Friday, February 29, 2008

Pork, Shrimp, and Shiitake Mushroom Potstickers

Pork Shrimp and Shiitake Potstickers

Dumpling making was a frequent weekend family activity when I was young. First, my dad would mix the filling, adding a splash of this and and a dash of that. Then we would start the assembly line. My brother's job was to separate any wrappers that were stuck together, lay them out, and, the most important part, place them flour side down so when we pick up the wrappers, the flour side would end up on the outside of the dumplings. My mom and I would wrap the dumplings, using up the wrappers as fast as my brother could separate them. Dad would help with the wrapping sometimes but his other job besides making the filling was boiling the dumplings. Of course, my mom would always get on his case about how he would boil them too long.

The way Chinese people boil dumplings has always puzzled me. Here’s how my family did it:
1. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil
2. Add your dumplings, bring it up to a boil again
3. Add a cup of cold water, boil again,
4. Add another cup of cold water, and after it comes up to a boil again, they are ready to be served.

Every Chinese person I’ve asked about this says the same thing: add water, boil, add water, boil. Even all of my Chinese cookbooks say to boil this way. Nowhere does it specify how much water you start out with or how much is a “cup” of cold water, sometimes my dad used a mug, sometimes a bowl. Because I'm a food science nerd, I wonder, what is the science behind the principle of adding the cold water? I could BS something and say that the cold water solidifies the gluten in the wrappers making the dumplings chewier but honestly, I don’t think a cupful of cold tap water in a stockpot of boiling hot water is going to make a difference. What's the difference is between doing this versus a steady gentle simmer? Anyone want to hazard a guess? Anyways, since I like to be precise, or at least try to, I gave time frames for boiling, steaming, and panfrying the dumplings. You can always cut open a sacrificial dumpling to check if the inside is cooked through.

My family always used storebought wrappers for their convenience so I thought these were the way to go. The last time I tried to make homemade wrappers, I ended up with some painful and diastrous results (I won’t go into details). So I went back to buying my wrappers, thinking that they would solve my problems. But... they don’t! Now I find that the storebought wrappers are too dry and rigid. Having to wet the wrappers with water is an extra step and it's especially annoying when the wrappers don't seal properly. Homemade wrappers definitely taste better and have a much better chew but is it worth the trouble? I’ll have to try again.

With so many possible fillings and three different ways of cooking them, I'll never get tired of making and eating dumplings. Dumpling or jiao zi are filled with a combination of protein and veggie. They are usually filled with ground pork because that is the most common meat eaten in China, but they can also be filled with shrimp, beef, pressed tofu, or even scrambled egg. There's even greater variety of vegetables you can use: napa cabbage, salted mustard greens, Chinese chives, etc. Then you can either boil the dumplings (shui jiao) or steam them (zheng jiao) or panfry them (guo tie/potstickers).

Pork, Shrimp, and Mushroom Potstickers

1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb shrimp, finely chopped or briefly pulsed in a food processor
1/2 C chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 tsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 pack of potsticker wrappers or fresh wrappers
And a bowl of water

or

Fresh potsticker wrappers
3 C all purpose flour
2/3 C boiling water
1/3 C cold water
1 tsp salt

Makes about 32 to 36 potstickers

Make the wrapper (optional)
Mix flour, salt, and hot water. Stir together with a spoon or pair of chopsticks until the dough comes together. Add the cold water and stir. Knead until smooth. The dough should not be sticky. Let the dough rest at least 30 minutes. You can make the filling at this time.

Divide the dough in 4 pieces and keep 3 pieces under cover so it doesn’t dry out. Take one portion and roll it out into a long snake. Cut off a piece of the snake to and roll it into a 3 in wrapper. Ideally it should be thinner around the edges and thicker in the middle.

Repeat for the other half of the dough. Keep the dough covered when you work with out to prevent it from drying out.

Make the filling
Mix all of the ingredients for the filling together in a bowl.

If you're using storebought wrappers, make sure you place the filling on the side with less flour. Place a tablespoon of the filling on a wrapper. You can pleat the edges or fold them in half. If I’m boiling them, I get lazy and fold them in half. If I’m panfrying them for potstickers, then I like to pleat them so they can sit neatly on their flat bottoms in the pan. When using storebought wrappers, make sure to have a bowl of water to moisten the entire perimeter of the wrapper in order to tightly seal the dumpling. You won’t need the water for fresh wrappers since the dough is soft enough to seal together nicely. If you’re looking for how to pleat the dumplings, the very best folding guide I've come across is Jen’s dumpling guide. I didn’t even bother taking my own pictures especially with my dirty hands because Jen’s guide is an A+. There was a good one on Epicurious a while back but I can’t find it anymore. Place the wrapped potstickers on a lightly floured tray and keep them covered until you are ready to cook them.

