, in a little bit more than 2 weeks, the Chinese New Year of the Earth Pig will be upon us!
In celebration of this mightiest of holidays, allow me – the always festive and thrice-blessed TFD! – to teach you a classic, must-have dish to help you ring in the New Year with proper good fortune! I speak of nothing less than pan-fried dumplings – also referred to as “pot stickers”!
As noted on vietworldkitchen.com:
Have you ever wondered how pot stickers got their name? Most of us know them as a dumpling that’s panfried in a skillet, not a pot. For years I thought about why the heck the dumplings are called pot stickers.
My Chinese language is passable in a charming pinch but doesn’t come to me in a flash. It took me a while before I realized that the dumpling’s Chinese name, guotie literally means “wok stick.”
It totally jives with the dumpling’s legend, which dates pot stickers back to the Song Dynasty (960 – 1280 A.D.). They were initially regular boiled dumplings cooked in a wok (guo) – the go-to Chinese cooking pot. A chef who was boiling dumplings forgot about them and after the water had boiled away, the dumplings stuck (tie). Not knowing what to do, he pried the dumplings from the wok and served them.
His guests loved the contrasts between rich filling, tender skin, and crusty bottom. Thus the pot sticker was born. Over the years, the Mandarin name for pot sticker, guotie, stuck and was translated into English as pot sticker since woks are the basic pot in a Chinese kitchen.
Pot stickers are of course simply a pan-fried and partially-steamed version of the classic Jiaozi steamed dumplings, whose recipe I posted this time last year.
To recap from that recipe: Jiaozi are a kind of Chinese dumpling, commonly eaten in China and other parts of East Asia. They are one of the major foods eaten during the Chinese New Year and year-round in the northern provinces.
Jiaozi typically consist of a ground meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together. Finished jiaozi can be boiled (shuǐ jiǎo), steamed (zhēng jiǎo) or pan-fried (jiān jiǎo).
In China, there are several different folk stories explaining the origin of jiaozi and its name.
Traditionally, jiaozi were thought to be invented during the era of the Eastern Han (AD 25 – 220) by Zhang Zhongjing, who was a great practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.
Jiaozi were originally referred to as “tender ears” (Chinese: 嬌耳; pinyin: jiao’er) because they were used to treat frostbitten ears. Zhang Zhongjing was on his way home during wintertime, when he found many common people had frostbitten ears, because they did not have warm clothes and sufficient food.
He treated these poor people by stewing lamb, black pepper, and some warming medicines in a pot, chopped them, and used them to fill small dough wrappers. He boiled these dumplings and gave them with the broth to his patients, until the coming of the Chinese New Year.
In order to celebrate the New Year as well as recovering from frostbitten ears, people imitated Zhang’s recipe to make Jiao’er. Other theories suggest that jiaozi may have derived from dumplings in Western Asia.
Jiaozi may also be named because they are horn-shaped. The Chinese word for “horn” is jiao (Chinese: 角; pinyin: jiǎo), and jiaozi was originally written with the Chinese character for “horn”, but later it was replaced by the specific character 餃, which has the food radical on the left and the phonetic component jiāo (交) on the right.
At the same time, jiaozi look like yuan bao silver or gold ingots used as currency during the Ming Dynasty, and as the name sounds like the word for the earliest paper money, serving them is believed to bring prosperity. Many families eat these at midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Some cooks will even hide a clean coin inside a jiaozi for the lucky to find.
Citizens, my recipe for pot stickers are more complexly flavored than most and incorporates several different ingredients from across China, but they are not difficult to make.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous Year of the Pig, ! I have gratefully cribbed the best cooking instructions I know for pot stickers from my mentor in Chinese cuisine, the inestimable Barbara Tropp – may she rest in peace. Please note that you will need 1 or 2 large cast iron frying pans to make these – don’t bother with the recipe if you don’t have them.
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 40–50 round dumpling wrappers
- ½ lb ground pork, half fat – add additional chopped cold Lard to pork if needed to bring to 50/50 meat/fat ratio
- 1 ¾ cups Napa cabbage, finely chopped
- ¼ cup finely minced Sichuan preserved vegetable – if unavailable, use plain old Napa cabbage
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 2 ½ tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil (Kadoya brand preferred)
- 3 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp white pepper
- ½ tbsp. oyster sauce
- ½ tbsp. minced ginger
- 1 large egg (duck egg preferred)
- ¼ cup chopped scallion
- ¼ cup chopped garlic chives, including flowering heads
- 1 tbsp. hot chili oil (Kadoya brand preferred)
- 1 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorn oil (if unavailable, use chili oil)
- ½ tbsp. water
- 1 tbsp. flour
- For cooking:
- ½ cup corn or peanut oil for pan-frying
- 2 cups unsalted hot chicken stock plus 2 tbsp corn or peanut oil for steam-cooking
- For the dipping sauce:
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 ½ teaspoons sugar
- ½ medium scallion, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh gingerroot
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- Combine pork, salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, sugar, white pepper, oyster sauce and water in large mixing bowl.
