The Recipe

Amy Tan’s Family’s Potstickers

This month’s Wok Wednesdays recipe from “The Breath of a Wok” is Amy Tan’s Family’s Jiao-zi, the popular Northern Chinese boiled dumpling. Many people have inquired about how to pan-fry them for potstickers, aka as guo tie, so here’s the variation. The Tan sisters make the dough by hand which is how I wrote the recipe for “The Breath of a Wok,” but I also wanted to provide instructions for making the dough using a food processor. It’s very simple and requires less kneading. The only change is instead of using 3/4 cup of water for 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of water is sufficient. When I made the dumplings with the Tan sisters we cooked and ate the dumplings immediately so I did not include any make ahead tips. You can form the dumplings 3 to 4 hours ahead of time but you’ll need to place them on a parchment lined tray dusted with flour. Put the tray in a plastic bag so the dough doesn’t dry out and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook. Make sure the dumplings are not touching each other. Don’t let them sit in the fridge for longer than 4 hours. The moisture in the filling will start to come through the dough.

How it's done

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1/2 pound Napa cabbage
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound ground pork (about 1 cup)
4 tablespoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons peanut, grapeseed or vegetable oil
1/3 cup Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar

  1. In a food processor, put the 2 cups of flour in the work bowl. With the machine running pour 1/2 up cold water into the bowl and process until dough just begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should feel soft and pliable like pie dough. If it’s dry and crumbly, add water by the tablespoon and if it’s sticky add flour by the tablespoon. Turn onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour, and knead with lightly floured hands 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until it holds its shape firmly. Cover with plastic wrap or a slightly damp cloth and allow to rest 30 minutes.
  2. Trim 1/4-inch from the stem end of the cabbage leaves. Stack a few leaves at a time and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch wide shreds, then finely chop to make about 3 cups. In a medium bowl combine the cabbage, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the sugar. In another medium bowl combine the pork, 1 tablespoon ginger, soy sauce, and rice wine. Add the cabbage and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. After the dough has rested, knead it on a lightly floured surface until elastic and smooth, 2 minutes. Roll the dough into an even rope about 15-inch long. Cut the rope into 1/2-inch pieces to make 30 pieces. Roll each into a 1-inch ball. Pat the balls into plump 2-inch discs, lightly dusting them with flour. Cover all unused dough with plastic wrap or a slightly damp cloth. Using a floured rolling pin, roll back and forth over the edges of each disc, making the center slightly thicker and the edges thinner. The rounds will be about 3 1/2-inches in diameter.
  4. Put 1 level tablespoon of the filling (use a little less if you’re new to making dumplings) in the center of each round. Fold the round in half to form a half moon. Pinch one end of the half moon together. Starting at this end, use your thumb and index finger to make a pleat in the top piece of the dough, and press it firmly into the bottom piece of the dough. Continue making 3 to 4 more pleats until the dumpling is almost completely closed. Press the end of the half moon together. Stand each dumpling with the rounded edge upright and pinch top edge together to re-enforce crescent shape. Put on a tray or plate lined with parchment paper and lightly dusted with flour.
  5. To pan-fry the dumplings, heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of oil, reduce heat to medium, add dumplings sealed edges up allowing dumplings to touch. You should be able to fit about 12 to 14 dumplings. Fry the dumplings for about 1 to 2 minutes until light brown on the bottom.
  6. Holding the lid close to the wok, add 1/3 cup cold water which will immediately sputter and boil. Cover with the lid, increase heat to medium-high and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Check at the 3 to 4 minute mark and if most of the liquid has evaporated add another 2 tablespoons of water.
  7. After a total of 5 minutes, uncover and almost all the liquid should have evaporated. Allow to fry another minute or until the bottoms are dark brown and crisp. Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate.
  8. In a small bowl combine the remaining 3 tablespoons ginger, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. Serve dumplings with tangy ginger sauce. Store any leftover sauce covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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