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.
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
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
Roll each piece of dough into a small ball, then roll each ball into a small, round, flat ‘pancake’ about
Heat a frying-pan (preferably non-stick) over a high heat until hot and add
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.
© 1995 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.