This is the first entry in MeatEater’s new Trophy Meals column. Trophy Meals will be featuring new wild game recipes, cooking techniques, butchering tips and more on a regular basis.
One of the best ways to introduce wild game to hesitant friends is to prepare something that’s instantly familiar and appealing. Appetizers are a good starting point for people new to wild game because there’s no commitment to eating an entire meal and most people associate appetizers with good tastes and enjoyable experiences. If I’m planning on hosting a group of friends for a casual backyard party, I’ll make sure to have a wild game appetizer or two for the neophytes to try.
For many reasons, one of my favorite wild game appetizers is venison wontons. It’s a sure bet I that I’ll always have some kind of ground venison in the freezer and this recipe turns simple ground meat into a fun, tasty appetizer. Really, from moose to whitetail to wild pig, ground meat from any animal will work well here-even small game and birds. You can assemble the wontons ahead of time which saves time later for drinks and hunting stories. Once fried crispy and served with a variety of dipping sauces, venison wontons will make the pickiest, most gun-shy eaters instant wild game fans.
1 package wonton wrappers
1 lb ground venison (elk, deer, moose etc) or other wild game
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped green onion
2 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup Asian fish sauce
Peanut or sesame oil
First, by hand, mix ground meat, cilantro, green onion, garlic , a generous squeeze of lime juice and fish sauce in large bowl. Chill in refrigerator. Now, lay out wonton wrappers on cookie sheet or cutting board. Mix egg well with ½ cup water. Brush egg wash on edges of wonton wrappers. Now, place no more than 1 ½ tablespoons of meat filling onto each wonton wrapper. Do not overfill. Fold wonton wrapper over filling and seal edges with fingers. Use a fork to crimp wonton wrapper edges. Place wontons in refrigerator until ready to cook.
To cook, preheat peanut oil to 375 degrees in deep fryer. Place wontons in frying basket. Do not overcrowd. Cook in batches if necessary. Fry until wrapper is golden brown. Filling should be thoroughly cooked in 4-5 minutes. Place in warm oven until ready to serve.
Wontons can also be fried in a cast iron skillet, frying pan or Dutch oven. Heat sesame oil in pan to medium-high. Place a single layer of wontons in the pan. Do not overcrowd. Cook on one side 3-4 minutes until wrapper is golden brown. Then flip and repeat.
Dipping sauce is a must for these fried wontons and I like to offer a variety of choices. A few tablespoons of soy sauce mixed with a cup of spicy sriracha sauce pairs well with venison wontons. Try ponzu sauce (citrus infused soy sauce) mixed with a little wasabi and lime juice for a dipping sauce with bright flavors. And a sweet thai chili sauce is good for kids or people who don’t like things too hot or spicy.
Feel free to experiment a little by adding different ingredients to the meat filling. For example, I’ll add some extra heat with crushed red pepper. Venison wontons can also be steamed or cooked as dumplings in soup.
This recipe makes about 20-24 wontons and will serve 4-6 people. For larger groups, double the recipe. Practice some wild game meat diplomacy with this appetizer and you’ll likely create some more advocates for the hunting lifestyle.
Brody Henderson is a hunter, fly fishing guide, writer, wilderness production assistant for the MeatEater television show and MeatEater‘s editorial contributor