Twists on an appropriated favorite make for a more complex holiday treat!
I loved Chow Mein Noodle Haystacks as a kid, as I’m sure many readers in North America would nod in agreement. The crunchiness and the hints of flavors outside the usual Christmas-cookie platter made it exotic and always one of the first selections to be cleaned out, every year.
But oh, the cultural baggage of “Chow Mein” and its connotations to sub-par ingredients… So let’s use a couple more authentic ingredients while keeping it accessible for all your co-workers and extended family - and ensure you’re still the cookie star (for both Christmas as well as Lunar New Year!)
In this recipe, I’m swapping out the Chow Mein noodles for a pack of wonton wrappers, and tweaking the spice profile to be sharper. There’s lots of room for improvisation depending on what you have on hand: the “traditional” recipes went from butterscotch and marshmallows to peanuts and M&Ms, so there’s no need to limit yourself. In my next batch for New Year’s, I’ll try dried cranberries and cashew pieces, for instance.
1 pack wonton wrapper skins
2 cups dark chocolate chips (the higher the cacao % the richer the flavor)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup shelled sunflower seeds (substitute or add other fruits, nuts, marshmallows, etc. as desired)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
Thaw and slice the wonton skins into 1/4” x 1-1/2” strips (slice the square skin in half, then thin strips from the halves). Wok-fry these in hot oil, about 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned and pleasantly crispy. The trick is to add only a few handfuls of strips to the oil at a time; otherwise the strips will not cook through evenly - for one pack of wonton skins, you’ll probably fry three batches. Set aside to drain on paper towels.
Mix the cinnamon and five-spice in a small bowl, then sprinkle over the cooling fried strips and toss to evenly coat. Set the strips aside (as tempting as it is to just start munching on them) to prepare the chocolate coating and drying sheets. You’ll end up with about 6 cups of fried strips.
Divide the strips into two mixing bowls (to make the chocolate-application process easier), and add a half-cup of the sunflower seeds to each bowl, along with any other fruits, nuts, etc. you wish. You’ll also be making two batches of melted chocolate.
Before you make the melted chocolate, gather3-4 cookie sheets or trays and lay wax paper or plastic wrap on them; once you start making the haystacks you won’t have time to find the trays, lest the chocolate start to harden in the mixing bowl…
For each batch, in a microwave-safe bowl, add 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup peanut butter. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, then stir, and microwave 15 seconds further.
Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the fried strips and mix well to completely coat each strip. Drop spoonfuls of the strips onto the lined trays and try to mound them as tightly as possible (your hands will get covered in chocolate while trying to do this, but is that such a bad thing?) This recipe will yield 48-60 haystacks , depending on how big you make them.
Refrigerate the trays for an hour; the longer the better if you have space and time. Put uneaten haystacks back into the fridge when the party is over (as if that’s going to happen.)