Crab Rangoon is one of those Asian favorites, that really isn’t Asian at all, much like chop suey, General Tsao’s chicken and curries. Cream cheese, which shares the top spot for ingredients along with crab, isn’t a staple in Chinese or Burmese cuisines (Rangoon is the former name of Burma’s capital). It’s also not a staple in English cuisine, as Burma was a British colony. The veracity of its origin aside, Crab Rangoon works perfectly as an appetizer to more authentic Asian cuisine, as well as typical Western fare.
There are numerous rangoon recipes, some claiming to be more authentic than others. If we can’t even agree on where this recipe originated, arguing about authentic ingredients seems silly. It appears that only a few ingredients are necessary: cream cheese and crab in equal proportions, wrappers of some sort, either wonton or egg roll, and possibly fermented soy, although even that ingredient has been called into question. Since no one can agree on what’s authentic, and what isn’t, you have an amazingly wide variety of ingredients to customize your rangoon. From very finely minced peppers, scallions and sesame seeds for added texture, to mayonnaise for added creaminess, and any manner of spices to personalize the flavor, the skies the limit on what you can do with these deep fried puffs.
Even their shape isn’t set in stone. Crab Rangoon is most often served by simply folding the square wrapper over the filling into a triangle and frying. You can also try it in a lotus shape by pinching the centers of the four sides of the wrapper into the middle over the filling leaving the points slightly open. There is the “clutch purse” shape where you place the filling in the middle and gather the edges together above the filling. You can use round wrappers and form them as you would tortellini by folding the wrapper over the filling and then bringing the ends around and under the filling, pinching them together. Whatever shape you decide on, consider the conditions under which these will be eaten. One shape might lend itself better to the circumstances.
Even though these deep fried puffs are perfect served naked, several dipping sauces work well. Consider offering tamari, a Japanese soy sauce that has a bolder, less salty flavor than Chinese soy sauces, or warmed plum sauce on the side. Of course a perfect sweet and sour sauce will probably be the favorite dipping sauce and we’ve included a deliciously chunky one below. A thickened teriyake sauce would also compliment the creamy filling.
Asian or Western, authentic ingredients or wildly modified, simply folded or artfully turned, Crab Rangoon is a guaranteed party favorite.
- 8 ounces softened cream cheese
- 8 ounces jumbo lump crab meat, picked through to remove shells and cartidge
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1-2 tablespoons tamari
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
- ½ teaspoon finely ground kosher salt
- wonton wrappers
- oil for frying
Thoroughly cream the cheese, mayonnaise, tamari, lemon juice and spices. Fold in the crab meat, breaking up the larger chunks.
Spoon a teaspoon of the filling into the center of each wonton wrapper. Moisten two edges of the wrapper with water and fold the wrapper in half into a triangle pressing the edges to completely seal.
Preheat the oil to 350°F. Fry the rangoons 3-4 at a times being careful not to overload the pan. Fry 2-3 minutes, turning once until the wrappers are golden brown. Carefully remove and drain on a tray lined with paper towels. Serve immediately.
Sweet and Spicy Pineapple and Pepper Dipping Sauce
- 12 ounces pineapple juice
- ¼ cup lite soy sauce
- ¼ cup white distilled vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1½ tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup cold water
- ½ cup chili garlic paste
- ½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
- ½ cup finely diced canned pineapple
Bring juice, soy, vinegar and sugar to a simmer. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Add to the liquid and simmer until thickened. Add the chili garlic paste and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Off heat, add the bell pepper and pineapple, stirring to completely incorporate. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. This can also be served cold.