The last time I was at the grocery store, I happened to walk by wonton wrappers (they’re usually near the prepared fresh produce, randomly) and I said to myself, “self, this seems like an EXCELLENT thing to try to make during quarantine!” Turns out, I was right. So right, that I had to turn this idea into a blog post so you guys could also re-create your own Potsticker night at home! (Whether you’re solo, with a spouse, or with your family!)
Why making homemade potstickers should be your next quarantine activity:
Fun, tasty, and time-consuming, homemade potstickers possess the three factors I seem to look for in recipes these days. 😂
Cooking is always cathartic for me, so whether you’re making these with a spouse, the kids, or just yourself, it’s a fun way to keep your mind busy! If you’ve got kids, it’s a really fun way to bond with family, and not to mention, the results are fantastic! (Also a fun activity to do with a friend over Zoom! You can both get the ingredients and make them together!)
Potstickers are a great way to use up veggies that are about to expire, AND you can buy the wrappers in advance, they last for over a month in the fridge.
(At least according to the expiration date of the package we bought, haha!) Have leftovers? They freeze great too!
I’m not sure why it had never occurred to me to make homemade potstickers before. They are one of my very favorite things to eat on the planet. (Give me ANY kind of dumpling, really. I have been dreaming of Chinatown during the past few weeks and is one of the first places I want to go when normal life resumes.)
While I always knew they were delicious, I never realized a novice like me could manage to make them, that they didn’t have to require a ton of ingredients, and that they could even taste 10 x better than they do when you order delivery!
Best of all, Neal and I love things that we can cook together––especially recipes that play to our strengths. My strength being creativity and being able to raid the fridge and create a new tasty recipe combination (so long as I don’t have to follow exact directions) and his strength being the operational execution, precise recipe follower. I am the right brain, he is the left. Potstickers can benefit from a combination of both approaches, so we score quite high marks as a potsticker making team. 😜
All in all–we had a blast with “Potsticker night.” They were so much fun to make, and even more fun to eat!
Make them as an app or snack:
We made them as an appetizer, enjoyed them with a glass of wine, and then continued on to cook the rest of our stir fry meal! I mean, honestly, you could even make them for lunch! Why not? What else are you doing? 😂 (OMG. Ideas of a Dim Sum brunch are now swirling in my head where I’m making multiple kinds of dumplings. YES.)
Make them as your main:
You could definitely eat these all on their own––maybe with a side of stir-fried broccoli? Or a simple green salad with an Asian-style vinaigrette. YUM!
What you need for Potsticker night:
1. Wonton wrappers! The only real non-negotiable here! The brand we used was Freida’s and they were delicious! Tip: Sometimes they all stick together so make sure you’re separating them accordingly and they aren’t accidentally doubling or tripling up!
2. Something to put in them! (The possibilities are endless. See below.)
3. Wine, to be consumed with Potstickers and also while making them. 😉
The filling for your potstickers:
We just used veggie to put in these potstickers, but you can use just meat, or a combo of meat and veggie! The most important part is to remember that pretty much anything stuffed into a dumpling is delicious. Whatever you have in the fridge and need to use up will work great!
My “no-recipe recipe” process:
When I posted that we were making these on my IG stories, I got FLOODED with dm’s asking for the recipe! I don’t typically cook with recipes, per say, I just use a little bit of this and a little bit of that, tasting and adjusting as I go––but I wanted to share my “process” (if you could call it that) with you, because I think it will help way more than a recipe will.
I think of recipes like training wheels or guardrails, and once you learn how to cook without the training wheels––THAT’S when you get really confident in the kitchen! (This is what my TJ’s Hacks eBook will teach you!)
What I typically DO do though, is I will figure out what I’m in the mood for and what I want to make, peruse the internet for recipes that are similar to what I want to make for inspiration (or just confirmation that certain ingredients do, in fact, go together), and then figure out what substitutions I can make with what I have on hand.
I also often refer to recipes simply for cooking instructions. (For example, I didn’t need a recipe to follow for the filling, but I did need help with how to cook them since I’ve never done it before! (By “I” I mean Neal, because he handles anything that requires precise cooking. 😂)
Now, let’s apply that methodology to how I made these potstickers.
I looked up a recipe and saw this one from the Food Network (which you can totally follow if you’re like “Jess, I don’t do this. Just give me a recipe to follow). I noted the ingredients they used, but I actually didn’t have cabbage, mushrooms, or cilantro. BUT, what I did have was a bag of broccoli and kale slaw I needed to use up, some onion, garlic, ginger, a can of water chestnuts, and plenty of Asian spices/seasonings. Bingo–that’s what I used! I sauteed it all in sesame oil, added some soy sauce, and a tiny bit of Chinese Five Spice, tasted and adjusted until I got it seasoned to my liking, and that was that!
