I fell for pot stickers as a kid. For special occasions, we’d meet my Uncle Sunny and Aunt Ginny in Portland, Oregon, at their favorite Chinese restaurant. My uncle was one of those people who made friends at his frequented haunts; he and the restaurant’s owners probably swapped their favorite spicy mustard recipes. As a kid, it amazed me that the staff knew to bring my sister a Shirley Temple, my mom fiery eggplant, and me vegetable pot stickers.
Vegetarian pot stickers can be hard to come by even in cities; the standard fillings lean toward pork. In northwest Montana, they’re nonexistent. Luckily, a local friend with Chinese roots loves to cook and share her creations, and I treasure invites to her kitchen. For a pot sticker gathering, we mix up batch after batch of dough and filling, just eyeballing the ratios, and many hands form it all into neat—or not so neat—edible packets. It’s a bit like making pie crust with Grandma Tiny: this recipe, which I make at home, is my best version of those recipe-free evenings with a practiced guide.
Pot Sticker Shortcuts
As I pointed out last week, there are plenty of shortcuts to homemade dumplings like pot stickers, both in effort and in time. Pot sticker dough is ready so quickly that I often prepare it the night I plan to cook it, but it can be made ahead and rest in a zip-close bag in the fridge for a couple of days; bring it to room temperature before using. You can also skip the scratch-made step and buy dumpling wrappers, although you may need to seek out an Asian market that stocks them.
As I explain below, I’m more inclined to make the filling ahead; it’s usually easier to handle when room temperature or even chilled. And “make” is a loose term; I offer a delicious recipe here, but you can also dig in the fridge for various leftovers to stuff in your wrappers. Rolling, assembling, and cooking is best done in one go; if it seems too much, just do this for part of a dough and filling batch and refrigerate the rest for later.
Once you’ve done all the work, pot stickers keep well in the fridge for a few days and freeze beautifully for longer storage. Freeze them for a couple of hours on a tray before transferring them to a freezer-proof bag or container. To reheat, let them thaw on parchment paper for about 15 minutes and then heat them like you originally cook them in the Scratch-Made Pot Stickers.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need flour, salt, and water, plus a filling and oil for cooking.
1. Mix and knead the dough.
2. Shape and roll wrapper circles.
3. Add and enclose the filling.
4. Pan-fry and steam the pot stickers and enjoy.
Scratch-Made Pot Stickers
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
140 grams (2/3 cup) boiled water
about 70 grams (1/3 cup) ice water
sunflower or other high-smoking-point oil for cooking
In a bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Create a well in the middle of the flour, then slowly pour in the hot water, mixing with a fork or wooden spoon until crumbly. Drizzle the ice-cold water over the flour, and then quickly stir until the flour clumps. Knead the dough in the bowl, incorporating any stuck to the sides, for about 2 minutes, until it forms a dough ball. If it hasn’t balled up after a couple of minutes, drizzle in more ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until a rough ball takes shape.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 3–5 minutes, sprinkling sparingly with flour if it becomes sticky. Stop kneading when the dough looks smooth, stays round, and is firm yet gives and eases back slowly when you poke it. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel, and let rest for at least 20 minutes while you make the filling (see below).
Pinch off a handful of dough and shape it into a rough ball; cover the remaining dough with the damp tea towel. Poke a hole in the middle of the ball with your fingers, and then stretch the hole while rotating the dough to form an fairly even ring. Pinch the ring apart into small, walnut-sized pieces; briefly roll each into a ball, and then smash it once between your palms into a flying saucer shape, setting the flattened balls on a lightly floured surface.
Use a small rolling pin to roll out the dough into a circle about 3 inches in diameter; it can be slightly thinner on the edges and doesn’t need to be perfectly round. Set the circle on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper, and repeat the process with the remaining flattened balls. Rub a little flour onto the rolling pin if the dough sticks, but use as little extra flour as possible so that it will be easier to pinch closed the dumplings. Make wrappers from the remaining dough, turning a handful of dough into small pieces, flattened balls, and then rolled circles.
Hold a dough circle in the palm of one hand, and place a heaping teaspoon of filling (see below) in the center. Fold the wrapper over the filling into a half-moon, and lightly press the center of the folded edges together. Create a fan fold on just one side of the dough: Starting at one end, make 6–8 small pleats on one half-moon edge, pressing them into the smooth edge of the half-moon to enclose the filling and closing any holes, especially at each corner. Pinch each pleat again to ensure the filling is sealed within the dough. Set the pot sticker on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper, and then fill and seal closed the remaining dough circles.
