Northern Chinese Vegetable Potstickers

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    20

    dumplings

Appears in

Potstickers are a form of dumpling and, in northern China, they are a speciality in restaurants and a staple in home kitchens. To this day, making them is a family affair and social occasion, with Sunday mornings before the big lunch meal devoted to their preparation. In general, dumplings may be shallow-fried, boiled, poached or steamed. One very popular way to make them is to shallow-fry in oil and water until they literally stick to the pan, a method I like best of all. Properly done, it produces true potsticker dumplings that are crisp on the bottom, soft on the top and juicy inside. The goal is to have a contrast of textures and flavours.

In China, potsticker dumplings usually include minced pork. But they are equally satisfying as a vegetarian dish. Try to obtain the Chinese preserved vegetables and Chinese chives; they add an excellent flavour to the dumplings. You may substitute ordinary chives, but there is really no substitute for the preserved vegetables. Make your own dipping sauce with chilli oil, dark soy sauce and Chinese white rice vinegar or cider vinegar.

Potsticker dumplings may be frozen uncooked and can be transferred directly from the freezer to the pan; just cook them a little longer than usual. Ready-made potsticker wrappers can be found in Chinese grocers if you choose not to make your own.

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Ingredients

  • 1 packet potsticker wrappers, bought or made according to the recipe below

Dough

  • 150 g (5 oz) plain flour
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) very hot water

Stuffing

  • 100 g (4 oz) fresh or frozen peas
  • 50 g (2 oz) Sichuan preserved
  • vegetables, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 225 g (8 oz) bok cboy, finely chopped
  • 225 g (8 oz) Chinese chives, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • a pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oil, preferably groundnut
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) water

Method

If you are making the dough, put the flour into a large bowl and gradually stir in the hot water, mixing continuously with a fork or chopsticks until most of the water is incorporated. Add more water if the mixture seems dry. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead with your hands until smooth. This should take about 5 minutes. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a clean, damp tea towel and leave to rest for about 20 minutes.

While the dough is resting, make the stuffing. If you are using fresh peas, blanch them in a pan of boiling water for 4 minutes or 2 minutes if they are frozen. Rinse the Sichuan preserved vegetables several times in cold water and blot them dry.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the stuffing ingredients and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until the mixture is dry. Remove the mixture to a bowl and allow the stuffing ingredients to cool thoroughly.

After the resting time, take the dough out of the bowl and knead it again for about 5 minutes, dusting with a little flour if sticky. Once the dough is smooth, form into a roll about 23 cm (9 in) long and about 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter. Take a knife and cut the roll into 18 equal pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into a small ball, then roll each ball into a small, round, flat ‘pancake’ about 6 cm ( in) in diameter. Arrange the rounds on a lightly floured tray and cover with damp kitchen paper to keep them from drying out until required.

Put about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the centre of each pancake, then fold in half. Moisten the edges with water and pinch together with your fingers. Pleat around the edge, pinching to seal well. Transfer the finished dumplings to the floured tray and keep it covered with a damp cloth until you have filled all the dumplings in this way.

Heat a frying-pan (preferably non-stick) over a high heat until hot and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the dumplings, flat side down, into the pan. Turn down the heat and cook for about 2 minutes until lightly browned. (You may need to cook the dumplings in two batches.) Add the 150 ml (5 fl oz) of water, cover the pan tightly and cook for about 12 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Uncover the pan and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove the dumplings and serve.

Place three bowls on the table, containing Chinese white rice vinegar, chilli oil and dark soy sauce. Let each person concoct their own dipping sauce by mixing these three items exactly to their taste.

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