CP Shrimp Wonton Soup
CP Shrimp Wonton Soup comes frozen in small black plastic bowls holding five wontons per bowl, with a net weight of 5.1 oz. It got me thinking. Did I ever have a wonton growing up? We went to Chinese restaurants occasionally, but I don't ever remember having one until I was a regular at Wong's, a small cafeteria-style place in Nashville in the early '80s. That place had great fried wontons.
The soup we ate last week, acquired at a warehouse store, wasn't Chinese, but Thai. Carried to our table here in the heart of North America by the astonishing infrastructure of international trade in our time, even if that means a $12.2 billion US trade deficit with Thailand (in 2009, down $2.3 billion from 2008). The CP in the name stands for Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Co. Ltd., headquartered in Amphur Muang in the Gulf of Thailand coastal province of Samut Sakorn. Charoen Pokphand is the General Mills of Thailand, apparently -- or maybe the Thai Tyson, but anyway a major Southeast Asian food conglomerate.
The label says that the wontons contain farm-raised shrimp, going as far to specify the Latin name, Litopenaeus vannamei, formerly Penaeus vannamei, or Pacific white shrimp, or whiteleg shrimp, or the more mellifluous name in French, Crevette pattes blanches. The FAO page on this species has more information about the shrimp than anyone but aquaculturists are likely to want, but I did note a few things. Native to Central and South America, the creature was first spawned in tanks in Florida in the 1970s, and production has skyrocketed since then. It's a species that breeds well in captivity.
On the road from Bangkok to the Gulf coast, I remember seeing enormous manmade ponds near the road. Shrimp farms, I was told.
"Thailand's prawn harvest yields 500,000-550,000 tonnes annually, accounting for 28 percent of the world's prawn production," notes MCOT, "Thailand's Best TV Web Site," in a recent article. "Ninety-nine percent of shrimp farming in the country is for whiteleg shrimps, while the other 1 percent is for black tiger prawns. Over 90 percent of Thailand's shrimp produce is for export in the form of refrigerated, frozen and processed prawns."
Frozen -- that's what we had. Yuriko said she checked in the store to make sure they weren't made in China, which she didn't want to buy. "But why not?" I asked. "Heavy metals would be no extra charge."
Preparation is easy, the better to appeal to the North American market: add water to the fill line inside the bowl, then nuke it for three minutes. That's it. I wasn't expecting much from frozen soup shipped across the Pacific that ultimately spent time in my microwave oven, but I was surprised. CP Shrimp Wonton Soup turned out to be as good as anything I've ever had in a Thai restaurant, including those in Thailand. Everyone else in the house thought so too, and we went through all of it in a couple of days.