Auntie’s special dispensation


In order to successfuly cook potstickers, you need two things.  (1) a nonstick frying pan and (2) attention to the stove at the critical time.  everything else is redeemable, but without these you will be sorry.

When I was little, we sat around the kitchen table and wrapped potstickers.  Auntie would be at the head of the table, forming and rolling out the wrappers, and my cousins, sisters, mom and I would wrap.  Later in Atlanta I made my own with purchased wrappers, and for the past 20 years I cooked mostly frozen pot stickers.  I always thought Auntie had special dispensation from heaven to make the wrappers and I, a mere mortal, should not go there. Imagine my shock when I made my own wrappers 5 months ago and discovered how unbelievably easy it is.  Not just easy to make, but the wrapping process is MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE because the dough is so very elastic and forgiving. Too much filling? no problem, the dough will stretch.  Oh, and the minor detail that it TASTES MUCH BETTER. Yes I am shouting, of all the things I’ve learned so far this is worth shouting about.  It saddens me slightly to think I waited all this time to try. Since September I guess I’ve made about 400 of these babies, from scratch.  More than half I made for the Whole Foods demo I did a couple of weeks ago, but that is another story.

Here is the recipe: it’s long winded so you can stop reading now.

I used Andrea Nguyen’s recipe from her “Asian Dumplings” cookbook for the dough, and I find that adding a little salt improves Flavor:

2 cups flour plus 1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup just boiled water

Being exceedingly lazy, I dump the flour and salt in my kitchenaid mixer, turn it on low, and slowly pour in the hot water. Let it go for a minute, then take it out and knead lightly on a floured surface.  (Easy enough to mix in a bowl with a fork, which I did at Whole Foods.) Form the dough into a ball, cut it in half, and form each half into a log about 8 inches long. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for awhile.

Filling:  my own recipe but it’s pretty standard

1/2 pound super lean ground pork from Marina Market or other Chinese grocery

1/2 pound regular (fatty)  ground pork from same store.  If you use only super lean, the filling will be dry and not juicy and succulent.  yup, that juiciness is–well, not juice.

1/2 of a small head of Napa cabbage.  This translates to about 8 large leaves if you’re peeling it off the surface.  I just cut the head in half, then cut about 2/3 of it because most napa cabbage is a little bigger, and reserve the rest for other use.

Ginger, soy sauce, green onions.  You can also add 1/2 tsp sesame oil or a little slug of oyster sauce (heresy, I know).

Cut out the core and cut the 2/3 of 1/2 (my arithmetic tells me that’s 1/3) of a head of Napa cabbage into large 2 inch chunks.  Dump the cabbage into your food processor and pulse a few times until chopped fairly fine, about the size of corn kernels. Don’t over process to mush.  Place the cabbage in a  large bowl and sprinkle with salt. I don’t measure but it’s about 2 teaspoons, fairly generous.  Mix in the salt and let it sit for a few minutes.  The salt will pull the water out of the cabbage pretty quickly.  You then need to squeeze the water out of the cabbage, and Thanks to Win Chang I learned the easiest way is to dump the cabbage onto a clean dish towel, wrap it up, and have at it.  And to think for 30 years I used my hands.  Next, I put into my kitchenaid mixer bowl (again, lazy) both types of ground pork, the squeezed out cabbage, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1.5 inch chunk of ginger (peeled and minced –I use the food processor) some white pepper, and sometimes I add 3-4 stalks of chopped scallions. Turn it on low until mixed and voila, the filling is done. This can be made the day before, or the morning of.

Commercial Break:  I love my Cuisinart (purchased in 1984).  No way would I take the time and effort to do all this chopping without it.  I  remember making these in high school and college and the chopping took forever.

To roll out the dough:  I purchased a narrow rolling pin like Auntie used, from the Chinese grocery store. It’s the size of a broom handle and about a foot long.  On a floured surface, cut one log into 16 pieces.  flatten one piece with the floured palm of your hand, and using the floured rolling pin, roll the pin with the palm of your hand over the edge of the round just short of the center of the dough, turning the round of dough with your left hand after each roll, so you keep rolling at 6 o’clock, and turning the round so the place you just rolled moves to 4 o’clock.  I find it takes about  6-7 rolls of the pin for each wrapper.  The rhythm of rolling comes pretty quickly.



Wrapping:  I love to use a little food scooper–like an ice cream scoop–that measures then dislodges the filling.  Makes the whole process faster and tidier.  mine is 2.5 tsp capacity.  scoop the filling in middle, pinch 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock together, then with your right thumb and  forefinger, pleat 1 o’clock and 2 o’clock over; repeat on the left side.  squeeze the top to seal while forming it into a crescent shape. Place the filled potstickers on a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.  repeat till you have 32 potstickers.

How to cook potstickers with a minimum of oil splatter: This applies equally well to frozen potstickers.  In a cold, empty (no oil yet) NONSTICK large frying pan Off the Heat, place your potstickers in a circle around the edge so they are ‘spooning’ each other.  Continue concentric circles until the center of the pan is full.  It is okay if they are touching but don’t squish them together. Put the full pan on the stove, turn to high, pour a little oil over the top (you will be pouring oil directly on top of some of the potstickers, no matter)–the amount  of oil you would use if you were cooking a big pan of scrambled eggs. Then pour cold tap water into the pan so the water level is halfway up the dumpling.  Let it come to a boil, then cover and turn heat to low-medium.  Let simmer for 12 -14 minutes. At this point, turn your exhaust fan to high if not already on high.  Uncover the pan, turn the heat to high, and let the water evaporate and STAND THERE AND WATCH because as soon as you turn your back the bottoms will burn.  You will see a golden brown fond form in the pan between the potstickers; lift one up to check, and they are done.  Remove from heat, and the best part is, you can slide the entire pan of potstickers onto a large dinner plate, brown side down, for the nice concentric circle presentation.  However if you didn’t make nice concentric circles in the pan to begin with, you’re outta luck.  True story: Years ago I cooked these at a friend’s home–she doesn’t cook and had beautiful brand spankin’ new nonstick pans.  When I slid the potstickers out, they released so easily and quickly they ended up on the floor.  5 second rule.




3 thoughts on “Auntie’s special dispensation

  1. Yay, we’ll have to try the recipe someday. Homemade dough reminds me of my mom doing this by hand. Finding pre-made recipes in Pittsburgh in the 1970’s was a challenge. 🙂

    p.s. Is there something going on with your WordPress font? It looks like it’s scaling funny. Or maybe that’s just a design decision? 😉

  2. Norma

    WOW!! Who knew?? I thought potstickers were made by special potsticker fairies. But then, maybe you ARE a special potsticker fairy. It ALMOST makes me want to try making them but I’d much rather come eat the ones you make.

  3. Mom went healthy, and came up with this recipe. It’s really great, and when I make them from scratch (which isn’t often), this is what I use. The best part is you don’t have to squeeze the liquid from the Napa cabbage (because there isn’t any!). But I have never made the wrappers… yet.

    1 pound ground turkey
    ¼ cup oatmeal
    1 large onion, minced
    2 tablespoons wine
    3 tablespoons sesame oil
    7 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 inch ginger, minced
    8-10 shitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, chopped
    3 packages pot sticker skins (round, thick type such as Hong Kong brand, 1 pound each)

    Mix all ingredients. A food processor makes this easy to mix, but don’t over-process the mixture because you want some chunks of mushrooms and onions in the mixture for texture.

    I remember when you couldn’t buy the thick pot sticker wrappers, and I had to use the square wonton skins and cut off the corners to make circles.

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