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Where EAST meets the Northwest

TASTY TREAT. Crab-and-cream-cheese-filled dumplings, a Chinese restaurant staple known as crab rangoon, make a great appetizer or entrée. Inside the readily available wonton wrappers a crab-heavy filling can be adjusted to taste. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

From The Asian Reporter, V19, #49 (December 15, 2009), page 15.

Crab rangoon without the deep fry

By J.M. Hirsch
AP Food Writer

When it comes to crab rangoon, speed is key.

This was obvious after four batches of these cream-cheese-and-crab-filled dumplings burst — first in a pan of hot oil, then in the oven, and again under the broiler — sending molten cream cheese and crab bits spewing everywhere.

The goal was an easy home version of the Chinese restaurant staple. Of course, restaurants deep fry their crab rangoon, but that’s just not practical for most home kitchens. Clearly, pan frying was called for at home.

The filling was the easy part — canned crab meat mixed with cream cheese. While restaurant versions tend to favor a heavier cream cheese ratio, a better texture and taste was had by treating the dairy as more of a dressing on a crab-heavy filling.

The wrappers also were simple. Wonton wrappers are readily available in the Asian or produce sections of most grocers. They are easy to work with and fry up nice and crisp.

Rolled similar to spring rolls (think thick cigars), the first few batches were dismal failures. Wrapped thus, the wontons created thick layers that took forever to fry. The filling also was too thick — by the time the center was heated, the ends had burst.

This obviously isn’t a problem when deep frying — which cooks faster and at much higher temperatures than the pan-fry method. Baking and broiling seemed like good workarounds, but also took too long and caused blowouts.

The solution? A simple fold and crimp method. By folding a single sheet of wonton around the filling just once (rather than rolling and creating several layers), then crimping it with a fork, the dumplings were able to be pan fried in just seconds.

The filling is easily tinkered with to individual tastes. A bit of diced red onion, jalapeno peppers, and hot sauce added a nice contrast. Other finely diced vegetables could be added, as could other (precooked) seafood or meat.

Crab Rangoon

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Makes 26 to 30 rolls


  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeno pepper slices
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce to taste
  • 1 can (1 lb.) claw crab meat, picked over to remove any pieces of shell
  • 30 6-by-6-inch wonton wrappers (or round ones, if available)
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • Asian duck sauce (also called plum sauce)


Preheat oven to 200º F

In a food processor, combine the red onion and jalapeno peppers. Pulse until finely diced, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the cream cheese, salt, pepper, and hot sauce, then pulse again until well combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the crab meat and mix well with the spatula to blend. Set aside.

Fill a small bowl with water. Set aside.

Use a large round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut a circle out of one wonton wrapper. (If using round wrappers, skip this step.) Place one tablespoon of the crab mixture in the center. Dip your fingers in the bowl of water, then wet the edges of the wonton circle.

Fold one side of the wonton over the crab, creating a half moon. Gently press the edges together, then use a fork to crimp them. Alternatively, use an Asian market wonton or dumpling press, which will fold and seal them for you. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the dumplings three or four at a time and fry, using tongs to turn as needed, until lightly browned and crispy on all sides, about 30 second per side.

Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. After the rolls have drained several minutes, transfer them to a plate placed in the oven to keep warm.

Serve crab rolls with bowls of duck sauce for dipping.