Pot Sticker Basics
Each region in Asia has its own local flavor of pot stickers and Dim Sum tradition. Each family restaurant, each Asian grandmother thus wraps their own regional spices, vegetables, meats and magic into the humble little won ton sheet. You can customize my basic pot sticker recipe and make it your own heirloom recipe.
Having been raised by a wonderful Asian grandmother back in Hawaii, fresh pot stickers, or shu mai was pretty much a weekly if not daily treat. If grandmom didn’t make them, the aunts and uncles would bring a freshly cooked batch whenever they visited. The Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Japanese delicatessens around the corner made these wonderful treasures for quick takeout lunches and dinner. Sadly, when I moved from Hawaii to Tennessee, freshly made pot stickers became an endangered species in my household. Sure, a few Asian grocery stores and restaurants carry pot stickers in Memphis, but these sad dumplings were often of the tasteless, massed produced, factory variety.
Hence, I am sharing a basic pot sticker recipe for you to personalize with ingredients you and your family can enjoy. I didn’t get the recipe from a cookbook, but have watched my Asian grandmother and neighborhood cooks make this when I was a little girl in Hawaii.
The basic pot sticker filling is an Asian version of the American meatloaf. In fact, my family loves the filling steamed with eggs in an Asian version of the meat loaf. The most difficult ingredient to locate for the pot sticker is the won ton wrap. Thus, if you have problems finding the won ton wrappers, you can always transform the pot sticker filling into a steamed Asian meatloaf and serve it with piping hot steamed rice. Left over filling can also be fried into Asian burgers!
The won ton wrap measures 3 inches in the shape of a square or circle. Either shape will do. There are also bigger sized won ton wrappers that you can use for spring rolls. The wrappers are typically found in the produce section of your local grocery chain store (i.e.: Krogers, Piggly Wiggly, Super Walmart, Schucks, etc.) near the tofu, sprouts and fresh mushroom section. The wrappers can also be found in specialty health food stores in a green spinach flavor.
What transforms the shu mai dumpling into a pot sticker is the way it is cooked. The deep fried version is called Crispy Gaugee, while the steamed version is simply called a dumpling or Shu Mai. The pot sticker is first steamed in a large skillet or wok with a little amount of water and oil. As the water boils out, the dumplings begin to lightly crisp in the remaining oil.
1 large no-stick skillet or wok with lid
1 package of 3 inch square or round Won Ton Wrappers
1/2 cup sunflower or vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 shallow bowl of water
1 gallon ziploc bag
1 pound ground pork or ground turkey
1 and a half packets of powdered oriental soup base from a package of ramen
1/4 cup fresh or dried minced white or yellow onions (the fresh onions give a more spicy kick to the mix)
1/4 cup minced green onions or chives
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
6-8 ounces of frozen peas and carrots
1 to 2 eggs (dependent on the amount of optional ingredients added…more option ingredients, add a little more egg to bind the ingredients.)
1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms (your favorite type-shiitake, button, portabella…)
1 or 2 handfulls of mung or adzuki bean sprouts
1 or 2 handfulls of chopped cabbage (Chinese, round or even collard greens)
1/4 cup canned bamboo shoot shreds
1/4 cup chopped water chestnuts
1/4 cup moringa leaves (known as Kalamungay by Filipinos)
1/4 cup chopped cooked shrimp or scallops
additional flavors and spices like ginger, Mrs. Dash, tobasco or sesame oil
5-6 dozen pot stickers
Pour water and oil into a large skillet or wok. Cover and bring to a boil at medium high heat over the stove while you are preparing the filling. Do not allow the water to boil out. Add a little more water and cover if you take too long to mix and wrap the filling.
In a large 1 gallon ziploc bag, add the ground meat, powdered oriental soup base, minced onions/chives and black pepper and mash the ingredients together. Bash the bag of frozen peas and carrots on the counter to help separate the veggies if they have become iced into a clump. Pour roughly half a 12 ounce bag of peas and carrots into the 1 gallon ziploc bag along with an egg or 2 and mash everything together until thoroughly mixed. Add your choice of optional ingredients to the mix if you desire. Add another egg to the mix if you use more than 1/2 cup of combined additional ingredients. Try different combinations of optional ingredients as if you were making different kinds of cookies and pies. You can also sprinkle a small amount of optional ingredients over the middle of each won ton before adding a scoop of filling and make miniature spring rolls.
Have a shallow bowl of water on the side as you are stuffing the won ton wrappers. Use a long teaspoon (the kind you use to stir a tall glass of iced sweet tea) to scoop a small amount of filling onto the middle of a won ton wrap. Try to scoop as many different ingredients as you can onto the won ton wrapper. Dab one of your fingers into the bowl of water and paint half the perimeter of the won ton wrap filling side up with water. The water glues down the edges of the dumpling after you fold over the won ton wrap and lightly squeeze the perimeter of the dumpling with your fingers to seal the edges. See diagram below of the different pot sticker shapes after you have added some filling, dabbed water and sealed the won ton.
Make 12-15 dumplings at a time. Open the cover to the skillet and carefully lower 1 dumpling at a time into the boiling water and oil evenly spaced. A large skillet or wok should have enough surface area to cook 12-15 dumpling at a time. Cover with lid and slide the lid a little to leave about a 1 inch gap to allow steam to escape. The dumplings will be cooked to perfection in about 10-15 minutes after the water has boiled out and the left over oil begins to brown the bottom of the pot stickers. You should check every few minutes on the progress of the pot stickers. Remove pan from heat when you see the edges of the pot stickers a nice crisp brown. Pot stickers are ready to server. Use a tong to pick the pot stickers out of the pan. A bunch may stick to each other or to the pot, but that is why they are called pot stickers!
When you need to make more pot stickers, add more water and oil to the pan, bring to a boil, cover pan, make more dumplings and repeat cooking instructions. You may also use the leftover oil in the pan to fry Asian burger patties made from the leftover filling.
Keep a long wooden spoon within hands reach at all times to swat at pot sticker thieves as these tasty morsels tend to disappear as soon as they are taken out of the skillet. In my home, far too many pot stickers never make it to the table before dinner or lunch is served.
Stay tuned for Dim Sum Dips.