For Foodies

How To Make A Chinese New Year-Worthy Potsticker

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    Chef Russell Blue Smith waits as Executive Chef Scott Drewno shouts out directions for teaching patrons to make Chinese dumplings the day before the beginning of the Chinese New Year, Feb. 9.
    Daniel M.N. Turner/NPR
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    A dozen flavors go into Drewno's dumplings. Most important, the seasonings include the "holy trinity" of scallions, ginger and garlic, a couple of kinds of salt, oyster sauce and more. They are added into the pork and pork fat, and mixed to a fine paste.
    Daniel M.N. Turner/NPR
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    Patrons lay out a damp circle of dumpling dough in their hands as they prepare to assemble the dumpling.
    Daniel M.N. Turner/NPR
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    The dumpling dough circle is brushed with egg yolk in a "half-moon" pattern along the top edge, which is critical to holding the dumpling together when it cooks. "Your dumpling doesn't have to look perfect. As long as its properly sealed, it will cook up just as good as any other," says Drewno.
    Daniel M.N. Turner/NPR
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    Drewno demonstrates how to properly seal the dumpling casing around the meat filling, a mixture of pork, pork fat and spices.
    Daniel M.N. Turner/NPR
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    Crinkled on one side, flat on the other, the dumplings are boiled for about 5 minutes until they float, then transferred, flat side down, into a pan of sizzling hot peanut oil. Only one side of the dumpling is fried, and briefly! They may be called potstickers, but that's the last thing you actually want them to do in your pan.
    Daniel M.N. Turner/NPR
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    The finished dumplings, properly fried to a light crisp. The half-moon shape was meant to resemble ancient Chinese currency. Eating the dumplings was believed to bring fortune and prosperity for the coming year.
    Daniel M.N. Turner/NPR

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Even though he estimates he's made hundreds of thousands of them, Scott Drewno says pork potstickers never get old. In fact, they are the food the executive chef of The Source by Wolfgang Puck, a fine dining Asian fusion restaurant in Washington, D.C., says he would take to a desert island.

"They're everything you want in a dish — salty, savory, filling," says Drewno, as he lovingly holds up one of three bowls of ground pork he planned to season and stuff into dumplings before our eyes.

The humble dumpling was traditionally prepared by families in northern China, sitting around tables late into the night before the start of the Chinese New Year.

And while the Year of the Snake began last weekend, Chinese new year's celebrations traditionally last two weeks. So there's still time if you want to mark the occasion by trying your hand at dumplings this weekend.

Drewno recently led a willing group of patrons through the sticky and twisty ways of folding dumplings at a class in honor of the Chinese New Year.

Have a visual taste via our slideshow above. Drewno's pork dumpling recipe is below.

Traditional Pork Dumpling With Black Vinegar Dipping Sauce

Filling:

1.5 pound pork butt

1.5 pound pork belly, ground

2 ounces pork fatback, ground

1 tablespoon cure salt (sodium nitrate, or substitute kosher salt, Drewno says)

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped ginger

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon chili oil

1/4 cup Napa cabbage, lightly salted

2 tablespoons flat garlic chives, blanched, chopped

Mix meats, fatback, oyster sauce, salt, sugar and peppers in a bowl. Place in freezer for 20 minutes. Grind in mixer with 1/4-inch die. Mix in mixer with paddle attachment ("until it springs back at you and doesn't fall apart," Drewno says).

Add remaining ingredients.

To wrap:

Potsticker skins

Egg yolks

Place potsticker skin on table. Brush half with egg yolk. Place small amount of filling in center of skin. Fold in half, and crimp up sides, sealing filling.

Place in boiling water, cook 3 to 4 minutes until fully cooked through. Drain.

Place in hot saute pan with peanut oil and cook on one side until golden brown. Remove and place on plate with black vinegar dipping sauce (recipe follows). Garnish with carrot strings, beet strings and daikon strings.

Black Vinegar Dipping Sauce

(Most Asian markets carry the ingredients, Drewno says.)

4 teaspoons black vinegar

1/8 cup chili oil

4 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped.

Place all ingredients in bowl and mix well.

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