Foodstuff: A Recipe Revisited
The pot sticker always sticks twice
It was December of 2020. Stuck at home for hours on end in the dead of winter, in the middle of a global pandemic (sound familiar?), I decided to embark on a comfort food cooking project that was more complicated than my usual menu of bake-and-serve dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for one. I asked my mom to send me a recipe for the pot stickers I used to make alongside her during childhood. I love grabbing pre-made frozen bags of these at the grocery store, but I felt like the walls were closing in—I craved the freedom of some culinary creativity.
Decades ago, I remember long and lazy cold-weather Sunday afternoons spent sitting at the breakfast room table, filling dough with meat and folding everything by hand while my father’s televised football games blared in the background. We’d also whip up crab Rangoon and homemade cashew chicken to round out the weekend meal—a feast rivaling our favorite Chinese restaurant and their epic pu pu platters. My mom periodically enrolled in cooking classes when I was a kid, and this Asian fare was part of a group of recipes she picked up from a continuing education program at the local community college.
Exotic and very on-trend, circa 1984.
It seemed so fun and nostalgic, making dough from scratch and watching the snow fall while I created this home-cooked masterpiece (and used up the never-ending soy sauce packets accumulating in my kitchen drawer—a win-win).
Hours later, sweating, covered in raw meat and shellfish detritus and what looked like the aftermath of a flour bomb to the torso, it took me approximately two minutes to eat what I’d spent hours preparing. And I even used special pot sticker-making tools! Tools! I was clearly not up to this edible endeavor.
“NEVER AGAIN!!” I typed, slamming my fingers against the screen of my phone as I texted my mother.
I swore to anyone and everyone for an entire year that I would never, ever make these again. Then, I signed up to write a food column. It’s amazing how quickly one panics that they might run out of ideas.
So I headed into the kitchen to redo a recipe that requires ample patience and a sense of humor, with a side of self-deprecation.
This was written by Annie Wang from St. Louis Community College at Meramec. Just like my last Foodstuff column, my “COOK’S NOTE” suggested tips are what I learned performing this kitchen nightmare a second time. And buckle up, Dear Reader, because I’ve got a lotta notes. As with any recipe, you should read this entirely before beginning.
2½ cups flour
¾ cup boiling water
⅓ cup cold water
½ tablespoon salt
¾ pound ground pork
¼ pound shrimp, diced
10 ounces cabbage, shredded fine*
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1 teaspoon chopped ginger root
2 tablespoon sesame oil
Place the flour in a bowl.*** Add slowly the boiling water, then salt, and mix. Add the cold water, mix well. Knead to form a soft dough (about 10-15 minutes); cover with a damp cloth.**** Let stand for at least 15 minutes.
In a bowl, place pork and shrimp, ginger root, green onion, cabbage, salt and sesame oil. Mix with hands until thickened.
Uncover dough, knead again until smooth (about 10 minutes). Divide the dough into approximately 40 pieces.***** Flatten each piece with hand and roll into a 2½-inch round, thin pancake******. Put one tablespoon of filling in the center*******, then fold over to make a half circle and pinch edges together.********
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan until very hot. Place enough dumplings in the pan to cover the bottom without overlapping. Cook until bottoms of dumplings are golden. Add ⅔ cup water, cover, and cook until water has evaporated.
Add two tablespoons sesame oil and ½ cup of water to the side of the pan and fry another few minutes.*********
Remove from pan and serve. Many other types of stuffing may be used (finely chopped beef, lamb).
* They sell 10oz. bags of “angel hair cabbage” in the salad section of the grocery store, making this step easy. I suggest using eight of the 10 ounces (omitting approximately two small handfuls), or you’ll have too much filling.
** I added this to the ingredients list because you need it to seal the dumplings (see below).
*** During the very first step, I stupidly used the smallest possible bowl, immediately thrusting myself into a blind rage. Use a large bowl.
**** Maybe it’s altitude; the dough was very dry the first time I made these. On the second try, I had a half teaspoon measure handy and occasionally added small amounts of warm water (about three times) until this reached the right consistency. It made a big difference.
***** For those of you who hate math as much as I do, I’m going to make this easier: take the dough ball and cut it into four equal pieces. Make four even cuts into those pieces (resulting in five smaller pieces). Cut those smaller pieces in half. Voila! 40 pieces!
****** Unless you like weird crescent moon or V-shaped pancakes, roll your 40 pieces into tiny globes in the palms of your hands before rolling out.
******* Brush one edge with an egg wash (one beaten egg and a splash of water), or these will not seal and are likely to tear. I learned this trick from watching hours of Ming Tsai on PBS, who once bought me a tequila at the Caribou Club during Food & Wine, then convinced me tequila doesn’t cause hangovers. Trust Chef Ming about dumplings, not tequila.
******** I borrowed my friend’s stainless-steel dumpling press, coated in nonstick cooking spray, for this task. Get yourself a friend with copious cooking tools. This is also the point at which you can freeze these on a lined sheet tray, then transfer to an airtight container for future frying.
********* I performed this step the first time I made these and only succeeded in nearly burning my kitchen to the ground, as well as my eyebrows off my face. Skip it, they’re fine.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! The good news is, these are delicious and the perfect pu pu for your Lunar New Year festivities, celebrated for 16 days, from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival (Jan. 31 to Feb. 15 this year). They also freeze well and can be enjoyed long after you’ve forgotten what a pain they are to make.
Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Katherine Roberts is a mid-Valley based writer and marketing professional who found out after she wrote this that her mother always cheated and used store-bought wonton wrappers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.