy your salty, grease cravings.
Lobster Dumplings Recipe
Approx. 60 Dumplings
2 1 1/2 Lobsters
2 8 oz. Cream Cheese (Nothing beats Philadelphia’s creaminess)
1 tbls. curry powder (Javin Brand is my favorite – best color and flavor)
2 tbls. minced fresh ginger
3 tbls. chopped scallions
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 package wonton skins
1 Beaten egg
Vegetable oil for deep-frying (enough to fill a pot at least 6 inches)
1.) Prepare Lobster: Most people prefer just boiling the lobsters, I prefer baking them. Though it is more work, I think the flavor doesn’t get leeched out by the water. Preheat oven to 425°. Cut lobster in half by holding lobster down with one hand and using a knife with the other, stab the lobster in the middle of it’s head and steadily cut down from head to tail. (This is not for the queasy.) Then cut the rest of the head in half. Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until shells are a deep red and meat is opaque. Allow to cool and remove lobster meat, tails, claws & knuckles.
2.) Mince lobster meat. Should yield about a cup.
3.) Blend cream cheese, curry powder, ginger, scallions, salt & pepper until creamy.
4.) Fold in the lobster meat.
5.) Place mixture in fridge and allow to chill for about 30 minutes.
6.) Place about 1/2 tbsl. of lobster & cheese mixture in the middle of the wonton skin. Brush egg wash around edge of skin. Now you may just fold the wonton in half, or add pleats, or fold like a tortellini. It is all preference. It taste delicious no matter how you fold it.
7.) Pour oil into a medium pot to about 6 inches deep. Heat to 375°.
8.) Fry about 6 or 8 at a time, depending on how wide your pot is, until golden.
9.) Enjoy with a sweet & sour sauce and a cold beer. (Recipe below.)
Sweet & Sour Sauce:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tbls. water
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 tbs. salt
Place all ingredients in a sauce pan on medium heat and allow to boil. Let simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes to thicken sauce. Allow to cool and enjoy. Sauce can be saved in refrigerator for weeks. May crystallize, microwave foe 30 sec. to return to liquid form.