Contest-Winning Potstickers

A few days ago my recipe for the contest-winning (well, we tied for first place!) potstickers has aired on The Frugal Flambe, and so now that it is up on the site for which it was written, I am reposting it here.  Cook, eat, enjoy!

Potstickers aka gyoza

When I heard about having gotten a guest slot in The Frugal Flambe, I’ve spent a few weeks trying to figure out what to write for it – the pressure!  The drama!  The exposure of guest-posting on Shellina’s blog!  But, as it often happens, time and chance have decided for me: I got invited to a party with an appetiser competition, and my oven broke so I couldn’t make the phyllo triangles with mushroom and cheese filling that I’d planned.  What to do?!

So, out came the trusty recipe for pot stickers, because one – we wanted some, and two – once made, those can be frozen in a box with a bit of baking parchment between them to keep them from sticking (and if they stick, that’s STILL not the end of the world – they can be thawed and teased apart after thawing!), and because they can be cooked from deep-frozen, somewhat-thawed or completely thawed state.  And – added bonus! – the cooking directions don’t vary based on above, and are very, very simple.

Pot stickers – aka gyoza – are a mainland Chinese dish in origin, but have been enthusiastically adopted by the Japanese a long time ago.  As far as I know, anyway.  You’ve probably eaten pot stickers in Chinese restaurants, as have I, or possibly bought them premade and frozen in those large bags in Oriental supermarkets.  Those are, respectively, decent and edible.  The homemade version, in my very biased opinion, is far, far better – not least because you get to decide what you like in them, what you don’t, and how much of it you actually want.

So yes, where was I?  I figured that because of all of the above qualities, pot stickers are the ideal thing to make for a party to which I’ll travel over an hour across Stockholm on public transport, and would need to bring something, as they can be cooked on the spot.  One thing about pot sticker though?  They tend to look… homey is the word, I think.  Not glamorous.  So when I arrived and prepared them, dipping sauce and all, I was almost resigned to losing the competition: everyone’s Swedish-style canapes were tiny and pretty and with flowers and faces and little things on top and …. you get the idea.  Then, the votes were in and … I won.  Tied for first place with some pear-and-Roquefort creations in tiny baked cups, actually.  So it would appear that the flavor of these is good enough to impress a majority of some 25 guests despite the less-haute couture appearance than the competition.  And so it was then that the guest post subject came to be decided.

The stages of preparation of these are three: shopping, forming and cooking.  The shopping is a little specific, hence the mention, but that inconvenience is more than offset by the fact that raw materials are freezable, and so you need not shop for all of them at the same time, and can, in fact, space the shopping and other preparation stages (freezing pot stickers after forming them) out over many days.  You can even make the filling and then freeze it, defrosting it in the fridge overnight before making the pot stickers themselves.

The reason I mention shopping is that I am not a proponent of undue exertion.  Simply put, I am lazy.  Nor do I think that cooking should be a challenge rather than a joy.  Therefore, I suggest that you should buy gyoza wrappers in the nearest Oriental shop/supermarket (most Western European and US cities have at least one of those around).  Those are sold frozen, and one package of those makes about 40-50 pot stickers (I can’t remember but the number of them in a pack varies).  They are generally inexpensive for what you get out of a tiny pack, and are easy to use – just thaw them in the fridge for a few hours and you are ready to go.

Another note is about the vegetable component of the filling – I am giving my own preferential proportions, and the recipe is loosely based on a Chinese one I’d printed off the net ages ago and now lost the origin of, and the advice of a friend who’d lived in Japan.  The general idea is that you want about 1/3 of filling to be vegetable mass and 2/3 meat.  Approximately.  This is not nuclear physics or molecular chemistry we are talking about!

So… what do we need?  (Makes as many pot stickers as there are wrappers in your pack, i.e. 40 to 50 generally)

  • A large wooden board to work on (is very helpful)
  • A clean kitchen towel to wipe fingers on as you prepare.  Or a roll of paper towels, that works too.
  • 1 pack of gyoza (pot sticker) skins (thawed for a few hours in cold part of fridge)
  • 500g (just a bit over 1lb) of mixed ground pork+beef.  Or just ground pork.  This is an amount for 40 pot stickers – increase quantity a little if you have a pack of 50 skins.
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large or 2 small fingers of ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Man’s thumb-thickness bunch of chives (Chinese or garlic chives), snipped
  • 3-4 medium-large spring onions, white and green parts, cut into segments
  • 1 large red (serrano or red jalapeno) chili pepper or 1 heaping teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4-7 cloves of garlic (depends on how large your cloves are, and how much you love garlic)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Chinese dark or mushroom soy sauce
  • A cup of cold water
  • Optional additions include: a bit of chopped Chinese cabbage, frozen-thawed-squeezed dry spinach, or whatever else strikes your fancy

