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pot stickers

锅贴 - guotie (pot stickers)

I found myself craving Chinese food today for the first time since we moved back from China.  Wow!  Since I was most definitely NOT craving Chinese-American I decided the better part of valor was to make it myself.  The first trick was acquiring the ingredient.  I am sure that in Chinatown we’ll be able to find a grocery store that carries everything we were looking for, but our itinerary for the day did not include a trip into Boston.  Out here in the ‘burbs we’re a bit limited but we made do.  Ground pork, Napa cabbage, ginger, green onions…all no problem.  Seasonings, though…that’s where the going got tough.  Whole Foods had sesame oil and quite a range of organic soy sauces.  Unfortunately the soy sauces were all tamari style.  Definitely sub-optimal for Chinese food.  They had not one Chinese style soy sauce.  Shame on them!  Also no Chinese black vinegar and only Japanese mirin for cooking wine.  The Star market at least had tiny bottles of Lee Kum Kee which is an adequate-ish Chinese-style soy sauce.  Not great but we decided it would do.  Still dissatisfied and vinegar-less we made one more try.  Formaggio Kitchen, one of my favorite stores (the original branch of which happens to be just down the street from me), came through with good-quality Chinese soy sauce in both light and dark varieties.  Yay!  Still no vinegar or wine but at least we had the essentials.

Back home the cooking began.  My husband kneaded dough while I chopped and mixed.  If you want to try this, you’ll definitely want a kitchen scale.  Here’s the recipe (more-or-less) as I learned it from Zhou Chunyi in her hutong kitchen cooking school, Hutong Cuisine,  in Beijing.

Recipe

100g ground pork
100g Chinese cabbage (Napa)
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped scallion (white and light green parts)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. Chinese yellow wine (substitute dry sherry)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. peanut oil (or other cooking oil)

125g flour
60g water

To make the dough, mix the flour and water together with your hands, then knead on a smooth surface until the dough is very smooth and elastic (about 5-10 minutes).  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, shred the cabbage very fine.  Put it in a bowl and toss with the salt.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  Chop the ginger (don’t forget to peel it!) and scallions.  Mix the pork, ginger, scallions, soy sauce and wine in a bowl.  Make sure you always stir in the same direction.  Squeeze as much water as you can out of the cabbage, making sure to keep the water.  Add the water 1/3 at a time to the pork mixture, stirring each time (still in the same direction).  Add the cabbage, sesame oil and peanut oil to the pork mixture and keep stirring.

To assemble the jiaozi, roll the dough into a cylinder then cut it into 16 discs of equal size.  Keep the cut pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work to keep them from drying out.  Use a rolling-pin (or other smooth cylindrical object) to roll one disc at a time into a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter.  I find that the dough often gets kind of squished when I cut it.  Rolling each piece into a little ball before rolling out can help keep it more circular.  Spoon a generous tablespoon of filling into the middle of the circle of dough.  Lift the edges of the circle up to meet each other and pinch them together as demonstrated here.

You have three choices for how to cook your dumplings.  The way they’re most often served in northern China is boiled.  Bring a big pot of a water to a boil (you can probably get away with a 4 qt. saucepan, but larger is even better).  When the water is boiling, put your dumplings in.  Give them a gentle stir to make sure they’re not sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Cover them and let them boil for 8 minutes.  Drain and eat.  Your second option is steaming.  The details will vary a tiny bit depending on the kind of steamer you have, but basically, bring some water to the boil in the bottom of your steamer-contraption.  But the dumplings in the steamer basket.  Put that in the pot and cover.  Steam for 8 minutes.  The final option is a combination boil/steam/fry that results in what you are probably familiar with as pot stickers.  Put a little oil into a frying pan (preferably not non-stick) that has a lid and is big enough to hold all your dumplings.  The oil should be enough to coat the bottom of the pan quite generously.  Put in enough water that it will come about 1/3 of the way up the sides of the dumplings (probably about 1/2 inch or a bit less).  Bring the water to a boil.  Put the dumplings in and cover.  After about 5 minutes take a look.  If there is still a lot of water in the pan, uncover for a bit to let the water boil off.  When the water has boiled off, put the lid back on and allow the dumplings to fry for a couple of minutes.  The total cooking time should, again, be about 8 minutes.  You’ll need to use a spatula to gently loosen the dumplings from the pan.  Once you’re done, I’d advise putting water in the pan right away to help loosen up the stuck on bits so it will be easier to clean.

Boiled dumplings will come out with a very soft, slippery skin.  The steamed version will come out with a chewier, more substantial feeling skin.  Fried will come out much like the steamed version but with a nice brown, crisp bottom.  Yum!

Traditionally the dumplings are just dipped in Chinese black vinegar.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any.  Instead I made a dipping sauce by putting a little sliced ginger and scallion in a mixture of about equal parts light soy sauce and vinegar.  I used champagne vinegar which was the lightest vinegar I had on hand.  If I’d had it, I’d have used the white rice vinegar you can get in the Asian aisle at any supermarket, but I didn’t buy it this afternoon because I was hoping to track down black vinegar.  I let this sauce sit for 10 minutes or so to let the vinegar and scallion flavors infuse into the liquid.  It was pretty tasty.

One recipe (16 dumplings) makes a good meal for one adult.  I made four recipes worth today – enough for me and my husband to both have a good dinner with some left over.  Cook only as many jiaozi as you want to eat.  Cooked jiaozi don’t leave over too well.  The good news is that uncooked jiaozi can be frozen to cook later.  Lay them out on a cookie sheet so they’re not touching.  Cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer over night.  Once they’re good and frozen, take them off the cookie sheet and put them in a ziploc bag.  Cook them straight from the freezer using any of the methods suggested above – just give them about 2 minutes longer.  If you’re doing the pot sticker method, use a little more water because you want them to boil/steam for longer, not to fry for longer.

真的好吃! (really yummy!)

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