Fried dumplings, a.k.a. potstickers, are inarguably the best dumplings, combining delicate steamed wrappers on top with a crackly, crunchy crust on their bottoms. But they’re also the most difficult to make—there’s a thin line between potsticker and pot thrown out because a carbonized layer of dumpling is subatomically bonded to it. Excessively sticky potstickers burst as you try to pry them out of the pan, and potstickers that don’t stick enough either come out soggy and waterlogged on the outside or, if you keep cooking them to caramelize their crusts, gristly and dry on the inside.
The solution to perfectly crusty potstickers that release from the pan when you want them to? Add more crust.
That’s what Dumpling Galaxy chef and cookbook author Helen You and SAVEUR’s own Max Falkowitz recommend in their master pan-fried dumpling recipe, which starts with homemade dumpling wrappers enclosing the filling of your choice, in this case ground beef with cooked onions and spicy homemade chile oil.
Potstickers cook in a three-stage process. First the dumplings get a very brief initial fry in a hot pan with oil. Then you add water to steam the dumplings and cook them through. Once the water evaporates, the dumplings get a second fry that turns the skins golden brown, which is where things usually go wrong. But by adding a bit of flour and white vinegar to the cooking liquid, you don’t just fry the dumplings—once the water evaporates, the starch in the flour forms a giant disk that connects all the dumplings into a golden pancake. You know the dumplings are done by watching the pancake’s color and edges: when the pancake turns brown and delicious and edges curl up, the whole thing is done. And by sliding a thin spatula under the pancake and flipping it out onto a plate all at once, removing the pot-unstuck-potstickers from the pan is a snap.
Now go forth and fry with confidence. They’ll be the best potstickers you ever make.