D.I.Y.: VEGGIE POTSTICKERS

By LA CANVAS
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Gong xi fa cai, Angelinos; the Lunar/Chinese New Year is this Sunday (the 10th, though the celebrating is usually done the night before). Potstickers (or dumplings) are traditionally eaten on the new year because they resemble gold ingots, and who doesn’t want that good fortune? My mother taught me how to make dumplings, and like all of her recipes, everything is done by eye– not measurements. The good news is, this recipe is pretty forgiving. The better news is, you can use it to clean out your fridge (like I did). And if you’re a devout omnivore/carnivore and don’t want to see a vegetarian/vegan recipe, you can absolutely add meat. If you’ve got basic staples (especially staples of Chinese/Asian cooking), all you might need to pick up are the dumpling wrappers/skins.

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INGREDIENTS/MATERIALS:
-Whatever you want for your filling. I used: half an onion, half an avocado, a handful of mushrooms, tofu, and carrots. If you love animal protein, use your ground meat of choice. Pork and chicken are pretty popular.
-Spices/seasonings (that I consider pretty essential): garlic (I used two cloves), green onion, ginger (I forgot to pick up fresh, so I had to use ground), a bit of salt and pepper, soy sauce, and some hoisin sauce for fun. A splash of sesame oil and some vinegar would have been great additions too.
-eggs (to act as a binding agent)

-mixing bowl
-cutting board, knife, grater (for the carrots)
-cup or bowl with water
-spoon
-preferred cooking oil
-frying pan

STEPS:

1. Chop up everything you want in your filling. Ideally, the filling should not be too chunky, which is why I grated the carrots and tried to do a decent job of mincing the onion. Add your spices/seasonings. Any time I asked my mom how much to put in, she’d always say, “Whatever is enough. You can see how much is there.” Rough. For the amount I made (let’s say 2-3 cups of filling), I’d put in a couple table spoons each of the sauces and a few good dashes of the spices. Err on the side of being too bland, that’s what dipping sauces were made for.

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2. Mix. Make sure to break up things like onions and mash down things like tofu and avocado. You want a pretty smooth consistency. Granted, this sort of looks like barf. In the second image, you’ll see I added a healthy dose of corn starch. My mixture was pretty soupy (thanks to my extra soft tofu, get firm!) so I tried to thicken it up. That is the downfall to veggie fillings. Meat really holds itself together. If you think you might have watery filling, you can try to drain/blot up excess liquid or add flour if you don’t have corn starch. You could also refrigerate it for a while to stiffen up, or give it a quick sauté to get those eggs to hold everything together.

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3. Here’s the fun part– assembly! Grab your spoon and scoop out bit of your filling to put in your wrapper. No more than a Hersey’s Kiss sized scoop. If you used meat/have a pretty solid filling, you might be able to squeeze in a little more. Dollop that in the middle of your wrapper.

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4. While holding a dumpling wrapper with the filling in the palm of one hand, dip a finger into the cup/bowl of water from the other hand. Then run a line of water across one half of the wrapper along the edge. Kind of like Rafiki did to Simba. Then, fold the wrapper in half, (like a taco) and pinch the sides together. The water is what will help the two sides stick together. This is why you don’t want to put too much filling in; it might leak out the sides if it’s too stuffed.

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5. Do this a bunch of times/til you run out of wrappers/filling. If you made more than you want to eat, freeze them! (I’d recommend freezing them on a cookie sheet, laid out so they’re not touching, then throw them into a ziplock for storage. You’re less likely to tear the dumpling skins later when cooking.)

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TO COOK:

You could always boil them like ravioli (when they float, they’re done), but these are going to be potstickers, so pan frying it is. Plus, that’s my favorite way to cook them.

1. Heat up your preferred cooking oil in a good sized frying pan. Lay out dumplings across the bottom. Try not to layer them on one another, if they touch a lot while cooking, you might tear their skins off trying to pry them apart

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2. Let fry for a few minutes, or til golden brown on the bottom. This gets them crispy. I usually let them do their thing and avoid stirring (again, skin breakage!), but I’ll give the pan a few good shakes to make sure they aren’t getting stuck to the pan.

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3. Add a half cup to a cup of water to the pan, then cover with a lid and cook another 5-7 minutes or until water cooks down. You don’t want to add more than a centimeter of water, not quite to halfway up the dumplings. The idea isn’t to drown them, but to steam them. This will make them tender.

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4. When the water’s gone, you’re done! The hardest part now is getting them out of the pan without tearing the skin. And they don’t call them potstickers for nothing. In my experience, trying to unstick them from the pan with a fork or spatula can result in mangled dumplings, often with that crispy bottom still stuck to the pan. My solution, again, is to shake that pan. Like you’re mad at it. Keep shaking until those potstickers gradually unstick and knock each other off the bottom of your pan. (And in case there’s confusion, I mean shake it on the horizontal plane, like you’re getting ready to flip a pancake or are making stove top popcorn. Not like a polaroid picture.)

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5. Plate it. Enjoy.

DIPPING SAUCE IDEAS:
-classic soy sauce
-a mix of soy sauce and vinegar (my fave)
–the above, plus some finely sliced ginger
-Sriracha
-sesame oil (+ soy sauce + vinegar)

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