James's Hand-Made Potsticker Recipe

This recipe has roots from when I was a little kid growing up participating in family cooking parties that brought everyone together, young and old. But it isn't some sacred unwavering formula handed down from 10 generations ago; just a basic recipe that's evolved a bit over the last 20 years and continues to evolve while adhering to some general rules of ingredients and hand rolled dough skins. This isn't a set recipe with precise amounts, so think of numbers presented here as being approximate. You can experiment a little and try new things yourself. In fact, playing around with the filling can be pretty fun and tasty.

Note: Some folks can get religious about pot stickers. Moreover, some folks are even more religious about the dipping sauce. But that's something I leave up to each person. I like to enjoy my potstickers just plain. If made well, the dumplings trap meat juices inside each during the cooking process and that first bite releases all that flavourful juice into one's mouth (and hopefully not squirting everywhere). But that aside, my wife likes her potstickers with some spicy soy/vinegar dipping sauce or just plain red vinegar.

1. The ingredients are usually available in most good Asian supermarkets year round and are fairly cheap, especially when the produce are in season. The list of ingredients for the filling follows something like below and is enough to make about 100 potstickers.

List 1: Ingredients for the Filling

  1. 2 lbs ground pork
  2. 1 palm sized chunk of raw ginger
  3. 1 large head of napa cabbage
  4. 1 large bunch of Chinese Jiu Tzai (called Leeks or Chives)
  5. several large cloves of garlic
  6. salt, pepper, oyster sauce, sesame oil, cayenne

List 2: Ingredients for the Skins

  1. 6 cups sifted flour
  2. 1 tspn salt
  3. 2.5 cups warm - hot water (120 deg. F/50 deg. C)

2. Start by Chopping the Napa Cabbage to shreds. Thin strips about 1 - 2 inches long are fine. Put these into a separate bowl and add lots of salt and some cold water and mix. We're trying to get the cabbage to give up its water otherwise the potsticker center will be loose and too wet. The salt draws the moisture out, and after around 10 minutes, the cabbage should get really limp.


3. Chop the leeks into 1/4 - 1/2 inch long pieces after thoroughly washing them and removing dead and waste material from the bunch and put into a large mixing bowl. Since restaurants often skip this step, I have another reason to make my own potstickers. Place into a single large mixing bowl.

4. Mix the pork with the leeks, then start to mince the ginger and chop the garlic (or you can use garlic powder) and put those into the same large mixing bowl. Drain the cabbage and using both hands, compact the cabbage to squeeze as much liquid out as possible. Add the cabbage to the large mixing bowl with everything else. Now add about 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon of pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne and around 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Mix the filling thoroughly so there are no chunks of ground pork by itself or pockets of leeks by themselves.


5. Taste test filling. Heat a small pot and add a few tablespoons of water and make a small flat patty of filling and cook it completely (about 5 minutes). If all the water boils off, add a little bit more, and or turn down the heat. The water should completely boil off and the filling should start to brown slightly. Now remove from the heat, and allow to cool and taste. Adjust the salt content by adding more, if necessary, and repeat this test. Be careful not to add too much salt, however, the filling should be a little bit salty, since there will be a flour skin wrapping it which has no salt. Note: The filling in the potstickers is RAW when we wrap it - we do NOT cook the filling first. This step is only used to taste test. Some folks use strick recipes and try to control portions. But experience has taught me to never trust the recipe. Always test and VERIFY taste of the filling BEFORE starting to wrap.

6. Fill a mixing bowl with flour Use roughly the same volume of SIFTED flour that you have filling. I usually choose all-purpose flour. Don't use a high gluten, or fast rising short bread flours. Just the cheap stuff for all purpose and make sure it is sifted, or else the dough is likely to be too tough to roll. Example, if you have a mixing bowl filled about 2/3rds the way with filling, pour about that much flour into a clean bowl. It is important that you do not add any baking powder, or other leavening agents. Add any dry spices to flavour the dough if you like (e.g. 1 tspn of salt). I usually do nothing, although adding garlic powder, pepper, or even curry powder is okay. Next, make a small pit in the flour and mix warm water into the dough. Start by adding a little bit, then gradually add some more. For around 2 lbs. of pork, you'll probably need around 2+ cups of water for the flour, but this is not exact, so add water somewhat slowly and mix. Once the dough is approximately at the right water/flour ratio, mix quickly and thoroughly so as not to cool and not to get too clumpy. It is not important to get the consistency perfectly smooth and silky. The dough should have a semi-dense bread dough consistency. Not as soft as pizza dough, but not as hard as pasta dough. The dough is -very- simple. Let the dough sit for a few minutes.


7. Mix dough into soft ball and knead it thoroughly for about 5 minutes or until mostly uniform. Let it sit at room temperature for another 15 minutes or so, then knead it for about a minute and let sit for 5 minutes.

8. Make small balls of dough. Use a knife and cut strips and roll into 1" in diameter and either use your hand (like the pros) and tear about 1" cubic chunks. You could try to roll the dough into a uniform diameter log 1" in diam and cut 1" slices with a knife. (the latter takes longer). This is approximate. If your skins are too big or thick. Think about reducing the volume of each chunk. Take the chunks, sprinkle dry flour on them and pre-roll the dough chunks into small balls in your palm and then quickly flatten them into a round disks about 1.5" in diameter. Sprinkle a little bit more flour. Make about 10 of these to start with. Use a 1.5" diameter uniform cylindrical rolling pin, or you might try a tapered on both ends rolling pin (for amateurs) made especially for rolling potsticker skins. The pros use mostly straight cylindrical rolling pins. The goal is to make the skin thinner on the edges because you'll fold them over and pinch them together, and thicker in the middle. Skins should be rolled to about 4.5 inches in diameter and be about 1mm thick on average. Over a minute or so, if the consistency of the dough was correct, the skin should shrink to about 4 inches. That's normal so no need to worry. I'm right handed, so I roll with the right hand palm pressed firmly on the rolling pin, and my left fingers lifting and spinning the dough skin at the front of the skin. A skilled potsticker skin maker can roll enough skins for 6 other workers wrapping.


9. Wrapping the Potstickers begins with adding a generous amount of filling in the middle of the unfloured side. Around 1 heaping tablespoon. Fold the skin in half, bulging in the middle and then pinch the dough together in the middle. It should stick easily together. You may think there is too much filling, but if the dough is the right softness, you should have no issues stretching it a little to pinch it at the correct places. If your fingers are sticking to the skin, use dry flour on your hand before handling the skin. Store bought skins never stick easily together. Instead, you need to use some type of glue, like egg wash, which is time consuming and slow. This skins should be very fast to wrap.


10. Cooking fresh potstickers is hard to beat. But you can also put these on a non-stick cooking sheet and into the freezer to freeze solid, and then put them in ziplock bags to keep a supply around whenever you need it. Fresh or frozen, the best way to cook them is to pour 2 tablespoons of oil into a non-stick pan and layout about a dozen or more potstickers, ensuring that all the bottoms of the potstickers are coated in oil. Non-stick pans yield the best results and come highly recommended. Any other type of pan will fail and result in tearing of the skin. Pour a cup of regular water (warm or cold) or enough water to half-cover the postickers. Then cover with a lid and cook at medium heat for around 10 minutes. Leave enough of a crack on the lid to allow the steam to boil off. As the water begins to dry off, lift the lid off and drizzle a few drops sesame oil over the potstickers. Check the bottoms are golden brown and remove from the heat and serve.