They say that men have better spatial ability than women. The feminist side of me (yes, I just used the “f” word) says “bosh!” to that theory. Ok the feminist side of me would never use a word like “bosh“, but you get my meaning… Anyway, every time I do something which requires reading a diagram and I get frustrated, my husband likes to remind of this fascinating tidbit. It just infuriates me further.
In my previous life as a chef I made many pot stickers, these little savory packages filled with meat and vegetables, which are both fried to give a nice crispy texture to the bottom, and then steamed to complete the cooking. However, I’m sure I did not use an authentic folding method to create them and it’s been almost a decade since I made them from scratch. Armed with a recent gift of Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings book, I was determined to do it the authentic way.
I read the instructions.
I studied the hand drawn diagrams.
I re-read the instructions and diagrams.
My first dumplings just weren’t right. Oh, they would have cooked up just fine (and in fact, they did), but they didn’t have the shape I wanted. By the way, this is in no means a reflection on the instructions and diagrams in the book, but rather on my god-forsaken female spatial (in)abilities. Grrrr…
Type A personality that I am, I wanted my pot stickers to look like the ones I’d eaten in restaurants. In Nguyen’s book, the shape is called “pleated crescent.” Oh sure, there are easier ones, with cuter names like “half-moon” and “pea pod” and “big hug,” but I wanted mine to be the right kind. Those of you who are also type A, know what I mean.
Then I remembered a post on Steamy Kitchen which showed a method for pleating dumplings. With sticky hands on my keyboard, I looked it up and it turned out to be a post written by guest blogger La Fuji Mama. This method seemed a little easier than the pleated crescents. I got the hang of it quickly and then suddenly, a light bulb went on in my head.
I went back to the book.
“Same same, but different” as they say in Thailand.
La Fuji Mama’s method looks similar to Nguyen’s and once I got it, I could then adjust my pleating to create the “pleated crescent” if I so wanted. In the end, both methods work equally well, look nice, and once cooked, taste the same. In fact, as Ngyuen says in her book, “Asian dumplings do not have to look perfect to taste good. You can work and eat your way toward making good-looking ones.”
2 cups, lightly packed, finely chopped bok choy*
1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbsp green onions, sliced both green and white parts
6 oz ground pork
5 oz chopped, cleaned shrimp*
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground back pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar*
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 package gyoza skins*
1 Tbsp canola oil
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tsp chili garlic paste
For the Filling:
Toss the bok choy (or napa cabbage) with 1/2 tsp salt to draw out excess moisture. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then rinse and drain. Squeeze out excess moisture. You should have about 1/2 cup when finished.
In a large bowl combine pork, shrimp, bok choy, garlic, ginger, and green onions. I mixed this with my hands to get it very well-integrated.
In a small bowl mix the salt, sugar, pepper, soy sauce, seasoned vinegar (or sake) and then mix that into the pork/shrimp/vegetables.
The filling can be used or made and refrigerated 1 day in advance. If done the day before, remove from the refrigerator about a 1/2 hour before using.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dust with flour if you will refrigerate or freeze the prepared gyoza.
If you are using prepared gyoza or won ton skins, have a small bowl of water ready. I couldn’t find round gyoza wrappers in my local Asian market so I cut the square won ton wrappers with a round cookie cutter.
Take one gyoza skin and with your finger or a small brush, lightly wet the edge about 1/4 inch around. Put about 1 Tbsp of the filling in the center. Bring one side of the gyoza skin up to meet the other and pinch in the middle. Pleat one side out toward the right edge, keeping the opposite side touching it, flat. Pleat the other half out toward the left, pinching it against the flat side opposite. This will cause the gyoza to have a curved shape. For the “pleated crescent”, start the pleats on one side of the gyoza, working your way across to the other side.
Repeat with the rest of the gyoza skins. Keep the pot stickers covered with a dry kitchen towel while you finish making the rest.
When done, they can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan or wok and add 1 Tbsp oil. With the heat at medium-high, add the dumplings in the pan one at a time with the pleated edges up. Cook them in the hot oil for 1-2 minutes until they brown on the bottom. Then, very carefully so as not to splatter the hot oil, add water to the pan (about 1/4 inch or about 1/3 cup) and put a lid on the pan to steam the dumplings. Reduce the heat to medium and let the dumplings cook for 6-8 minutes or until all the water cooks away. Remove the lid and let the bottoms crisp up for another minute or so. Because the filling is raw, if you are at all uncertain if they are done, take one out and cut it in half to verify that it is cooked all the way through. If you are making a large batch, transfer them to a platter in a warm oven.
Combine the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and chili garlic paste. This is a slightly different sauce than in Asian Dumplings but it’s one I’ve made for years and I like it.
***Recipe notes and substitutions:***
*Make sure you squeeze as much of the air out of the inside of the dumpling before sealing. When cooking, they will puff up and sometimes tear otherwise.
*I had baby bok choy in my refrigerator so I substituted it for the napa cabbage in the original recipe.
*Substituted seasoned rice vinegar for sake
*The shrimp I used was cooked instead of raw.
*I doubled the recipe because I bought too much ground pork (photos are of double batch, recipe is single batch).
*I still had filling left over after using the entire package of won ton skins so I rolled the leftover filling into little meatballs, fried them up and we ate them like canapes, dipping them into the sauce.
*I froze some of the gyoza for a future meal.