- Stir in one direction for a couple of minutes until the pork mixture stops looking like separated pork pieces and more like a paste.
- Add flour and egg and mix in. Add the cabbage and Tianjin preserved vegetable and stir in one direction until thoroughly mixed, fluffy and smooth.
- Let rest in fridge 1 hour to combine flavors.
- Heat the chili and peppercorn oils until smoking. Put scallions and chives on top of meat mixture, pour smoking oil over the greens to maximize their aroma. Stir, again in the same direction, until incorporated.
- Prepare working area with dumpling wrappers (keep covered until use), a small bowl of water, pork mixture, and a clean plate for placing of wrapped dumplings.
- For each pot sticker, take one dumpling skin and place one scant tablespoon in middle. Keeping your fingers as dry as possible, wrap and pleat the pot sticker, then close.
- For the dipping sauce:
- Bring soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and ¼ cup water to boil in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
- Pour mixture into bowl and stir in scallion, ginger, oil, and hot red pepper flakes (Sauce can be refrigerated in air-tight container for several days.
- To cook potstickers:
- Heat the skillet over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add enough oil to coat the bottom with a scant ¼ inch oil, swirl the skillet to glaze it an inch up’the sides, then adjust the skillet on the burner so that the oil is evenly deep.
- Reduce the heat to medium. When the oil is hot enough to foam a pinch of dry flour, pick up the dumplings by their tops and quickly arrange them smooth side down in the pan.
- Make concentric rings starting from the outside of the pan and working into the center, putting the dumplings directly next to and hugging one another. (The crowding will cause the dumplings to stick together in a pretty spiral when they are turned out onto the platter, which is the traditional presentation.} As you arrange the dumplings, adjust the heat so they sizzle mildly.
- Once the dumplings are in place, raise the heat slightly to bring them to a merry sizzle and brown the bottoms. Check frequently, lifting them carefully with a spatula, and when the bottoms are evenly browned give the stock mixture a stir, and add enough to come halfway up the side of the dumplings. Expect the liquid to hiss loudly as soon as it is added.
- Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, and cover the pot. (These are the moments when the wrappers and filling will cook through and absorb the flavor of the stock.)
- After about 7 minutes, lift the lid to peek inside the pot, and when the stock is almost all absorbed remove the lid. Lift one dumphng with a spatula and check the bottom. If it is not crisp enough to “clink” against a flngemail, then continue to cook for a minute or so more.
- If there is not sufficient oil left after the steaming to crisp them, add a bit more oil from the side of the pan and swirl to distribute it under the dumplings.
- When the bottoms are crisp, turn off the heat, move the pan off the burner, and loosen the bottoms of the dumplings with the spatula. Invert them onto the serving platter, browned bottoms up. If you have done the job well, they will cling in a spiral.
- Eating pot stickers:
- As soon as you have turned the dumplings out of the pan (and neatened them up if they did not emerge exactly as planned), rush them to the table.
- Part of the traditional fun is for the guests to pull them apart with their chopsticks, then, the eating begins: Pick a dumpling up with the help of chopsticks and a small Chinese porcelain spoon (a metal soup spoon will do, though it gets too hot to be perfect).
- Pick the dumpling up out of the spoon long enough to dunk its bottom in the dip, then return it to the spoon. Raise the spoon almost to your chin, use the chopsticks to complete the journey of the dumpling to your mouth, then after you have bitten off a neat half (carefully, so the steam and hot juices don’t bum you), deposit the remaining half in the spoon until you are ready for the next bite.
- Dumpling eating is designed to be fun and informal, so feel free to lose a dumpling here and there, splatter a bit of the dipping sauce if you have not perfected the art of dunking, and demand more dumplings in the spirit of a good party.
- Cook only as many dumplings as will be eaten (which is usually more than you anticipate if you have assembled the appropriate audience). Cold pot stickers are beyond rewarming or at least beyond my taste.
Citizens, please note that I can no longer afford to absorb the nearly $1000 per month it costs to keep the site running smoothly, including marketing expenses, etc.
You can make a difference!
Please consider making a one-time donation to help keep the site live and the posts coming – click here to PayPal Me a tip!
You can also show your support by listening to our podcasts, liking them, and sharing as you see fit – try them out here.