Potstickers, wontons, and dumplings in general are some of my favorite foods from Chinese and similar cuisines. I admit I’m a novice at Asian cooking (although I’m pretty handy with a pair of chopsticks), and most attempts I make at anything remotely authentic involves a lot of searching the internet for recipes and advice. (As a side note, if you also find yourself searching for authentic Asian cooking advice, two great resources that I love are Rasa Malaysia and Chez Pim. Check them out if you haven’t already; they’re both fantastic and a lot of fun.)
Anyway, back to the potstickers. For me they’re one of the highlights of Chinese buffets and such, but I’ve been disappointed by the amount of processing and MSG that end up in the mainstream restaurants and freezer section versions. So Rachel and I decided to make these ourselves, and I think they turned out really well. One of our “living simply” goals has been to have less meat in our diet, so we went with mushroom potstickers instead of the usual pork-filled variety.
Notes on technique: you can steam these potstickers or fry them as well; it’s a really versatile concept. I think they have different names depending how you prepare them. The idea of potstickers is to pan-fry one side of the dumpling, then add liquid to the pan and cover it so they steam. It creates a really nice variety in the dumplings’ texture.
As for the wok: I’ll do a more in-depth article on stir-frying and woks in general (all that googling did teach me a few things, after all). For now, just remember that the goal is to cook your filling as hot and as fast as possible. It makes a huge difference. If you don’t own a wok, think about getting one; the good carbon-steel ones are cheap, and stir-frying is a fun and delicious way to cook.
As for the kecap manis: This is a syrupy sweet soy sauce I had only heard about and never tried until recently. I love it. It tastes less salty than normal dark soy sauce, and is a perfect base for a dipping sauce. If you can find it at a good Asian market, you won’t regret having it around.
Here we go!
Mushroom Potstickers Recipe (makes 30 or so)
3/4 lb. assorted mushrooms (I used cremini, shiitake, and maitake)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 inch ginger root, peeled and finely minced
3 scallions, white and green separated, minced
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp tapioca starch or cornstarch
1/4 tsp five spice powder
2 cups stock or water
1 package wonton wrappers (small)
Dipping Sauce Recipe
4 tb kecap manis
3 tsp tamarind concentrate (or rice vinegar, or lime juice… tamarind is the preference though)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tb broth or water
2 tsp of the garlic and ginger from above
The filling: Chop your mushrooms finely. They’ll shrink a little when they cook, but we definitely want them small so they work well as a filling.
Heat a small pot of water on the stove to simmering for steaming the potstickers later. Bonus points if you use some homemade frozen chicken stock instead of the water. Bonus bonus points if you save the mushroom stems and scraps to simmer in the stock and give it some mushroomy flavor.
Get everything else ready to stir fry; this is one of the important steps of any wok-cooked meal. If everything isn’t ready, you’re going to be absolutely crazy scrambling around, and it probably won’t turn as well. You can mix the garlic and ginger, and make separate piles of the white and green parts of the scallions.
Mix the soy sauce, starch, and five-spice powder in a small bowl, and set with the rest of your ready materials.
Bring your wok to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit, or until it starts smoking slightly. If you’re using something other than a wok, bring it to medium-high heat.
Add 2 tb of vegetable oil around the edges of your wok so it heats as it drizzles to the middle. Add the aromatics (garlic, ginger, white parts of scallions) and immediately stir so they don’t burn.
Add the mushrooms, in batches if your wok/pan is small. Keep them moving. If anything ever seems like it’s cooking too much, just shuffle it up the side a little to get away from the heat.
Once the mushrooms are cooked (2-3 minutes), clear a space in the middle and add the soy sauce mixture (make sure you stir it first, the starch probably settled to the bottom). Add a few tablespoons of the hot broth and allow to boil for a few seconds before stirring the mushrooms back into it.
Add the green scallion pieces, stir and heat for a few seconds. Remove the whole situation from the wok and set aside to cool. I actually put ours in the fridge so it would be cooler to work with for the wonton wrappers.
Assembling the potstickers: Keep the wonton wrappers that you’re not using covered as you work. With each wrapper, take a wet finger and run it along the edges to dampen them (we kept a little bowl of water on the counter as we worked). Take a teaspoon or so of the filling and place it in the middle of the wrapper.
From here you can get creative. Our folding was inspired by real dumplings, but we make no claims to making authentic shapes. There are lots of choices out there, but here’s what we tried. Fold two opposite corners to make a triangle, but do not seal the edges.
Take the top layer of the triangle and make several little overlaps to create dimples. Repeat on the opposite side, and seal all the edges firmly, pressing out as much air as possible around the filling.
Cover the finished dumplings with a damp paper towel as you work.
Cooking the potstickers: Heat a stainless steel or cast iron pan to medium heat. When it is heated, coat lightly with oil and arrange the potstickers in the pan. They will stick somewhat (hence the name) and brown on the bottom.
Once they have cooked for several minutes and have nice golden color on the bottom, take 1/2 cup of your stock and pour it into the hot pan. Immediately cover to allow the dumplings to simmer and steam.
After several minutes, remove the lid. If everything goes well, there should be significantly less (or no) liquid left, and the potstickers will wrinkle up as the steam escapes. Carefully remove them to a plate and serve as soon as possible.
Making the dipping sauce: Mix the sauce ingredients and heat till barely simmering. Serve in a small bowl or something.
That’s it! Lots of little details, but overall this isn’t very time consuming. Try them out and tell me what you think!
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Till next time, foodies!