Heat a large nonstick skillet with a lid over medium-high heat; add just enough oil to barely coat the bottom. Lower the heat to medium-low, and then fill the pan with pot stickers, arranging them fairly close together but not touching. Let them cook for 1–2 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned. Flip each pot sticker. With the lid in one hand, pour about 1/4 cup of water into the pan, and then immediately cover it with the lid to capture the steam. Cook for 2 minutes, uncover the pan, and then cook an additional 2–4 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the pot sticker start to brown on the pan side and can be moved around easily.
Remove the finished pot stickers to a parchment-lined baking tray and repeat with the remaining batches, wiping down the pan with a paper towel and swirling in a little more oil as needed between batches. Serve hot. Makes about 40–55 pot stickers.
Tips & Tricks
- I weigh the ingredients because I’m lazy; it means fewer utensils to wash. But accuracy isn’t crucial, so use the cup measurements if you don’t have a scale.
- The pairing of piping-hot and icy-cold water is key to workable dumpling wrappers: The former stalls gluten formation, and the latter keeps the proteins under control. Too much hot water softens dumpling wrappers so that they’re hard to shape; too much ice water (or just using room-temperature water) can make them chewy.
- I recommend making a full batch, or larger, of this recipe, even if you’re only feeding 1–2 people. I find a smaller dough batch hard to knead by hand.
- Hand-mixing doughs lets you feel the changes in the texture. But unlike most of my low-knead sourdough recipes, these wrappers require several minutes of mixing and kneading. If that’s too much for your hands, a food processor or stand mixer can be your shortcut: just be careful not to overwork the dough.
- I spread out wrappers, fill them, and return them to the same sheet of parchment paper. If you’re making double or triple batches, you can stack your cutout wrappers with a little flour between each, but this may make them harder to fold and pinch closed.
- Fan folding takes practice: my pot stickers end up fairly flat, which I find easier to cook evenly, but traditionalists may want the fold on top. If either approach seems daunting, just pinch the dough together at the center of the half-moon and then all along the edge until you make a secure seal.
- Pot stickers are traditionally served with a dipping sauce, but that sauce varies widely. I like an uncooked dipping sauce similar to the one I use for Summer Rolls (see the Tips & Tricks). I stir in a tablespoon or two of Chinese-Inspired Plum Sauce from my pickling book to thicken it.
Twice as Tasty
Pot stickers appear in many Asian cultures; they’re defined by their pan-fried surface and steamed, flavorful filling. That filling can vary widely: Napa cabbage, mushrooms, and onion with aromatics is fairly standard for a vegetarian version; pork is frequently mixed in. Every time I had them in that Chinese restaurant while growing up, they tasted different: they were probably filled with whatever leftover bits of steamed vegetables were at hand.
In that spirit, I often grab dibs and dabs from the fridge for dumpling fillings. With raw ingredients, it pays to salt and drain watery vegetables, like cabbage, or stir in some beaten egg or pressed soft tofu to help firm up the mix. A full batch of Scratch-Made Pot Stickers makes enough dumplings that you can vary the filling flavors. The recipe here, inspired by mushroom duxelles, will fill a full batch of dough, but you can halve and pair it with other fillings and or use the extra filling elsewhere.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 3 main ingredients plus whatever Asian-inspired seasonings and aromatics you have at hand.
1. Mix the seasonings.
2. Cook the filling ingredients.
3. Thicken with cornstarch and cool.
Deluxe Mushroom Filling
2 tablespoons Chinese-Inspired Plum Sauce or oyster sauce (optional)
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar, dry sherry, or white wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sunflower or other high-smoking-point oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 whole scallions, thinly sliced
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
In a small glass measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of stock or water with the plum sauce and soy sauce, rice vinegar or other acid, and sugar. Stir to blend; set the sauce aside.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat; swirl in the oil and lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Mix in the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes, until they start to release liquid. Mix in half the scallions. Add the sauce and cook, stirring, 1–2 minutes, until the mixture simmers.
In a small bowl, blend the cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons of stock or water until smooth; drizzle it over the filling in a thin stream. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Fold in the remaining scallions. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or using in Scratch-Made Pot Stickers or another edible wrapper. Makes about 2 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- This recipe makes ample filling for a batch of dough; if you use it all and have trouble sealing your pot stickers, put less filling in each wrapper and roll thinner pot sticker dough. Mix leftover filling into scramble eggs, spread it on toast, or stir it into a pasta sauce.
- Pot stickers can handle raw filling, but mushrooms release so much liquid that I cook and thicken the filling first. For a raw filling, stir in a beaten egg to hold it all together. Cooling a cooked filling makes it easier to seal in wrappers.
- To make this filling while your pot sticker dough rests, speed up the cooling process by spreading the filling in a thin layer on a rimmed baking pan and refrigerating it, uncovered, until chilled. Filling made in advance can be cooled, sealed in an airtight container, and refrigerated for a couple of days.
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