Recipe: Potstickers

September 20 2009 - 9:58 PM

The more foods become globalized, the more they seem to take on similarities across cultures. Take, for instance, the concept of filling inside dough. You have the American apple dumpling, the Italian ravioli, the Polish pierogi and on and on. Now, in my inexpert opinion, the genus of Chinese dumplings has the most diverse evolutionary branches of the dumpling family. You have the wonton, the pork shumai, the xiao long bao soup dumpling, the shrimp har gao, the related ha cherng shrimp roll, and of course, the jiaozi potsticker.

Ah, potstickers. Whether steamed, boiled or fried, meat-filled or vegetarian, served from a cocktail tray or out of street vendor cart, the potsticker is always a crowd-pleaser. These days, you can pick up packages of frozen castillo hinchable potstickers in almost any grocery store, boil some water and voila, dinner is ready. However, for an even more rewarding experience, it is actually quite easy to make dumplings yourself. You can make dough from scratch and roll it out, but I recommend picking up a package of dumpling wrappers as a shortcut. After all, even with pre-made dumpling skins, it does take a significant block of time to make, fold and cook the potstickers. Therefore, I recommend roping in additional hands to speed up this labor-intensive process, particularly if you aren’t picky about how the neatly the potstickers are pleated. (Hint: host a potsticker making party.)

1 lb ground pork (preferably fatty)
1 bunch garlic chives, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1″ ginger, minced
handful shiitake mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 egg
2 t salt
2T soy sauce
2T sesame oil
2T cornstarch
2 packages round dumpling wrappers (be careful not to buy wonton wrappers, which are thinner and square)

  1. Combine all ingredients except for the dumpling wrappers and mix well.
  2. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of a dumpling wrapper. Use water to wet the edge of half of the wrapper. Fold and pleat the dumpling wrapper. The classical style is to start at the center and pleat toward both ends. Only pleat the layer closest to you, while the other side stays smooth. This results in concave, moon-shaped dumplings that sit nicely. Alternatively, any folding method that results in a sealed dumpling will taste just as good…
  3. The traditional method of boiling dumplings is to boil water in a half-full pot. When the pot is at a rolling boil, drop in the dumplings. Stir once to make sure that none are sticking to the bottom of the pot; they should eventually float to the surface. As soon as the water is boiling again, add 1/2 cup of cold water. Wait until the water is boiling again and repeat. After you have added water 3 times and inflatable water slide returned the pot to a boil, remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon and drain them in a colander. Continue boiling the next batch of dumplings. You might be wondering what is the point of this 3-stage boiling method. After querying a number of wizened Chinese women, I still haven’t come across a good explanation other than “this is the way it’s always done.” My mother claims that this keeps the dumplings at near-boiling temperature, to ensure that the filling fully cooks, but that the skins don’t crack. I am less convinced that the skins are so delicate as to necessitate this, but can’t bring myself to break from tradition.
  4. At this point, I am usually content to just eat the boiled dumplings. (It’s also the healthier option.) However, there’s no substitute for the crunchy, seared bottom of a potsticker. So, to get fried potstickers, add a couple tablespoons of oil to a pan. When the oil is hot, add the boiled dumplings, making sure they do not stick to the pan or each other. Pan fry until golden brown.
  5. Serve with a dipping sauce of 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice vinegar. You can add chili paste, minced garlic or scallions to this as well.

You can easily substitute other meats (ground shrimp, chicken) and vegetables (napa cabbage, tofu, carrot, scallions). The only requirements are that the filling needs to be somewhat sticky and cohesive (or you will have a hard time keeping it inside the wrapper) and that the components are in small pieces but not a puree.

If you have leftover dumpling skins, you can wrap them and store them in the freezer. As long as they do not dry out, the skins will not crack.

Makes about 75 potstickers.