All About Potstickers (Chinese Dumplings)

Preparation, Serving Suggestions, and Fun Historical Facts

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The Spruce Eats / Ulyana Verbytska

Potstickers are those irresistible Chinese dumplings that are steamed on one side, pan-fried on the other. Whether you call them wortip (roughly translated as “pot stick”), guotie (the Mandarin word), Peking Ravioli (a term coined by restaurateur Joyce Chen), or just plain pan-fried pork dumplings, it’s impossible to eat only one.

What Makes Potstickers Special?

It all comes down to how they are cooked. While it is common to steam or pan-fry dumplings, cooks use both methods to make potstickers. The filled dumplings are pan-fried on one side and then steamed in broth or water. Properly made, the potstickers are crisp and browned on the bottom, sticking lightly to the pan, but easy to remove with a spatula. The trick to making potstickers is not to overcook them or they will live up to their name by sticking firmly to the pot!

Potsticker Origins

The Chinese have been enjoying potstickers since the Song dynasty (960 to 1280 A.D.). The exact origins of potstickers are lost to history. However, according to a charming legend, they were invented by a chef in China's Imperial Court, who accidentally burnt a batch of dumplings after leaving them on the stove for too long. The overcooked dumplings were burnt on the bottom only, and not on top. With no time to prepare a new batch, the chef served the dumplings with the burnt side on top, announcing that they were his own special creation. Fortunately, court members loved them!

Potsticker Dough

Like boiled jiaozi, potstickers are made with a hot water dough. Hot water dough is one of the secrets to Chinese cooking—using boiling water gives the dough greater elasticity, so that it holds its shape better. Most recipes for boiled and steamed dumplings (such as jiaozi and siu mai) use a hot water dough.

Dough Substitutes

Don’t have time to prepare your own homemade potsticker dough? Gyoza wrappers, or wonton wrappers cut in circles, make a convenient substitute. You can also buy “dumpling pastry” or “dumpling skins” in the freezer section of Asian markets.

How to Serve Potstickers

In honor of that long-ago chef in the Imperial Court, flip the potstickers over before serving, so that the browned, pan-fried side is on top.

Potsticker Accompaniments

The right condiments can make potstickers taste even better. Here are several suggestions:

You can also combine ingredients to make a wicked Dumpling Dipping Sauce. Serve the dipping sauce at the table in individual bowls if desired.

Make-Ahead Dumplings

Preparing a large batch of potstickers for a crowd? It’s easier if you break the task up into two stages, preparing the dumplings up to the cooking stage and freezing them to cook later.

Potstickers or Peking Ravioli?

Ever wonder how potstickers came to be called “Peking Ravioli?” Popular television cooking show host and restaurateur Joyce Chen coined the term in the 1950s. Chen’s Cambridge, Massachusetts restaurant was located in a largely Italian neighborhood, and she wanted a name that would help customers understand what the dumplings were like. Today, many Chinese restaurants in the Boston area still call potstickers “Peking Ravioli.”