Legend has it that 1800 years ago, a man by the name of Zhang Zhongjing (a practioner of traditional Chinese medicine) invented Jiaozi (Dumplings) by wrapping mutton and some medicinal herbs in dough skin and then boiled them in water to treat people whose ears got frostbitten during Winter. It is said that they helped warm the body and promote blood flow to the ears (Source: Wikipedia, so don’t hold me to it). My discovery of dumplings however is a lot more recent than that. I used to live in Sydney, Australia a few years ago and what I loved most about the city was the colorful nightlife and the abundance of restaurants and the vast diversity of cuisine. Once, one of my dad’s friends took me to an Asian restaurant in Sydney to have Yum-Cha 27 with his family. I ended up tasting a great variety of dishes including Peking duck (which was insanely good!), spring rolls, steamed dumplings and potstickers. He also tried convincing me to eat chicken feet, but that was where I drew the line. Anyway, a seed was planted in my head that night and so began my quest to make the Perfect Potstickers from scratch! I loved them so much, I wasn’t going to be satisfied with store-bought wrappers. I had to make them myself, so I could uncover the ancient Chinese secret behind making such flavourful dishes from simple dough and meat. This is the result of that quest – The perfect dough to make Perfect Chicken Potstickers!
Buying potsticker wrappers from an Asian food store is an option and it’s obviously more convenient that way. But let me share a secret with you. Once I learned to make them myself, they tasted even better! I’ve made them several times already and it’s become easier each time! So if you do ever find yourself with some down-time one weekend and want to try something new, this is an absolute must.
Potstickers differ from steamed dumplings in that they have a crispy golden brown bottom as they are pan-fried on one side while steamed dumplings are usually placed in a bamboo steamer and steamed to perfection. Pan frying postickers makes them stick lightly to the pan (hence their name) and then water is added and they are steamed a little more. The main thing I came across during my research on dumpling dough was the use of hot water to make the dough for steamed dumplings and potstickers and the use of cold water to make the dough for boiled dumplings. Though the reasoning behind this isn’t entirely clear, my reckoning is that the dough for steamed and pan-fried dumplings need to have a thinner ‘skin’ which can be achieved using hot water, while boiled dumplings require a thicker, sturdier ‘skin’ so it could handle the high heat and pressure.
Usually when I make this, I cut the dough into four equal parts and roll them out individually (since rolling out the entire dough in one go can be a little tedious). You could even try cutting it into 8 or 10 parts and rolling them out separately. It’s obviously easier to work with smaller dough balls and it requires less bench space. I prefer to use my hands to make the dough but you can use the food processor too if you wish. You do have to knead the dough with your hands eventually though, but feel free to use either method to bring the dough together at the beginning.
October 1st, 2015 Edit – If you want to make fun green potstickers using spinach puree (a great way to differentiate between different fillings), you can get the recipe for that HERE.
PLUS, here’s another insanely delicious potsticker/dumpling filling recipe that uses my green potsticker wrappers – Spicy Chilli Crab Potstickers, inspired by the classic Singapore chilli crab dish!
- 10 ounces 285g of all purpose Flour
- 5-6 fl oz 150-175 ml of boiled water (see note 1 & 2)
- 1 tsp salt
- In a bowl, mix the flour and salt together.
- Create a well in the middle (like you would when making pasta)
- Add 5 fl oz of the hot water slowly, while mixing with a wooden spoon until flour forms clumpy bits. You can alternate mixing and pouring water, if that is easier.
- Knead the dough clumps by hand to form one soft dough ball. If the mix is too dry, add a little more of the water (a little at a time). If the mix is too sticky, add a little flour (a little at a time).
By Food Processor
- Process the flour and salt for a few seconds to mix.
- In a steady stream, pour about 5 oz of the hot water while the processor is running. Add water until the mix starts to resemble very course crumbs.
- When the dough is at this stage, add another tablespoon of water and turn it out onto the table.
- Using your hands bring the flour clumps together to form a soft but firm ball of dough. Adjust water or flour as needed.
- Whichever method you use to bring the dough together, You should have a dough that is soft, not sticky, and firm enough to hold it's shape.
- Knead the dough further on the work bench for about 2 minutes. Use flour sparingly if the dough is getting sticky. The dough will look smooth at this stage and be a little stretchy/elastic.
