Fuchsia Dunlop’s Xi’an Beef Potstickers (Guotie, 锅贴)
From the Streets of Xi’an
Ten years after Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice was published, I am still finding new things to cook from it. The recipes are just as relevant and enticing as they were when they were written, which makes it a classic in the Chinese cookbook canon. Take these open-ended beef potstickers (guotie, 锅贴), which she learned from cooks in the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an. I’ve been to Xi’an, and I’ve still never seen anything like them! I don’t know how I missed them on my visit, but I am eternally grateful that Fuchsia has brought us both well-known and lesser-known recipes from all over China over almost three decades of recipe and cookbook writing.
The subtitle to her 2013 cookbook Every Grain of Rice is Simple Chinese Home Cooking, and this recipe is indeed pretty easy. Of course, I made it even easier by forgoing the homemade dumpling wrappers and using thin, soft gyoza wrappers (albeit a Chinese American brand of them). I have adapted the filling a bit as well, adding the freshly ground huajiao and cumin so beloved in Xi’an and the rest of Muslim China and adding dark soy sauce to make the beef an appealing brown color. She also mentions that these could be stuffed with other meats or just veg, but the fatty beef and abundant Chinese chives are hard to beat.
And then there are the browned bottoms! Because these dumplings are open on the ends, they are different from your normal dumpling not only visually but also texturally. As they cook, the fat from the meat seeps out and becomes a cooking fat. So while they are less juicy when you bite into one (though by no means dry), they have that luscious richness infused into the wrappers.
Fuchsia mentions that these are served with a vinegar dip in Xi’an, as dumplings usually are in the north. Especially when they are filled with beef or lamb, the vinegar complements and cuts through the richness. I recommend The Mala Market’s latest premium vinegar import: Ninghuafu Handcrafted Shanxi Mature Vineger. Shanxi is a neighboring province to Shaanxi, where Xi’an is located, and they have similar cuisines and tastes, so Shanxi vinegar—one of China’s Four Famous Vinegars—is ideal for Shaanxi food as well. Ninghuafu is an ancient, storied brand, and this is their top-of-the-line commercial vinegar, aged nine years.
One last tip? You’re going to want to double her recipe, as I have here, to make 30 dumplings.
Ingredients for Xi’an beef potstickers
Start with 80/20 ground beef and add light soy sauce for umami and salt, dark soy sauce for an appealing color, cooking wine to dispel any off meat taste, minced ginger, toasted sesame oil and ground Sichuan pepper and cumin. You can toast the spices in the pan you’ll be cooking the dumplings in and simply grind the small amount needed in a mortar and pestle.
The other main ingredient for these potstickers is the Chinese chives. In this case I used the flowering version, discarding the flowers—though they do make nice plate decor. Chop finely and add to beef along with chopped scallions. A bit of broth stirred into the mixture ensures the meat remains moist. It’s easiest to mix this with your hands.
Cooking Xi’an potstickers
Rolling these potstickers could not be easier, since you don’t need to close up the ends with any fancy pleats. I used readymade gyoza wrappers, which are moist and soft and easy to work with. Just add about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons filling to the middle of the wrapper, fold the sides together and pinch the tops. If using readymade wrappers, you’ll need to moisten the edges with a bit of water to ensure they stick together.
As with all potstickers, cooking is a three-step process. First, add a small amount of oil to a hot skillet and place the dumplings in. Briefly cook until the bottoms are starting to color. Loosen the potstickers with a spatula to make sure they aren’t actually sticking! Second, add about 1/2 cup boiling water from the kittle to the pan, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and steam over low heat for 4-5 minutes. Third, remove lid and cook off remaining water, pan-frying until bottoms are fully brown.
One note: While these look gorgeous made in a cast iron skillet, they do want to stick a little more than you might want your potsticker to stick. If there’s ever a time to use a nonstick pan, this might be it. Though if you loosen the dumplings from the bottom of the pan in each step, they are less likely to stick.
Serve directly from the pan or on individual plates, drizzling generously with crispy chili oil. Provide a Chinese black vinegar for dipping, preferably with some julienned ginger or minced scallions. Premium handmade soy sauce would also be welcome as a dip. Serve them with a Sichuan cucumber salad, and you’ve got a meal!
To travel China in dumplings, try No Sweet Sour’s Beijing-style Three Umami Dumplings in Emerald Jade Wrappers (Sanxian Jiaozi) and Taylor’s recipe for Chengdu Zhongshuijiao (钟水饺) Concocted Soy/Red Oil Dumpling
Fuchsia Dunlop's Xi'an Beef Potstickers (Guotie, 锅贴)
- 1 teaspoon huajiao (Sichuan peppercorns)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 10 ounces 80/20 ground beef
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 4 ounces green or flowering Chinese chives, finely sliced
- 4 tablespoons finely sliced green onions
- 8 tablespoons chicken stock or water
- 30 gyoza or other round dumpling wrappers
- Toast the Sichuan peppercorns and cumin seed in a skillet until fragrant but not browned. Remove to a mortar and pestle and grind to a coarse powder.
- In a large bowl add the beef, ginger, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, Chinese chives, green onions and the ground spices. Mix briefly with your hands, then add the chicken broth or water and continue mixing until all is incorporated.
- Add 1 to 1½ teaspoons of the beef mixture to the center of each dumpling wrapper. Wet the opposing edges with water, using your fingertip, and seal the sides along the top, leaving the ends open. Place dumplings on parchment or wax paper as you roll. If your wrappers and dumplings are very soft, refrigerate them briefly to firm up the wrapper. (You can then freeze a portion of them for later if you wish.)
- Heat a cast-iron skillet until hot and add 2-3 tablespoons cooking oil (depending on the size of your skillet). Place the potstickers in the pan at medium-low heat and cook until the bottoms are taking on color. Loosen with a spatula to make sure they are not actually sticking. (Alternatively, use a nonstick skillet, which will ensure they don't stick during cooking.)
- Add ½ cup boiling water from a kettle and quickly cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Steam the dumplings for 4 minutes and then check the water level. If the water is mostly cooked off, remove the lid (it not, cover again and cook another minute).
- Cook uncovered until water is fully evaporated and bottoms are nicely browned. Serve with chili oil or crisp, Chinese black vinegar and soy sauce for dipping. Add julienned ginger or sliced scallions if desired.