Have you ever wondered how pot stickers got their name? Most of us know them as a dumpling that’s panfried in a skillet, not a pot. For years I thought about why the heck the dumplings are called pot stickers. My Chinese language is passable in a charming pinch but doesn’t come to me in a flash. It took me a while before I realized that the dumpling’s Chinese name, guotie literally means “wok stick.”
It totally jives with the dumpling’s legend, which dates pot stickers back to the Song Dynasty (960 – 1280 A.D.). They were initially regular boiled dumplings cooked in a wok (guo) – the go-to Chinese cooking pot. A chef who was boiling dumplings forgot about them and after the water had boiled away, the dumplings stuck (tie). Not knowing what to do, he pried the dumplings from the wok and served them.
His guests loved the contrasts between rich filling, tender skin, and crusty bottom. Thus the pot sticker was born. Over the years, the Mandarin name for pot sticker, guotie, stuck and was translated into English as pot sticker since woks are the basic pot in a Chinese kitchen.
So how do you cook pot stickers in a wok? I’ve tried several times over the years and the results were so so. Recently, I had a little dumpling epiphany.