Steam and Pan Frying the Chinese Way

Many Chinese restaurants that serve what we call Potstickers may describe them as pan-fried dumplings. That's only part of the story, though.  

Potstickers (and several other types of dumplings) are cooked with a unique technique that combines both steaming and pan frying over high heat. This is an unusual technique, rather specific to Asian cuisine. Though there may be something similar in the Western repetoire, I can't think of anything very close.

To make it even more interesting, you can steam first then fry, or fry first, then steam. That's really weird. I can't imagine any technique that can be reversed like that.

It's really simple to do, and only two things can go wrong. The same technique is used for store-bought or homemade dumplings. Here's how to do it:
  1. Heat a wok or skillet over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes. If your heat is too high and you leave the dumplings in for too long, you can over brown them (that's the first thing that could go wrong).
  2. Add a small amount of oil to the pan, about 1 teaspoon for 5 dumplings.
  3. Then add the dumplings, and let them brown for 1-2 minutes, until they are an attractive color (to you).
  4. While holding a close fitting lid for the pan in your left hand (or right, you know what I mean), add 2-3 tablespoons of water to the pan and QUICKLY place the lid on the pan. The pan will sizzle and roar in a most dramatic fashion. It's actually pretty cool.
  5. Turn the heat down a little, and let the dumplings cook for 1-2 minutes.

OK - there's really only one thing that can go wrong, not two. That's how simple this really is. It wll be a little intimidating the first time you put water into such a hot pan, but it's not hard to do. Well, you could wait too long to put the lid on and splatter yourself with oil. So maybe two things could go wrong. But if you're quick, that won't happen.

As I mentioned, you can steam them first for 1-2 minutes then drizzle oil into the pan and fry. However, I think you can get a better browned surface by doing it my way. 

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