Have some Asian marinade or sauce in the fridge? You can totally use that instead! (TJ’s Soyaki would be a great thing to flavor your mixture with!)
If you’d like a meat filling, I’d recommend using ground meat, like ground chicken or pork (this recipe from NYT Cooking looks great and doesn’t have 1000 ingredients! However, you can just use water to seal the wrapper––it calls for egg, but you totally don’t need that!) Adding meat is so easy–you don’t even have to cook it first––it cooks with the steam in the pan! Kind of like making meatballs, but in a dumpling!
A note on stocking your pantry:
I also want to point out that this is where a well-stocked pantry REALLY makes a huge difference in what you’re able to cook. I already had all the necessary sauces/spices on hand that I needed to create Asian flavors. (Remind me, I need to do a separate blog post with basic pantry staples to always have on hand!)
If you love Asian flavors, these are my basic pantry staples that you can consider stocking up on: soy sauce, sesame oil (tip: store in fridge after opening), chili paste and/or Sriracha, garlic powder, Chinese Five Spice, rice vinegar, and ginger. (Ginger can be in a jar/tube or powdered spice form–I usually have both.) Also, fish sauce, if you particularly love Thai dishes (but for your basic needs, the others are just fine!) These things all last for a LONG time, and when you realize how easy it is to whip up countless dishes with them, you’ll go through them much faster than that!
To assemble your potstickers:
The fun part! Lay out your wrappers on a flat surface, and put a dollop of filling in each one (roughly one tablespoon, but you’ll want to play around with it based on how big your wonton wrappers are).
Fill a small bowl with water and set it next to your station. Dip your fingers in the water and wet the edges of the wrapper, then fold it over, pressing down around the edges to seal, trying to get all the air out!
Tips: You want to squeeze as much excess moisture from your filling as possible, because if you get the wrapper too wet, it won’t seal properly. Additionally, make sure you aren’t putting TOO much water around the edges, because, again, then it won’t seal correctly!
What about the pleating?
The traditional “pleats” you see on potstickers are to seal the filling inside, so they don’t open during cooking! To be honest, we were terrible at this, and it still didn’t matter. 😂I kept failing at the pleats and in the end I just took a fork and lightly pressed the edges like you would with a pastry and it worked just fine!!
However, next time, I will be studying content from the experts: “How to Pleat Potstickers” on Youtube to see if I can improve my skills in this area.
To cook the potstickers:
The trick to making the potstickers so good is that you pan-fry AND steam them.
To do this: heat some sesame oil (or whatever oil you have, but I recommend always having sesame on hand because it adds such great flavor to Asian dishes–but watch it closely, because it burns easily!) in a skillet over medium heat.
When the pan is hot, place the potstickers (flat side down, depending on the shape of your potsticker) and sautee for about three minutes until they’re golden brown on the bottom. (Watch them closely so they don’t burn!) If they’re TOO brown, that’s okay! Just flip them over! (They can TOTALLY be golden brown on both sides! Not traditional, but delicious and you don’t want the bottoms to burn!)
When bottoms are golden brown, pour in about 1/4 cup of water, and quickly cover with a lid (they will splatter, so be careful!)
Let them steam for about 4-6 minutes, depending on how big your dumplings are. When you take the lid off, the water should be mostly evaporated.
Leave them in there just a bit longer so the bottoms crisp back up! (We actually flipped our potstickers to crisp them on both sides because the shape allowed and because we love them crispy!) You do you!
Tip: Make sure you’re cooking them in batches, you don’t want to overcrowd the pan, otherwise they won’t get properly crispy on the bottom!
We put the finished potstickers on a plate and kept it in the microwave to keep them warm while we were cooking the batches! (I never knew this trick, Neal taught it to me!)
To serve–make a dipping sauce:
Make a dipping sauce:
You can’t have delicious potstickers without a delicious dipping sauce, right!? You can totally buy ponzu sauce or gyoza dipping sauce at the store in the Asian aisle. And that’s honestly good right out of the bottle. You could also just use regular soy sauce, but that’s kind of a let down after you’ve worked so hard to make the dumplings taste so delicious! Where’s the fun in that?
I didn’t happen to have ponzu sauce, so what I did instead was throw some soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey (use sugar if you don’t have honey), garlic, lots of chopped green onion (scallions), and chili paste in a bowl. I didn’t measure––just taste and adjust as you go! Want it sweeter? Add more honey. Want more spice? Add more chili paste (Sriracha works too!) Too salty? Add more rice vinegar to cut the saltiness with the acid. Voila! Delicious dipping sauce!
That’s it! Sit down, and enjoy your little works of art! Seriously, friends, these were some of the best I’ve ever had. (And I am a dumpling nut!)