Several years ago I won a space in a Chinese potsticker (dumpling) class at an auction we attended. I was excited about learning how to make these tasty dumplings because our girls loved them (still do), and would eat them for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and all points in between!
Potstickers (jiaotzu in Mandarin, gyoza in Japanese) are traditionally served at the Lunar New Year in China, where families often get together and make huge amounts of them. They are ubiquitous at Chinese restaurants in Japan, are reasonably priced and traditionally served in a group of five. Potstickers are always available for dimsum, and in most Asian markets you can find a huge variety of these dumplings, with several different types of fillings, in the frozen section. When I didn’t make them myself, I used to buy the big bags of LingLing chicken and vegetable potstickers at Costco. A bag would last us two to three months. We always took them on camping trips as they were easy to prepare from frozen, and in the winter I used them in soup (my potsticker soup recipe was “borrowed” by a woman who entered it in a local contest and won first prize!).
Making potstickers is somewhat labor intensive because of the stuffing, but it’s a great activity to do with older children or with friends. You can save time by buying pre-made wrappers and also using pre-minced ginger and garlic. The wrappers can be made from scratch, but it takes a long time and the teacher at the class I took felt they didn’t always turn out as well as the ready-made ones (which can be purchased at Asian markets and are usually found in the freezer). Potsticker wrappers are round, about 3 inches in diameter, and can either be thick or thin. Thin ones are better if you are going to boil the potstickers, and thick is better for pan-frying (which is how I usually cook them). Chinese and Japanese potstickers usually have a pork filling, but the fillings for potstickers can be made with tofu as well for vegetarians or with ground chicken or shrimp. The teacher suggested that being “assertive” with the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil will give potstickers a better flavor.
While the cost for all the ingredients might seem high, the recipe below makes a lot of dumplings – be prepared! I usually get between 75 and 100 dumplings when using this recipe, enough to last for many, many meals.
There’s a great scene in the movie Crazy Rich Asian where the family has gathered to make dumplings, and they describe wrapping and pleating the dumplings along the lines of putting a baby in a blanket and tucking it in (pleating). The video above gives a quick demonstration on how to pleat – five of them across the top is traditional. If you only want to do three pleats, that’s okay as well (the number four is considered unlucky though).
- 3 pounds ground pork or well-crumbled tofu, or even a mixture of ground pork and tofu
- 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 1-2 TBSP minced ginger
- 1-2 TBSP minced garlic
- 3-4 TBSP soy sauce
- 3-4 TBSP dark sesame oil
- 3-4 TBSP rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 egg
- 3-5 cups finely chopped nappa cabbage
- 50-100 potsticker wrappers
Mix all ingredients (except wrappers) together using your fingers until well blended, but do not overwork. Take a wrapper, and wet around the outside edge with water using your finger. Place a generous teaspoonful of filling the middle, fold over to make a half circle and pinch well to seal. Make five pleats at the top of the half circle (see video above for how the pleats should look). The finished dumpling should have a pleated side and a smooth side, and curve gently on the ends.
Freeze potstickers individually on a cookie sheet lined with parchment before putting into other bags or containers for further storage.
To pan fry (from frozen), put vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat. Place potstickers on the oil, smooth side down, to cover the bottom of the skillet and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the potstickers begin to brown. Add water to around 1/4 of the height of the potstickers, cover the pan, lower the heat and steam for around 5 minutes or until water is gone. Test one to see if done; if not steam a little longer. Using a large spatula, life the potstickers from the pan and invert onto a plate, so the browned side shows. The wrapper might look wrinkled; this is normal, especially if you use the thin wrappers.
To make boiled potstickers, heat a large pan of water to boiling, then carefully place the potstickers in the water. They will initially drop to the bottom, but then rise to the top; boil for around 6-8 minutes. Be sure your potstickers are well-sealed (pinched and pleated) if you’re going to boil them – we once had a batch that completely opened in the water and made a huge mess.
- 1 TBSP minced garlic
- 1 TBSP minced ginger
- 3 TBSP vegetable oil
- 3TBSP soy sauce
- 3 TBSP rice vinegar
- chili sesame oil (optional)
- finely chopped green onion (optional)
- finely chopped cilantro (optional)
Heat oil over medium heat in a small skillet until a piece of green onion will dance across the top of the oil. Add garlic and ginger and fry until they just start to turn brown. Turn off the heat and quickly add the vinegar and soy sauce to stop further cooking. Cool to room temperature and add chili oil, cilantro or chopped green onion if desired.