He Said | She Said: The crabbier the better

It's probably no revelation that crab Rangoon isn't an Asian dish. After all, how many cheesy Chinese foods can you name? The exact origins of this American appetizer, most popular in Eastern and Midwestern states, are debatable. Some sources give “Trader Vic” Bergeron credit, while others suggest it came to be right here in St. Louis, at the 1904 World’s Fair.

Becky’s crab Rangoon profile: I have to admit, I don't really have a crab Rangoon profile. Crab Rangoon is sort of like the Mexican rice that comes with the burrito. Nearly requisite, but never the destination. It’s always too – too greasy, too crunchy, too soggy, too cheesy. If a fried wonton stands up and announces itself, I’m going to give it two thumbs up. Too easy? We’ll see.

Simon’s crab Rangoon profile: I was jonesing for crab Rangoon when I lived in London. You just can’t find it there – it’s definitely an American phenomenon. I love the stuff, but I’m all about the sauces. A spicy sweet and sour is a must, and hot braised sauce is even better. It may be a lot to ask, but big bonus points for real shellfish in the filling.

Hunan and Peking Garden
1262 Old Orchard Center, Ballwin
Mon. to Thu. – 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri. – 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat. – noon to 10 p.m., Sun. – noon to 9:30 p.m.

Becky: Crab Rangoon always seems decadent to me, and this version is why. The generous samosa-shaped Rangoons came out warm and oozing cream cheese.
Simon: It was too much cheese for me. But they were fried golden and evenly, and definitely not greasy.
B: The wontons had a chewy texture instead of crispy – almost like they’d been baked.
S: The filling was your typical American crab Rangoon. If there was crabmeat, it was incognito.
B: Even so, the pieces had a nice crab flavor. And the food was very good, so I didn’t mind a less-than-knockout wonton.

Thai Kitchen
2031 Dorsett Village, Maryland Heights
Daily – 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

B: The crab Rangoon is thin, crispy and unadorned. Cream cheese wrapped in wonton skin, says the menu.
S: The menu doesn’t lie because there wasn’t a trace of crabmeat, but the pieces were handmade and evenly fried to a pale yellow color. This is minimalist crab Rangoon.
B: It’s your average crab Rangoon. Except that it’s shaped like a little baby diaper pinned up at each corner.
S: I hadn’t thought of that. I might not have eaten it if I had.
B: Aw, they’re cute. The Rangoons were sizable, but they’re mostly wonton so it’s not like biting into a roll of Philadelphia.
S: They came with a generous amount of standard sweet and sour sauce. If you ask for hot sauce, they’ll include that too.

Atomic Cowboy
4140 Manchester Ave., St. Louis
Tue. to Fri. – 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., Sat. and Sun. – 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

S: Holy crabmeat! They call these lobster Rangoon for a reason: There’s real lobster in these babies.
B: The filling was actually pink, and there were lots of big, generous chunks of the meat. These had big flavor, but to be honest, I can’t tell much difference between crab and lobster Rangoon. But then, I suspect I haven’t tasted a lot of crab in crab Rangoon. I loved the cream cheese – it had an airy, almost whipped texture that practically melted on the tongue.
S: I loved the sweet and sour sauce. It’s got kick.
B: But not too much kick for my slightly lower tolerance. Next time I’ll ask for extra dipping sauce, though, because we were wiping the bottom of the cup with our last bites. But maybe we’re the only couple that fights over condiments. The wontons were very thick and deeply fried, but not at all greasy or heavy.
S: They came out looking like cute little tortellini – not your average shape. They were fried in soy oil (the waitress was gracious enough to bring the bottle to our table), to a glowing golden color, with crispy edges and a chewy, soft center.
B: And they’re brought to the table steaming. The total package – the surprising flavor, the cheese that doesn’t sink to the bottom of your belly, the service – put these at the top of my list.

Miso on Meramec
16 N. Meramec Ave., Clayton
Tue. to Thu. – 5 to 10 p.m., Fri. – 5 to 10:30 p.m., Sat. – 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Sun. – 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

B: Now here’s a crab Rangoon that stood up and announced itself. Biting into these little fish-shaped wontons revealed a surprising mix of ingredients.
S: But be careful because it arrived at the table piping hot.
B: After the initial bite, I realized I had to let it cool down before eating. This gave me plenty of time to examine the innards, which were filled with green onion, cilantro and visible crab.
S: When I got my first real bite, it sort of tasted like a fried egg roll with cream cheese. Brilliant!
B: The nice mix of ingredients packed them with flavor without overwhelming us with cream cheese – it’s a really nice balance. The pieces were small but wholly satisfying. And they’re fried to a deep brown, the darkest of all that we tried, but not overly crunchy or crumbly.
S: You can imagine, I was in dipping-sauce heaven here. Miso is known for its four sushi dipping sauces, corresponding to the four elements. We decided to try the “water” with our appetizer. Made with soy sauce and citrus, it was a natural fit with crab Rangoon.
B: A good match, yes, but the wontons were filled with such flavor that it seemed a shame to dilute it.
S: The sauce that came with the Rangoon, a sweet chile sauce, had no heat. When our waitress learned that we like hot, she brought out a complimentary “earth” sauce, made with wasabi. Its flavors opposed and overpowered the Rangoon.
B: Agreed. This crab Rangoon, full of freshness, is made to be eaten straight.