Monday, 22 July 2024

Foodie Freak: Pot Stickers/Gyoza





“Pot Stickers are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful food I’ve ever known in my life.”

OK, that’s paraphrasing a line from one of my favorite movies, “The Manchurian Candidate,” but I really mean it. They’re my idea of a comfort food.

I don’t remember when I had pot stickers for the first time in my life but it was probably when I was in the military. I experimented with a lot of different cuisines back then. I hadn’t yet started to do much cooking, but these little Asian dumplings were really enchanting.

Pot stickers got their name because the dumplings are typically fried and they stick to the pot. Removing them involves steaming them in the covered pan until the pan releases them.

I enjoy them so much that a few years ago I started making them at home. The salty sour sauce that is served along side of them (try saying that three times fast) infatuates me so much that I want to drink it when the pot stickers are all gone.

Pot stickers are so popular and have infiltrated the mainstream cuisine so thoroughly that they can even be found premade in the frozen foods section of many grocery stores. This fact gives me the giggles, since pot stickers are rumored to have been invented by a famous Chinese herbalist as a treatment for frost bitten ears.

Another story about the creation of pot stickers tells of a cook for a Chinese emperor who accidentally overcooked them. He knew the potentate wouldn’t be pleased with improperly cooked food, so he told him that the crispy part was done on purpose (trust me, the phrase “I meant to do that” marks the creation of many popular recipes and is the mantra of many chefs). The ruler ended up liking the crisp bottom and the recipe lived on. And so, I imagine, did the cook.

The creation of pot stickers is said to have taken place over 7,000 years ago in China. Because of this long history in a well-traveled culture, they have had a chance to be introduced to many countries that adopted them and adapted them to local ingredients and tastes.

In China they are called “jiaozi,” but also and more accurately “guotie” (which means pot stick). In Japan they are called “gyoza” and in Korea “mandu”; there is the Mongolian “buuz,” the Turkish “manti” and even the Slavs have “pierogi.” Joyce Chen coined the term “Peking Ravioli” in the 1950s in her restaurant as a way to sell pot stickers in the mainly Italian neighborhood where her restaurant was located. The list goes on and on. Among each cultures’ versions there are great variances to the recipe, and even several different types within a culture.

Pot stickers are often confused with Chinese dim sum. They are both a type of dumpling, but the main difference is in the cooking method. Dim sum are steamed, while pot stickers are first pan fried and then steamed.

Chinese dim sum also often have numerous fillings to choose from, so you can really enjoy a variety of them more or less – “I could never figure out what that phrase meant, ‘more or less.’” While pot stickers aren’t technically dim sum, they are usually served along side them.

Pot stickers were introduced into Japanese cuisine around the 17th century, and just like the Chinese pot stickers they branched into several types: sui-gyoza (boiled), mushi-gyoza (steamed), age-gyoza (deep fried) and yaki-gyoza (pan fried), just to name a few varieties.

Pot stickers can contain many different types of meats, fish or vegetables, and in the case of pierogi, mashed potatoes and cheese. There are even different thicknesses in the pasta wrapper that the filling is packed in. The thickness of the wrapper many times is what determines the name of the dumpling.

Almost every major grocery store carries won ton wrappers and those are the very same ones used for pot stickers. Many stores even carry both circles and squares, and different sizes of these as well. Pot stickers and gyoza are typically made from very thin, circular shaped wrappers, but feel free to use any of these to make your own. You are only limited by your imagination.

Pot stickers are typically sealed with a decorative fold or crimp but don’t worry if you have trouble making it look just right. I’m not an expert in doing this either; I still practice it from time to time, but I usually wind up getting frustrated and just fold them in half without the decoration. The important thing is just to make sure the seal is tight.

If you are like me and aren’t a skilled wanton wrapper crimper but really want them to look perfect, there is good news. There is actually a gyoza maker where you place your wanton wrapper then your fillings then fold the mold over it seals the pot sticker and gives a somewhat crimped traditional look to the final item. Look for a “gyoza press.”

Here are a few tips on making pot stickers:

  • 3 ½-inch gyoza skins can be found locally in packages of 60. They are smaller, thinner and more delicate than other wonton wrappers, so you may want to try making larger pot stickers for practice.

  • Shred the cabbage for the filling finely while you bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil the cabbage for two to three minutes (until tender) then immediately drain and cool the cabbage. This ensures a nice texture in the finished pot sticker.

  • Lightly moisten two paper towels and place the gyoza wrappers between them as you make the pot stickers. This will keep the wrappers from drying out and yet keep them handy during the assembly process.

  • When you’ve put the filling into the wrapper use your middle finger (since your index finger will most likely have bits of filling on it) to dip into the water and wipe halfway around the edge of skin. Then fold over while gently trying to push out any air bubbles.

  • You can replace the steaming water with chicken stock if you would like to add more flavor.

  • Steaming the pot stickers will typically release them from the pan but you may want to have a fish spatula handy just in case.

Your average pot sticker has about 50 calories, with roughly half of those calories being from fat. If you are interested in entering the International Gyoza Eating Championship in Los Angeles (Aug. 22, 2010), just keep in mind that the record is 231 gyoza eaten in – get this – 10 minutes.

This recipe also will work well with ground chicken, fish, shrimp or lobster (beef and lamb are just too heavy, and turkey might be a little dry).

Now I just have to figure out “How did the old ladies turn into Russians?”

Pot stickers/gyoza

1 pound ground pork

1/2 cup shredded and boiled green cabbage

1/4 cup chopped green onion tops

4 teaspoon soy sauce

2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoon fresh ginger grated or smashed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

60 3 ½-inch round gyoza or wonton skins

A couple of teaspoons vegetable oil for frying

Small bowl of water for sealing

Water for steaming.

Thoroughly combine the first eight ingredients; set aside.

Have a sheet pan or other large dish or area to place your completed pot stickers. Put one wonton skin onto your work surface and, using a teaspoon as a measure, scoop up one spoonful of the meat mixture and place it in the center of the wonton.

Dip one finger in water and use it to moisten the edge of one half of the skin. Fold the wonton wrapper over and push out as much air as possible without tearing the skin, and press the edges firmly together forming a seal. Set onto the sheet pan with the seam pointing up like a fin.

When finished assembling all of the pot stickers, prepare a large frying pan with a cover by pouring in about a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the pot stickers in a single layer, not touching each other. Let cook for two to three minutes until they get a crispy bottom or are firmly stuck to the pan. Add about a quarter to a half a cup of water or stock to the pan and cover, and let steam for two to three minutes more or until the pot stickers no longer stick to the pan.

Remove gently with a spatula and add the next group of pot stickers, repeating the process until complete. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce below.

Simple pot sticker dipping sauce

One part soy sauce

One part rice vinegar

One part water

A couple of drops of sesame oil (or sesame chili oil)

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

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