The History of Crab Rangoon

Crab rangoon is a deep-fried dumpling stuffed with cream cheese, crab meat, scallions, and garlic. The filling is wrapped in a Chinese-style wonton wrapper before deep fried in oil. Although this dish is often identified as traditional Chinese fare, it is actually a relatively new invention.

Although its history is unclear, it is likely that crab rangoon is not truly of Asian origin, as cream cheese is essentially nonexistant in the cuisines of China and South Asia. In fact, there are very few authentic Chinese dishes that include any kind of cheese.

In fact, according to many, Crab Rangoon was actually invented at Trader Vic's, the popular Polynesian-style bar and restaurant that reached its height during the tiki craze of the 1950s and 1960s. According to legend, crab rangoon originated in either the San Francisco or Oakland branch of the restaurant in the early- to mid-1950s, and was originally based on a Burmese recipe. Trader Vic's menus from this era often list crab rangoon as a Polynesian-style appetizer.

In accordance with this history, crab rangoon is commonly credited to Victor Bergeron, founder of the Trader Vic's tiki restaurant chain. He is also credited with the invention of the Mai Tai tropical drink, and with the pupuu platter of appetizers. Although the cocktails were always the biggest attraction, tiki restaurants such as Trader Vic's were also known for their unique, Asian-inspired fare, invented to approximate traditional cuisine on Polynesian islands.

Others argue that crab rangoon was invented for the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, held in 1904. Countless modern dishes have been introduced at World's Fairs over the past two centuries, although little evidence exists that something comparable to today's crab rangoon was served there in 1904.

No matter its origins, crab rangoon has taken on a life of its own. Today, Crab Rangoon can be found as an appetizer in countless Chinese-style restaurants across America, often served with hot mustard, sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, or plum sauce as a dip. Although today it's a very popular appetizer in Chinese restaurants throughout America, it is not a traditional Chinese recipe.

No matter their origins, thanks to their tiki restaurant ties crab rangoon would be the perfect accompaniment for your next tiki party or luau. To make crab rangoons, you'll need a clove of garlic and a green onion, both minced. You'll also need a teaspoon of soy sauce, a pinch of pepper, and 8 ounces each of cream cheese and canned crab meat. Finally, crab rangoons require wonton wrappers and oil for frying.

Crab rangoons are made by combining the crab meat and cream cheese. Then add the other ingredients, except for the wonton wrappers, one at a time. Thoroughly mix the crab rangoon filling before adding each ingredient.

Once the filling has been mixed, lay out the wonton wrappers, putting one teaspoon of the filling into each wrapper. Now, wet the edges of the wonton, folding to create a triangle. Remove all of the air before pressing the edges together to seal the rangoons. Fry the wontons in batches in a wok with oil heated to 360-375 degrees.

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