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Wonton Nachos

Wonton Nachos
Image: / Tim Nusog

In this recipe, fried wontons stand in for tortilla chips, the beef is spiced with lemongrass and ginger, and Thai chiles spike the cheese sauce. Even the tomato salsa, seasoned with rice wine vinegar and sweet chile sauce, gets in on the act.

The nachos were invented at Expatriate, a Portland, Oregon, cocktail bar run by Naomi Pomeroy and her partner, Kyle Linden Webster. (He does the drinks; she’s responsible for the bar snacks.) They’re salty, spicy and crunchy, and you intend to stop devouring them after a few fully loaded bites. But then, before you know it, the pan’s empty.


For the chips:

  • 1 12-ounce package wonton wrappers

  • 4 cups neutral-flavored oil (such as canola or peanut), for frying

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns

For the meat:

  • 1 pound (80-20) ground beef

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, outer layers peeled, bottom third finely minced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Szechuan spicy pot sauce

  • 2-3 Thai chiles, minced

  • 1 tsp sea salt

For the salsa:

  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced

  • 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced

  • 1 tablespoon sweet Thai chile sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce

  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

  • 1 Thai chile, minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the crema:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup sour cream

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the chile-cheese:

  • 4 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into 2-inch cubes

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 3-5 Thai chiles

  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves

  • 1/4 cup packed mint leaves


Serves 4-6.

  1. Add the oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high until it reaches 350°F.

  2. Meanwhile, cut the wonton wrappers in half into triangles.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the salt, Szechuan pepper, cumin and coriander.

  4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels.

  5. When the oil is hot, add the wonton wrappers to the oil in batches (pulling the wrappers apart if they’re sticking together) and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Adjust the heat to maintain an even oil temperature; if the oil temperature exceeds 350°F, the wrappers will darken too quickly.

  6. With a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the chips to the prepared sheet pan.

  7. Repeat with the remaining wrappers, allowing the oil to return to temperature between batches.

  8. When all of the wrappers have been fried, season with the salt mixture.

  9. Heat a large frying pan over medium‐high heat. When the pan is hot, add the beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

  10. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a bowl.

  11. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan, then return the pan to the heat.

  12. Add the lemongrass, ginger and garlic and fry, stirring, until very fragrant, about 3 minutes.

  13. Add the hoisin sauce, hot pot sauce, Thai chiles and salt and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

  14. Return the beef to the pot and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

  15. Season to taste with additional salt, then set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

  16. To make the salsa, in a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, chile sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, Thai chile and salt. Stir to combine, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  17. To make the crema, in a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  18. In a double boiler over medium heat (or in a crock pot turned on low), combine the Velveeta, sour cream and Thai chiles. Cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted. Keep warm over low heat.

  19. When you’re ready to assemble the nachos, drain the salsa through a fine-mesh strainer, retaining the solids and discarding the liquid. (This will prevent the salsa from making the nachos soggy.)

  20. Preheat the oven to 225°F and gently rewarm the beef over low heat. Place the chips in the oven for 5 minutes, just long enough to warm them through, then transfer half of the warmed chips to a platter.

  21. Top with half of the beef, half of the crema (dolloped in a haphazard way), half of the chile‐cheese (drizzled over all the chips) and half of the salsa.

  22. Add a second layer of chips and repeat the layering, using the remaining beef, chile‐cheese, crema and salsa.

  23. Top with the mint and cilantro leaves and serve immediately.