Introduction: How to Cook Pot Stickers
Pot stickers are a Chinese Dim Sum (appetizer, more or less) consisting of a noodle-like wrapper around a filling that normally has meat, cabbage, onions, and seasonings. I understand that in the eastern US, they're called "Chinese Ravioli", which is somewhat more descriptive of their nature, even though "pot sticker" is pretty descriptive of their behavior. There's a similar item in Japanese cuisine called "Gyoza", though those are usually smaller and have a thinner noodle.
They are one of my son's favorite foods. They can be boiled, steamed or deep fried, but the name comes from a combination cooking method where they are browned by pan-frying AFTER the noodle is cooked by steaming or boiling. Here's how I cook them.
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Step 1: Introduction
You CAN make pot stickers from scratch. This is made easier if you have somewhere you can buy pre-made pot sticker wrappers (which are like wonton wrappers, only thicker), but it is STILL (imnsho) one of those things that isn't worth the effort. Counting asian markets, Trader Joes, Safeway, and CostCo, there are probably about a dozen different varieties of pre-made frozen pot stickers that I can buy. After some exploring, including a "pot sticker tasting", we decided that these Ling-ling brand "chicken and vegi" ones are our favorite. YMMV; do your own experiments.
Unfortunately, if you follow the instructions on the package, they don't come out the way we like them, so I've come up with my own method.
Step 2: Prepare the Pan!
Teflon coated pans are a really good idea for pot-stickers. I supposed that a properly seasoned non-coated pan would work too, but this method involves boiling water for some time, which is not such good treatment for a "seasoned" pan.
Heat your pan so it's nice and dry. If your Teflon is getting a bit old, like mine, it will help to pre-season it with a light coating of oil (and heat for a minute or so over high heat) before starting the main part of the cooking procedure.
Step 3: Add Oil and Pot Stickers.
After the pan is seasoned and hot, add about one to two Tablespoons of cooking oil, and then put in your pot stickers, flat-side down, in a single layer, being sure to get oil on the bottom side of each pot sticker. You can cram the pan pretty full, but they will expand a bit as they cook.
The pan stays over high heat for the entire cooking process, but you can turn it down a bit while loading the pot-stickers to reduce the amount of splattering. Especially watch for splattering if your pot stickers have ice crystals.
Step 4: Add Water
Now add enough water to cover the pot stickers about 3/4 of their height. For the 12inch skillet I'm using here, this is ABOUT 2 cups of water.
This is the main departure from the package recipe. IT calls for using 2/3 C of water for the whole pan, and boiling/steaming till dry. MY procedure has a separate boiling time, after which the remaining water is poured off.
Cover the pan and allow to cook for 10 to 12 minutes. (This includes time for the water to come to a boil. You're looking for that typical 7 to 10 minute pasta boiling time. In smaller pans, it takes less time for the water to come to a boil, and you'll be at the 10minute total time.)
Step 5: Empty Excess Water and Pan-fry Till Brown.
Using the lid to retain the potstickers, dump any remaining water (typically quite a bit) into the sink (it'll take most of the oil with it, making these "healthier" than average!) and return the pan to the stove (still on high heat) with the lid off.
Pan fry until the pot stickers have reached the desired degree of brownness on the bottom. For us, this is about 3 minutes after the remnants of water have boiled off, or 4 minutes total.
Step 6: Remove From Pan.
The "Desired degree of brownness" can vary quite a bit, from hardly brown at all to nearly burnt. You'll have to decide how you like them for yourself.
Remove from pan using a pan-safe spatula. This can vary from "dump them onto a plate" to "scrape them out leaving as little noodle behind as possible", depending on the pan and other factors that I'm not entirely clear about. Cooking longer MAY make them easier to remove. Don't allow them to cool, or they'll stick worse (but you can re-heat again to make it easier.)
Step 7: Cool Slightly and Serve.
Pot stickers are best fresh from the pan, while there's still a big texture difference between the crunchy bottom and the chewy top of the noodle. The Ling-ling pot stickers come with a sauce that's pretty good, but I prefer a more sour sauce made mostly from cider vinegar with a bit of soy sauce and chili oil.
Pot stickers are still good re-heated in a microwave. For parties, we put a bunch in the steamer baskets or a rice-cooker, where they'll stay hot and edible for a couple of hours before they're steamed into a less-appetizing soggy state.