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Elements One ingredient/one dish

Sweet and spicy go together like salt and pepper, making the invention of sweet chili sauce almost inevitable.

The bottled condiment, available in Asian food supermarket aisles and international stores, offers a mild tingle of chili heat in a syrupy liquid form. Noted brands include Mae Ploy and Maggi, makers of other Asian favorites.

In Thai cuisine, sweet chili sauce is often used as the base for dipping sauces. Since it's already sweet and spicy, it's usually rounded out with a sour flavor, like lime juice or vinegar.

Sweet fire: The combination of sugar and eye-catching red chili flakes makes sweet chili sauce a ready-made glaze for grilled food, especially chicken and pork. Brush food with the sauce when it's only a few minutes from done, and let the heat caramelize the sugar.

Sweet chili sauce makes an ideal dipping medium for fried wontons prepared by Buffalo writer and cook Lauren Newkirk Maynard. Hers are stuffed two ways: with spiced pork, and a crab-cheese mixture that approximates the popular American-Chinese appetizer Crab Rangoon.

Make sure you crimp the edges of the wontons well, or their contents might want to escape into the hot oil. If that starts to happen, turn off the heat under the oil and go over the wontons to recrimp the edges. It's a bit of work, to be sure, but leaking wontons and their attendant splattering can quickly ruin a wonton night.

>Pork and Crab Rangoon Wontons

1 package wonton skins
1 quart vegetable oil

For pork filling:
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic

For crab filling:
1 can crabmeat, drained
1 cup softened cream cheese
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce, or more to taste

For dipping sauce:
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar

In a bowl, stir together ground pork, soy sauce, black pepper and minced garlic. Refrigerate.

In another bowl, stir together crab, cream cheese, soy and chili sauce. Refrigerate.

In a third, small bowl, stir together dipping sauce of chili sauce, soy and vinegar. Adjust the amounts to your taste, and set aside.

Place one wonton wrapper on a clean work surface. Put about a teaspoon's worth of filling in the center. With a finger dipped in water, moisten two sides of the square wrapper.

Fold the wrapper over the filling, being careful to keep filling from edging over sides of wrapper. Press the edges of the wrapper together so they stick and look like triangular raviolis.

You can pull the two acute angle corners together and pinch them to stick, so the wonton starts resembling a tortellini. Assemble all the wontons before cooking any.

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot or countertop fryer, to about 325 degrees. Lower wontons in 5 or 6 at a time.

Remove from oil when golden brown, and drain.

If the oil is too hot, the wrapper will burn before the pork filling cooks. If so, lower the heat a bit and cook them longer. Cut open the first pork wonton to ensure they're done properly.

As you cook more, keep wontons warm on a cookie sheet in a low oven.

Serve warm, with dipping sauce. Serves 12 as an appetizer.


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