Chinese potstickers are from a truly significant history. According to obscure legend, they were birthed in the imperial kitchen of China.The cook was making dumplings for the emperor. He forgot a batch that was slowly cooking, they were singed dark brown, slightly burned. With an impatient and hungry emperor waiting, there was scarcely time to spare. The cleaver cook arranged the dumplings on a platter, burned side up. He presented them to the emperor as a new dish erroneously called “stuck bottom”, the emperor was delighted with the minor mishap and requested them to be served exactly the same way at the next meal.
2 cups thinly sliced Chinese cabbage
14 ounces ground pork
1/3 cup finely sliced scallions
2 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoon white rice wine
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
11/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
Pinch of white pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup water
In a large bowl, place the cabbage, the teaspoon salt, and all the remaining filling ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or 2 pairs of wooden chopsticks, mix the ingredients together, stirring them in one direction. Stirring in this way ensures the mixture will become a cohesive filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. The longer it rests, the easier it will be to work with.
To make dough….In a large bowl, place the flour and make a well in the center. Gradually add water to the well and use your fingers to combine with the flour until it is absorbed and a firm dough forms. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. Knead the dough in the bowl for about 15 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 11/2 hours.
Dust a work surface with flour. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time and keep the others covered with the damp cloth. Using your palms, roll into a log 12 inches long. Cut crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Using a small rolling pin, roll out each piece into a 3 inch round. Keep the work surface well dusted with flour as you work.
Place 1 round on the palm of one hand, place 1 tablespoon of the filling on the center, and fold the round into a half-moon. Using the thumb and forefinger of the other hand, pleat the seam closed, making from 5 to 7 pleats. Repeat to form more dumplings until all the rounds are used. Cover the dumplings with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out, then repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough in two batches to make a total of 36 dumplings.
In a cast-iron frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the peanut oil over high heat. When a wisp of white smoke appears, turn off the heat and place 18 dumplings in the pan. Turn on the heat to medium and allow the dumplings to cook for 3 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the water into the pan and allow the dumplings to cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the water evaporates. Reduce the heat to low and allow the dumplings to cook for about 2 minutes, or until the are golden brown on the bottom and the skins are translucent on top. To ensure the dumplings cook evenly, move the pan back and forth on the burner to distribute the heat evenly and prevent sticking.
Place on a heated dish and serve hot. Accompany with a ginger vinegar dipping sauce that is as traditional as they are. In a bowl, mix together 1/3 cup red rice wine vinegar, and 1/4 peeled and finely shredded ginger. Let stand for 30 minute before using.
Recipe adapted from “Mastering The Art Of Chinese Cooking,” by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo