During what must have been my fourth grocery store run in 2 days, I was picking up just a few things – cheese, pepperoni – for the pizza I was going to make for my parents for lunch when I walked by the produce aisle and spontaneously decided that I would make potstickers (also known as dumplings in my family) for Alex and me for dinner. I picked up the package of won ton wrappers (can also be used for ravioli according to the package?) and then walked back and forth selecting ingredients that I thought would work inside my potstickers.
It was probably on my fourth pass down the aisle when a man stocking the carrots asked me if I needed any help. Warning: Thinking up a recipe while you are shopping can give the appearance that you are walking aimlessly and need assistance finding something. Slightly startled by his inquiry, I looked around and then noticed he was looking at me (and so must have directed his question to me, right?), politely said “no, I’m just thinking,” and then slowly (but quickly) made my semi-embarrassed getaway, only to be particularly disheartened when I couldn’t find “baby bok choy” under the produce section on the self-checkout computer and stood there for about 5 minutes waiting for the attendant to notice.
So here’s what I came home with:
That half pound of ground pork had been in my freezer for a couple months and was the perfect amount for my dumpling filling. I love that everything has to be “mini” for making dumplings and so the baby bok choy, a milder, smaller, cuter version of big poppa bok choy, seemed a pleasantly appropriate alternative to cabbage.
And because they’re tiny, this would make a great project for tiny hands. You know, assembly-line style. (But I’d advise leaving the frying part for adults).
The cool thing about potstickers is they do this funny auto-wrinkle thing right as they finish cooking. Lift the lid and ssshhheeeeoop! the air magically pinches the won ton skin tightly around the filling, resulting in these pug-like wrinkles (I tried to point out the especially good examples; perhaps this was unnecessary):
In case you forgot what pugs look like, click here. See the resemblance?!?
Okay, okay, you probably want the recipe now, eh? Be forewarned, making these takes some time, but it’s pretty repetitive so you could definitely do it while you have some friends over – maybe enlist their help! There are also about a bazillion ways you could fill a potsticker, so feel free to adapt my filling with whatever you happen to have on hand.
Make the filling:
– 1/2 pound ground pork (cooking for vegetarian? leave this out and veggie potstickers will work just fine)
– 2 baby bok choy
– handful of shredded carrots, chopped even smaller
– 4 cremini mushrooms, very small dice
– about 1/3 cup onion, minced
– 1 teaspoon corn starch
– 1 tablespoon sesame oil
– 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
– sprinkle of salt and pepper
1. Chop the bok choy into very thin strips then run your knife back and forth, chopping, to make the pieces even smaller. Let sit in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt for about 5 minutes to help draw out any moisture. Place chopped bok choy in a clean dishtowel and squeeze out the extra water. Return to bowl.
2. Add all other filling ingredients and mix together, using your hands if necessary to help scrunch and mix.
Assemble the Potstickers:
– 50 won ton wrappers
– 1 egg beaten with a splash of water
3. On a flat surface, (I used the underside of a rimmed baking sheet), lay out some won ton wrappers. Fill each with a heaped 1/2 teaspoon of filling. I know, it seems so small, but if you go too much bigger, the dumpling will be stuffed and will either have a difficult time closing or will break, gushing forth its insides.
4. Using a pastry brush (or your finger) paint the egg wash on all four sides of the won ton skin’s perimeter. Quickly fold the won ton skin in half diagonally (so you make a triangle), and press the skin together, tucking in any filling that tries to escape. I advise working from the tip of the triangle first and then working both hands down the sides to the other two points. As you get to the ends, gently fold the two outside corners towards each other to create a nice shape. Set folded dumplings aside to wait.
Cooking the Potstickers:
5. In a wok, heat about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat. (My wok is nonstick so I used a scant 1/2 tablespoon oil). When it’s hot, add the dumplings, about 8 at a time. Give the wok a shake to let the oil touch each of the dumplings.
6. Fry for about 1 minute, and then flip the dumplings over (I recommend using tongs). Give the wok another shake and then pour in about 1/4 cup water and immediately cover with a lid. (My wok didn’t come with a lid so I just used the lid to my biggest soup pot).
7. Cook, covered, for about 4-5 minutes. This creates steam that helps to cook the pork in the filling. At the end of five minutes, remove the lid (most of the water should be evaporated) and watch the dumplings shrivel up.
8. Quickly and carefully, remove the dumplings with tongs. (Watch out! Some of them may try to stick on you…that’s why they’re called potstickers…) Set aside to a plate covered with paper towels to let some of the moisture/oil drain off.
9. Repeat for the next batch until desired number of potstickers is created.
Note: If you don’t think you can eat 50 potstickers in one night, you can freeze the uncooked, filled dumplings on a baking sheet for an hour or so. Then store them in freezer bags and take out when you want to make some more. Or dump them into some hot chicken broth for instant won ton soup.
Personally, I could eat the potstickers plain (easy to do when they’re sitting happy on a plate near me as I cook the next batch), but if you’re like Alex, you want some sort of Asian-style sauce to dip them in. He is still in search of the perfect sauce, but came up with something pretty satisfactory last night based on this recipe. Try it out–let us know what you think.
So what do you think? Am I the only one who thinks potstickers look like pugs? What do you like to fill your dumplings with? Or dip them in? There’s something about the focus and discipline in making these potstickers that makes them celebratory–the kind of thing that would be great for a New Year’s celebration, eh?