Cookbook Profile

Ming Tsai's Pork and Apple Potstickers
with Dim Sum Dipper

Makes 30 to 32 dumplings


Being Chinese, I've probably made and eaten more dumplings than any other food. Steamed, boiled, pan-fried, deep-fried: dumplings have filled my life. I have very distinct memories of sitting with my grandmother and my mother to roll dumpling skins at a large table and help fold them around the fillings. We'd have whole meals based on dumplings: the traditional pork filling (with garlic, ginger, and shaoxing wine) and then a filling of gyou tsai (garlic chives).

We had a Ping Pong table the basement of our home in Dayton, Ohio. Every five years or so, my father's three brothers and their families would visit over the Christmas holidays. We'd be ten cousins and four sets of parents talking for hours as we made potstickers around that long green table.

At my grandfather's house, we'd have special dumpling nights where I would attempt to out-eat my grandfather. I was in third or fourth grade, and I'd manage twenty dumplings. I'd also try to eat more sambal or hot sauce than him. It was something of an honor to outdo my grandfather. For Chinese people, food is culture...

My other grandparents moved to Taipei after the Cultural Revolution, and I'd visit them every summer. Along with improving my Chinese speaking and learning more about our culture, I'd get to eat lots of street food, which included the best pot stickers. Plus, there were whole restaurants devoted to dumplings. Going out to dinner always meant a big affair with eight or ten people around a table, ordering hundreds and hundreds of dumplings. We'd start with lighter, steamed dumplings and eventually move on to pan-fried ones. We'd start with lighter shrimp or chicken fillings and move onto spicier ones with pork. And, once again, I had to impress everyone, trying to eat more than any other kid at our table.

The years I didn't journey to Taipei, my whole family vacationed at East Coast Chinese Family Camp. The fathers bunked in one cabin, the mothers in another, and the kids bunked in various buildings according to age groups. Three- or four hundred people from across the country came to share in camp activities like swimming and crafts, as well as games and programs more typical of China. The parents would cook. The kids would clean. (And, underlying the whole experience, was the hope that your kid would meet and, one day, marry a nice Chinese kid of the opposite sex.).

But the highlight of camp was potsticker night. Throughout the day, different families took turns at the five, round tables in the dining hall rolling out the dumpling skins and folding them around one or another filling. We'd crank out something close to 6,000 dumplings, stacking them on trays until dinner, when everyone gathered in the dining hall.

This particular dumpling combines an American favorite, apples, with the traditional pork, adding a sweetness and juiciness to the filling. I'm always looking for dumpling innovations...even though I've long since given up the need to eat more dumplings than anyone else.

1/2 pound ground pork (not too lean)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 medium green apple, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
2 tablespoons naturally brewed soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pot-sticker wrappers, also called sue-gow skins
     (purchase 3-1/2" rounds; if frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 recipe Dim Sum Dipper (see below)

1. To make the filling, combine the pork and butter in a large bowl and knead the butter into the pork until fully incorporated.

2. Add the apple, ginger, garlic, sambal, soy sauce, sesame oil, 1 lightly beaten egg and salt to the pork mixture. Combine thoroughly.

3. To assemble the potstickers, mix 1 egg with 2 tablespoons water and set aside. Place 1/2 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each wrapper (the edges of the wrappers should stay clean to ensure a proper seal). Fold each wrapper in half to form a half-moon. Seal the top center of each dumpling by pressing between the fingers and, starting at the center, make 3 pleats to the bottom right corner. Repeat pleating process to the bottom left corner. Gently press the dumpling on the work surface to create a flat bottom. Lightly brush the egg wash on the finished dumpling and transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat process with the remaining wrappers and filling. Leave space between each finished dumpling to prevent them from sticking together.

4. To cook the potstickers, heat a large, non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the potstickers (flattened bottoms down) in rows of 5. Cook in batches without disturbing until the bottoms are golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and immediately cover the pan with a lid to avoid spattering. Lift the cover: 1/8-inch of water should remain in the pan; if not add a splash. Steam until the potstickers are puffy and firm to the touch, about 8 to 10 minutes. If the water evaporates before the potstickers are done, add more water in 1/4 cup increments. If the potstickers are cooked and some water remains, drain the excess water and return the pan to the burner.

5. Cook the steamed potstickers over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes to re-crisp the bottoms. Transfer the potstickers to a platter.

Serve the potstickers with a bowl of the Dim Sum Dipper.


Dim Sum Dipper

Makes 1 cup

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup chopped scallions, green parts only, 1/8-inch thick
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon sambal oelek

Whisk all ingredients together and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Buy the Book!


Cooking from the Heart
100 Great American Chefs Share Recipes They Cherish
A Share Our Strength Book to Fight Hunger
written, with an introduction, by Michael J. Rosen
Foreword by Richard Russo
Broadway Books
US $29.95 / $44.95 CAN
Hardcover / 306 pages
ISBN: 0-7679-1371X
Recipe reprinted by permission.


Cooking from the Heart



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This page created October 2003