Yesterdish’s Vegetable Potstickers

If you can’t choose between steamed dumplings or fried dumplings, why not have both?

I recognize that, for experienced Chinese chefs, they will look upon these potstickers and cringe the way I do when I see a blob of a pizza; but I also hope they experience the next emotion, which is happiness that someone is walking the path and will become, in time, a skilled producer of pizzas, or potstickers, as the case may be. That said, I’ve been making these odd-looking-but-delicious little dumplings for about 15 years without caring that they don’t come out picture-perfect.

If you tasted them, you wouldn’t care, either.

In texture and flavor, a potsticker is close to a perfect bite: crisp, chewy, salty, acidic, with a hint of warmth at the finish.

I use a potsticker dough that I learned (but have no particular evidence to support that learning) is traditional. I mix hot water dough (in theory, for steamed or pan fried dumplings, because it is more tender and can absorb more liquid) and cold water dough (in theory, for boiled or deep fried dumplings, because supposedly the gluten isn’t partially cooked by the water). This way, the dough has characteristics of both steamed and fried dumplings. It does sound a bit like voodoo, but it only takes a second longer, and what’s wrong with a bit of voodoo?

Two things to worry about: the moisture content of the filling. You want it to be comparatively dry. As you get to the bottom of the bowl, just give it a squeeze with your hand before you fill a dumpling. The other thing to worry about is in the cooking–if you see a dumpling inflating, you have three choices: take it off the heat, puncture it with a skewer to let the steam out, or let it burst and leak dumpling guts everywhere. None of these are tragedies, but I suggest the first option.

A bunch of things not to worry about: don’t worry that the wrappers have jagged edges. Once they’re crimped it won’t be a big deal. Don’t worry if you can’t fit 12 or 13 crimps into a dumpling–I usually can’t get more than nine or 11 and the dumpling police still haven’t beaten down my door.

Don’t worry about the fact that you’ll have more filling than you will wrappers; you’d have to make 2 or 3 times this amount of wrapper to use it all. (You should get about a dozen large-size wrappers out of the amount on the card.) The filling freezes well and you can actually eat it cold in spring rolls. It also makes a perfect lettuce wrap filling, with some toasted peanuts.

While this may not be quite the way it’s done traditionally (and you know my feelings on authenticity: that only personal authenticity matters), there is a nod to Chinese cooking philosophy in the textures achieved by steaming and frying. In texture and flavor, a vegetable potsticker is close to a perfect bite: crisp, chewy, salty, acidic, with a hint of warmth at the finish.

If you’re not opposed to animal products, you could add oyster sauce or Worcestershire sauce to the filling; if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’re good to go as written, I think. I used a dipping sauce of half soy, half ponzu, with some sriracha and sesame added (like I said, personal authenticity).

From Yesterdish’s recipe box.

Yesterdish’s Vegetable Potstickers

1 lb. block extra firm tofu, dried, pressed and diced
6 heads baby bok choy, chopped and microwaved 2:30, then drained
1 3.75 oz. pkg. cellophane noodles, cooked 3 min, drained and chopped
1 cup (after soaking) dried black mushrooms, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. ginger, grated
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 bunch green onions, greens and whites, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ponzu
rind of two lemons, shredded
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 Tbsp. sesame seed

Mix 3/4 c. bread dough with 1/4 cup hot water–knead;
Mix 3/4 c. bread dough with 1/4 cup cold water–knead;
Knead both together. Cut off and roll out golf-ball sized pieces, or half that for smaller.

Mix and marinate filling ingredients overnight, or for 2 hours in fridge. Put 3 Tbsp. filling in center of wrapper; run fingers around edge of wrapper with water. Fold over, seal and crimp.

Heat 1 Tbsp. veg. oil and 1 Tbsp. chili oil in nonstick skillet [over medium heat]. Fry dumplings on bottom. Add 1/4 c. water and cover lightly to steam. Fry dumplings [uncovered] on other sides when water evaporates, if crispier dumplings are desired.

A. Goldstein 2-18-2013

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