- You can let the dough rest like this in one big ball, or cut it roughly into four equal parts and knead each piece to form a dough ball.
- Wrap the dough/dough balls tightly in plastic wrap (individually) or place it inside a zip-lock bag and seal it (push out as much air as possible) and let it rest for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours.
- You can use the dough immediately after it has been rested.
- If you are using it the next day instead, place the dough in the fridge (sealed in bags) and return it back to room temperature before handling them.
- Lightly dust your work bench and rolling pin with flour, and have a cotton sheet or a well floured area ready to place cut wrappers.
- Roll out each piece of the dough (dusting lightly with flour as needed) as thin as you can. Alternatively, you can use a pasta rolling machine for this as well.
- Once the dough has been rolled out, (make sure the dough is not sticking to the counter top), cut out the dumpling wrappers using a well floured biscuit cutter of 3.5-4 inches in diameter.
- Re-knead the leftover dough and re-roll it once more (after resting it for 30 minutes at least) to cut out more dumpling wrappers.
- Use them immediately with your choice of filling.
Tips & Tricks
- 30 oz 850g boneless chicken thigh, cubed (or chicken mince)
- 3 tbsp Ketjap Manis A sweet soy sauce
- 3 small stalks of green onion/spring onion
- approximately 1.5 inch cube of cleaned ginger root
- 1 1/4 tsp salt Ketjap Manis is not too salty - use less if you are using soy sauce
- Water to seal and steam the potstickers
- Oil for pan frying
- If you are using chicken mince, you can chop the green onion stalks and ginger finely and mix it into the chicken with Ketjap Manis and salt.
- If you are using chicken thighs - place the pieces of chicken with the green onion, ginger, ketjap manis and salt and process them until the chicken is minced.
- Moisten half the edge of the Potsticker wrapper with water and fold the wrapper over and pinch it in the middle to seal it.
- Place the potstickers on a parchment paper or cloth and keep it covered until you are ready to cook them.
- Heat about 1-2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the potstickers in the pan (I could fit about 8-10) in one layer once the oil is hot.
- When the bottoms turn a golden brown (about 5 minutes), add 1/4 cup water, cover the pan immediately and turn the heat down to medium.
- Let the potstickers steam for about 10 - 15 minutes until they look tender and the water has almost evaporated.
- Serve immediately with dipping sauce.
When you are rolling out the dumpling dough using this recipe, you will notice that is it incredibly soft and this adds a remarkable suppleness to the final product. These dumpling wrappers were soft and delicious with a crisp bottom and were not soggy or clumpy at all. Like most things, the mark of a perfect potsticker is that first bite. That first burst of flavour you get with the intensely flavourful and juicy chicken filling which is sealed inside a pillowy-soft dumpling dough that is browned at the bottom and topped with a delicious and spicy dipping sauce is the mark of true home-made perfection! Do keep some napkins handy too though for that inevitable chin-drip of savoury, juicy goodness.
The dipping sauce for this is very easy to make as well. You need just enough dipping sauce to give it that spicy kick. Just like with Sushi, you shouldn’t saturate the potstickers with too much sauce.
Chilli Soy Dipping Sauce
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1/2 tbsp chilli flakes 1 tbsp if you like it spicier
- 4 tbsp Ketjap Manis
- 1 spring onion sliced thinly
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- Up to 1/4 cup water
- Soy sauce to taste optional
- Heat the oil, chilli and sliced spring onions together on low heat.
- When the chilli starts to sizzle, mix in the ketjap manis and rice vinegar.
- As the mix will be thick, use water to dilute the dipping sauce to the consistency you prefer.
- Taste the dipping sauce and add salt or soy sauce to your preference.
You can serve the dipping sauce separately or if you are like me, you can take a little of the sauce and pour it over the potstickers (DO NOT drown them in the sauce though, these have too much flavour on their own to mask it with the sauce).
These potstickers do come with a disclaimer – Do try this at home! They are perfect for a weekend night and you could even get your kids to help you with it. You can use whatever filling you like too – pork, chicken, beef, ginger, shrimp/prawn, scallions, chives are all quite common inside potstickers. And the texture of fresh home-made potsticker wrappers makes them incredibly satisfying to eat! With colder weather just around the corner, this could be your perfect solution for a warm, cozy meal that would make your efforts in the kitchen seem that much more rewarding!
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