Boil:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the dumplings and stir so they don’t stick to each other or to the bottom of the pan. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 7 – 9 minutes, or until the filling is cooked through. Frozen dumplings will take an additional 1 – 2 minutes. Drain and serve with dipping sauce.

Steam:
Bring the water in the steamer up to a boil. Place some cabbage leaves or a layer of cheesecloth in the steamer. Arrange the dumplings so they are not touching. When the water in the steamer comes to a boil, steam the dumplings for 10 - 12 minutes. Frozen dumplings will take an additional 1 – 2 minutes.

Pan fry:
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Arrange the dumplings in a circular ring around the pan and squeeze some into the middle, making sure that they do not touch. Pan fry until the bottoms are light golden, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 C of water and immediately cover. Turn the heat down to low or medium low and steam the dumplings in the skillet for 10 minutes (12 minutes for frozen). After 10 minutes, remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium high to evaporate any remaining water and crisp the bottoms, about 2 – 3 more minutes. Place a plate over the potstickers and invert the pan to serve the potstickers crispy side up.

Freeze:
Freeze the dumplings on a lightly floured tray, making sure they are not touching. When they are frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer bag.


Dipping sauce

2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
Thinly sliced scallions (optional)
Minced ginger (optional)
Minced garlic (optional)
Chili oil or chili sauce/paste (optional)

Mix everything in a bowl and serve with dumplings. Double if needed.

12 comments:

Melanie said...

These honestly are the prettiest dumplings I have ever seen. And I am salivating just looking at the pictures. Yum!

Kitt said...

Oh, I love love love jiaozi. Haven't had good ones for a long time. In graduate school I would have Chinese friends come over for jiaozi parties. We used the store-bought wrappers because no one could roll them out as good as their moms did. Partly because you really needed the short, small rolling pin that everyone in China uses, and I didn't have one.

I think I may have to break down and just make your recipe myself because I'm craving them so much now!

Kalyn said...

What a great post and a gorgeous photo. I'm intrigued by the boiling process, never heard of this before.

Happy cook said...

I love these dumplings, i too make them with shop made pastry, but i didn't know they boiled like you had written.
I've bookmarked this ti try it

EAT! said...

i love dumplings - but it seems like they get eaten up so fast after all my work. i am going to have to enlist so family help to lighten the load. Looks like we will be making your recipe!!

Kevin said...

Those pot stickers look great! I really like pot stickers. Nice and crispy on one side, soft on the other and tasty on the inside...mmm...

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I can't believe you didn't experiment and have one pot of dumplings at a steady simmer and another pot of the add cold water method. ;) I'd be interested to find out why your dad boiled them that way too.

Your dumplings look fabulous. Nicely crispy on one side, just the way I like it.

mari of mevrouw cupcake said...

What a great new look for your blog, not to mention the mouth-watering potstickers! I wish I had some in front of me right now!

Amy said...

Melanie,
Aw thank you! I love seeing their crispy bottoms too. :)

Kitt,
Jiao zi wrapping parties sound fun! I love food making parties cuz you can eat what you make! :) You're right about the rolling pin, everyone in China uses a little dowel. This way you get more control of a small wrapper. A giant french rolling pin for 1 tiny wrapper would be too difficult to handle.

Kalyn,
It's pretty weird isn't it?

Happy cook,
I still don't understand that boiling process. :P

Eat,
I have to agree with you, we ate all the ones I made in 2 nights and it seemed like it took me forever to me.

Kevin,
I love that too. Yum!

WC,
Haha my inner scientist must know! But I don't have two identical pots! But then again as long as the inside is cooked then it's fine with me. Lol :D

Mari,
Thanks!

Bettina said...

omggggggggg me want!! the bottom is fried sooo nicely....mmmmmmm

Sharon said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and love it. I'm going to try these dumplings tonight with just shrimp. Yours look so delicious, I dont know if I can keep up with the perfection! :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think that there is really a food science reason, as opposed to a timing reason. The amount of time that the cold water takes to boil three times is just about the amount of time that the pot stickers take to cook all the way through. It might have something to do with milliard reactions or something too...

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