How to Make Authentic Chinese Dumplings
Dumplings come in all shapes and sizes the world over, but China is the first place that comes to my mind when I think of them. Given their wild popularity in the States alone, it’s easy to see why.
Though their beginnings may remain a mystery, what scholars do know is that people have been making dumplings in China since at least the Han dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD), and some sources can trace it back even further. Archaeologists have even discovered perfectly preserved dumplings – dehydrated in the arid desert conditions of remote Turpan – that date back to the 600s or 700s.
I’ve adapted the basic recipe I learned in China, transferring it from scribbled notes and experimenting with alternative ingredients and techniques to come up with the following. Though it may feel like there are a lot of steps, potstickers are actually quite simple to make once you get the hang of it.
The second is the addition of chicken stock in the filling, which creates a soft texture and keeps it moist and juicy. Homemade stock will always trump store-bought for flavor, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. Just be sure it’s at room temperature or cold when you add it, as hot stock will cook the filling, resulting in a grainy, watery mess.
Lastly, don’t be intimidated by making your own dumpling wrappers. It might seem like a lot of work, but I think it makes for a far superior dumpling. (Of course, if you’re truly pressed for time, store-bought round dumpling wrappers are a perfectly acceptable substitute). I love to enlist friends and family when making potstickers, as it makes the process flow much easier – and it’s fun!
You can make the dough and filling a day ahead of time if needed, and you can also make and freeze the dumplings raw to be cooked another day. Just place the frozen potstickers in the pan and add an extra few minutes to the cooking time.
Feel free to play around with your own favorite ingredients too. I actually prefer the taste of ground chicken over the more traditional pork, but beef or even mushrooms and cabbage are just a fraction of the combinations you can play around with.
Handmade Potsticker Recipe
- 1 pound ground pork or chicken thigh (don’t buy lean meat, the fat is needed for a moist filling)
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Tamari
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (you can find this in Asian grocery stores) or dry sherry wine
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 cup room-temperature or cold chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (Chinkiang or black rice vinegar are amazing, but feel free to use any unseasoned rice vinegar you can find)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
- Place the pork in a large bowl and gradually mix in the chicken stock.
- Add the remaining ingredients and thoroughly mix. You’ll end up with a loose, floppy paste.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a separate large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
- Slowly add hot water to the mix in 1/4 cup increments.
- Mix with a spoon until a ball is formed.
- Be patient – it takes work to incorporate the ingredients, but err on the side of caution before adding more water, otherwise, you might end up with a sticky, wet dough.
- When the dough is cool enough to handle, transfer to a floured surface and knead until it becomes smooth, soft and springy to the touch.
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes.
- When you’re ready to make the dumpling wrappers, turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and divide it into 2 or 3 pieces.
- Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin tube shape, about 1-inch in diameter. (While you’re working, cover the remaining dough with a damp towel to keep it from drying out).
- Cut the tube into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Flatten the pieces a little with your hands and using a rolling pin, roll into thin circles about 3 inches in diameter.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Place a scant tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper.
- Be very careful not to get any filling on the edges of the wrapper as this will make it impossible to seal.
- Fold the wrapper in half over the filling, pressing the edges gently.
- From here, you can simply leave it as is or make a fancier fold to create a pleated edge. (The internet has videos that’ll show you how).
- Press each dumpling down a little to make a flat base.
- In a large skillet (I use a non-stick pan, but cast iron works great here), heat about 2-3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat (lard would be the traditional fat of choice, but any neutral flavored vegetable oil will do).
- When the pan is hot, place the potstickers in, flat side down. Don’t crowd the pan too much.
- Cook for about 5-6 minutes, being careful not to disturb them.
- Drizzle the potstickers with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of water (warning: the pan will splatter a bit!), then quickly cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for another 8-10 minutes, or until the water has evaporated.
- Remove the lid and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.
- Transfer to a serving dish.
- Repeat with the remaining dumplings.
- Combine the dipping sauce ingredients and serve in a small bowl.
Travel to China with MIR
Want to sample authentic Chinese dumplings yourself?
MIR has more than two decades of China travel experience. With such destination expertise, we can handcraft an itinerary personalized to your interests and pace, including coordinating a visit to a cooking class for a custom, private trip itinerary to China – or beyond.
MIR has several travel opportunities that include a stop in China:
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- The Silk Route by Private Train (Westbound)
- Trans-Siberian Express Between Beijing & Moscow (Eastbound / Westbound)
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(Photo credit for all photos: Emily Kelso)
PUBLISHED: March 25, 2015