Crab Rangoons are a delicious American Chinese restaurant classic appetiser or snack. These deep fried wontons are often shaped in a four pointed shape and are filled with crab or a crab substitute with a moreish but simple seasoning. Crab rangoons are a fantastic cocktail party appetiser served with sweet chilli sauce. This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!
Despite the name Crab Rangoon, the dish is not Burmese and today it is often served in Chinese American restaurants. Crab Rangoon's history is also not strictly from China. It was said to have first appeared in American in the 1950's at Polynesian style restaurant called Trader Vic's. They served up a range of food from all over the world which by those standards and times was exotic - for examples mai tais were served alongside crab rangoon. It was suggested that the crab rangoon was either created by or inspired by a Chinese American barback or busser Joe Young who worked with Victor Bergeron, the founder of Trader Vic's.
Crab rangoon is usually not made with actual crab, usually surimi or faux crab is used. Surimi is actually made from fish rather than crab (and incidentally has half the cholesterol of crab). The other main ingredient is cream cheese, something you're not likely to find in Chinese cuisine. I usually dislike cream cheese in sushi so I wasn't sure if I would like these but it really works in these rangoons. There's also Worcestershire sauce although this is used in some Chinese recipes. I remember reading my mother's cookbooks when I was a kid and tripping up my tongue trying to pronounce Worcestershire.
Tips For Making Crab Rangoon
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1 - Surimi or faux crab is actually better than real crab for this dish. The reason is that crab is often packed in brine or with a bit of liquid and this will make the mixture too soft, even if you drain the crab well. I made a batch with real crab and honestly the mixture was too wet and sloppy.
2 - I used square won ton wrappers but you can also use round wonton wrappers if that is what you have. Yellow egg wrappers are also fine. One thing that is important is that the wrappers are fresh and unopened. I find that ones that are frozen and then thawed or already open have small cracks on the edges and don't seal properly. Make sure to cover the stack of wrappers while you are making them so they don't dry out. If you use round wrappers made them into a three sided wonton instead of the four pointed star.
3 - I seal the rangoons with egg wash as I find it gets a better seal. Make sure to seal these really well and pinch all corners because if the filling leaks it will start spitting and that's no fun. I sealed all of these really well and used fresh, just-opened pastry and surimi and I got zero spitting.
4 - My pro tip: freeze your rangoons for 15 minutes before frying them! This means that the filling (which is already cooked), doesn't melt as quickly and the freezing gives the rangoons 2 minutes to fry and become golden before the cream cheese starts to melt.
5 - You can also make these in the air fryer or in a fan forced oven. They won't be quite as crispy but they'll still be tasty.
6 - Usually I find deep fried food isn't as tasty cold but the only exceptions to this rule are fried chicken and crab rangoons which are still delicious when served cold the day after!
While we don't get crab rangoon here, I actually first heard of them via this Twitter meme last Halloween. It was so funny and cute that I went down a rabbit hole looking up crab rangoons. I decided that I might make these for trick or treaters this year. Last year we had so many kids knocking on our door. Mr NQN especially loved handing out candy so I left it to him. But when I brought up the idea of leaving a bowl of these crab rangoons with sweet chilli sauce out for the kids he vetoed it straight away. He clearly doesn't want to go down on the street as a legend!
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried crab rangoon? Do you get trick or treaters for Halloween?
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 20 minutes plus 15 minutes freezing time
Cooking time: 2 minutes per batch
Makes 25 crab rangoons
275g/9.7ozs surimi, thawed
2 green onion sticks, tendrils trimmed
125g/4oz cream cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
25 square wonton wrappers
Small egg, beaten for sealing
Oil for frying
Sweet chilli sauce to serve
Step 1 - Place the surimi and green onions in a food processor and blend until chopped finely. Add the cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, ginger, garlic powder, salt, sugar and white pepper and pulse until combined.
Step 2 -Line a baking tray with parchment and make enough room in your freezer to fit this tray. Open up the won ton pastry and cover with a damp tea towel. Whisk a small egg and have a pastry brush ready. Take out 3-4 pastry skins at a time and brush around the outer square. Place a round teaspoon of filling in the centre and gather two opposing corners up and seal.
Take the other two opposing corners and seal these up making sure to pinch firmly on all seals and making a four point square. Place on the tray and repeat until all rangoons are made. Slide this tray into the freezer and freeze for 15 minutes.
Step 3 - Heat 2 inches oil in a wok or frying pan until it reaches 180C/350F. Line a plate with a double layer of paper towels. Carefully place the rangoons in the hot oil but do not overcrowd (I fried around 7 at a time) and fry for 1 minute, then turn over and fry for 1 more minute. Place on paper towel lined plate. Serve hot or cold with sweet chilli sauce.