How to Make Pan-Fried Dumplings

Chef Anita Lo shares her method for making pan-fried dumplings any night of the week.

We've all been there: It's a Tuesday night — you're home from work late, fresh out of inspiration, and tired of takeout. Before you reach for that frosty bag of store-bought frozen dumplings, think about how much better they'd taste if you'd made them yourself.

That's where Anita Lo comes in. As a restaurant industry vet and cookbook author, Lo values the convenience of a shortcut but believes in making every bite of food count. "Food is defining for me; if I'm not eating well, I'm not taking care of myself," says the 2001 F&W Best New Chef, whose restaurant Annisa earned a Michelin star. And though she's adept at making dumpling dough from scratch, she's not above using store-bought wrappers to speed up the process.

handmade dumplings
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Lo prefers white over yellow ("the yellow is just food dye," she says) and as fresh as you can find. "Look at them through the package; if they're dry and cracked at the edges, they'll be less pliable."

Next up: the filling. Lo's recipe is a quick stir-together mix of pork, shrimp, napa cabbage, ginger, garlic, and Chinese pantry staples such as soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and oyster sauce. When it comes to watery ingredients like the cabbage, Lo has a tip: "After chopping it, place the cabbage in a kitchen towel and wring out the extra moisture. That will prevent air pockets in the dumplings." Lo's next trick is the most crucial: Cook a spoonful of the filling and taste it before assembling the dumplings. "Once they're all wrapped up, there's nothing you can do about it," says Lo. "There's nothing more frustrating than eating food that's not seasoned properly."

Pleating dumplings can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but Lo has solutions for every skill level: a basic scrunch, an intermediate "half Buddha belly" pleat, and an advanced "full Buddha belly" pleat. Then, the dumplings get a quick pan-fry and a finishing steam before being served, crispy side up, with a spicy-savory sauce. (Psst: Shortcut alert! You can also use Lo's method to cook store-bought frozen dumplings, if you like.) To ensure pan-frying success, Lo has one last piece of advice: Use a nonstick skillet. "They don't call them pot stickers for nothing."

1. Make the filling

preparing filing for handmade dumplings
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Place drained cabbage, ground pork, chopped shrimp, and remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl; stir until combined. Cook a spoonful of the filling and adjust seasoning to taste.

2. Add filling to wrapper

handmade dumplings with filling
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Place 1 tablespoon filling in center of wrapper; gently press filling into an oval shape. Lightly moisten perimeter of wrapper with water.

3. Fold to encase filling

filling handmade dumplings
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Holding a filled dumpling in one hand, bring wrapper sides up around the filling to create a taco shape. Pinch corners together on one side.

4. Crimp dumplings

folding handmade dumplings
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Starting at the pinched corner, use your thumb and index finger to create small, even pleats in the front side of the wrapper.

5. Press and seal

folding handmade dumplings
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Continue pleating front side of wrapper, pressing each pleat into back side of wrapper to create a crescent-shaped dumpling.

6. Cook the dumplings

cooking handmade dumplings
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Add dumplings to an oiled skillet, pleated side up. Pour 1/2 cup water into pan; cover and cook until bottoms are crisp, 12 to 14 minutes.

Pork, Shrimp, and Chive Dumplings
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Extra-credit

Half Buddha Belly

Pinch corners to seal. Using the index finger and thumb of your free hand, pinch and fold one bottom corner of dumpling in toward center to create a pleat, pressing to seal. Repeat with opposite corner.

Full Buddha Belly

Pinch corner together on one side. Starting at one end, use the index finger and thumb of your free hand to create small, even pleats, pressing each pleat into flat edge of wrapper to create a crescent-shaped dumpling.

Updated by
Anita Lo
Chef Anita Lo

Chef Anita Lo combines classic French training with a global perspective. While earning a French degree from Columbia University, Lo studied abroad in Paris, and later attended culinary school there at École Ritz-Escoffier. Back in New York she worked in some of the most lauded restaurants of the late '80s and early '90s—Bouley, Chanterelle and Maxim's—before leaving to travel through Europe and Southeast Asia to research her own restaurant, Annisa, which opened in 2000. Here, Lo, a Food & Wine Best New Chef 2001 and the author of Cooking Without Borders, discusses sea robins, stuffed pandas and weird sushi.

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