How to do it:

  • Remove gyoza skins from fridge and leave on the counter (wrapped) to come closer to room temperature.
  • In the meantime, put all veggies into a food processor and blitz to puree.  If there is too much liquid and it separates, pour out the liquid.  This can be a little soggy, but it should not be soupy.
  • Place ground meat into a bowl and add the spices and blitzed vegetables.  Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and mix some, add the other if the mix looks too light – it should take on a slight brownish tinge from the soy sauce.
  • Mix thoroughly with your hands in dough-kneading fashion until the meat is pliant and the vegetables and soy sauce are distributed throughout.
  • Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes.  (You’ll need those minutes to scrub the sticky meat off your fingers with a nail brush anyway.)
  • Bring your towel and cup of water closer to the wooden board or work surface.
  • Unwrap the gyoza skins and carefully peel one off the top – they separate easily, as there is rice flour in-between the little sheets.  (If it resists, give it another 10 minutes at room temperature.)
Ready for the pan!

… and here we come to the important bit – the folding!  Proper folding of the pot sticker skin is important, as not only does it give the pot sticker its pretty shape, but it keeps it shut as it cooks better and prevents it falling apart.  It also allows you to “stand” the pot sticker in the pot on its tummy rather than lay it on the side.  Here is how:

  • Wet a finger in your cup of water and moisten roughly (or just under) 2/3 of the circumference of the gyoza skin.  (If the edges of your gyoza skin are very dry you can wet the entire circumference.)
  • Wipe fingers on towel and lift the gyoza, and start to fold it shut from the spot where the wet and dry sides meet, pleating the wet side a little as you go so that the pot sticker curves a bit on the ‘dry’ side.  The pleating is what allows you to stick 2/3 of the circumference to the dry 1/3.
  • Pinch hard to seal shut as you go, and add a bit of water with a fingertip if a spot resists sealing.
  • Place the pot sticker on a sheet of baking parchment, get another skin, and repeat… as many times as you have skins in the package.

It is at this point that the pot stickers can be put into a plastic container (an empty ice-cream tub works really well), separated with strips of baking parchment to avoid sticking, and frozen.  Pretty much indefinitely (for 1-2 months, anyway – who’d keep them longer and not eat them?!), provided you have a freezer that goes below -18°C (0F).  (I keep mine at -20°C to be on the safe side.)

  • To cook the pot stickers, preheat a heavy-bottomed pan or a wide pot that has a lid (preferably non-stick or enamelled) on medium-high or high.  (Stoves vary also, so if yours is VERY hot on high, take the 2nd hottest setting).
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of refined vegetable oil.  I use canola or peanut oil, but use your own preference here!
  • Take the pot stickers (freshly made or frozen or thawed in the fridge), and lay them ‘tummy’ down (pinched-shut spine up) on the hot oil.
  • Fry the pot stickers without moving until the bottoms are nicely browned, then add 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup of boiled (hot) water.
  • Cover with a lid and steam-cook for 3-4 minutes, then remove lid and continue cooking until the water evaporates, or nearly so.
  • IF your pan is not non-stick, cover with the lid and let stand 5 minutes to help “release” the stuck pot stickers.  If it is non-stick (recommended!), you can remove the pot stickers immediately, but be careful – the name refers to the fact that they stick – to the pot, or to each other.  Teasing them apart with a wooden spoon or a plastic spatula works well.

Make dipping sauce out of Japanese (or light Chinese) soy sauce, a few drops of ginger juice or a spritz of lemon, and a bit of toasted sesame oil.

Enjoy!

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5 thoughts on “Contest-Winning Potstickers

  1. Hi Veronika. Thanks for popping by my blog.
    I love potstickers and these are so beautifully done! I’ve seen some at the restaurants that don’t even look half as good as these. I’m not surprised they won. Congrats.

    1. Thank you again!

      I really did enjoy reading your blog and bookmarked several recipes in it that I plan to do (English muffins being one of those). Count on me visiting again!

      Have you ever tried folding potstickers yourself? I think the trick is not to hurry, and after a few flopped ones you get the hang of it. I suspect most restaurants fold theirs in too much of a hurry since they have to make a lot of them, and the aestetic side suffers.

      As to the winning, I hadn’t really counted on it – there were a lot of really great canapes at the party. I wish I’d taken more photos, but I fear I was too busy with many, many glasses of bubbly! Ah, there is always next time! :)

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