Hound hones in on Chinese potstickers

May 6, 2009 (CHICAGO) Every country has its culinary charms. But as we explore Asia and the Pacific Rim this month, we're going to hone in on one or two dishes that really represent that particular country's cuisine. From China, we've found two versions of the classic treat we all call the potsticker.

The potsticker is perhaps one of the most iconic dishes in the Chinese kitchen, and yet, there are several variations. At the enormous Phoenix restaurant in Chinatown, known for their dim sum, the humble potsticker is a popular item.

"We have all kind of potsticker. We have Northern type, Western type, Southern type. The one we are serve here we call the Cantonese type," said Phoenix GM Eddy Cheung.

They begin with a mound of ground-up chicken and scallions, plus a healthy dose of fresh ginger, pushing the mixture into rice flour wrappers.

"They can use beef with ginger, mince pork with ginger or lamb with ginger. But they got to put ginger in it, they have to," Cheung said.

Skilled hands quickly form them into the recognizable half-moon shape; they're steamed for about 10 minutes, to cook through the filling, then for the final few minutes, are pan-fried to crisp-up the outside, giving the snack some added texture. Rice vinegar is the preferred sauce for dipping.

"We always serve them with red rice vinegar, and then in Northern Chinese they serve with white vinegar or black vinegar," said Cheung.

Just a few miles away, in Bridgeport, Ed's Potsticker House makes a lot of the namesake treats, except these versions are vastly different.

"They come from Beijing. There unique food in Beijing, not anywhere else," said owner Ed Liu.

First, they make the homemade dough, which is kneaded and rolled out by machine; then they lay out the dough on a giant table, measuring and cutting it into equal lengths. Finally, a pork-based filling is piped onto each piece of dough.

"Each shape is very unique, but filling, a hundred years ago is only by lamb, or goat meat," Liu said.

Every potsticker is then wrapped up, like a long, narrow package. They're pan-fried on a flat-top grill for about 10 minutes, until the outside is burnished brown and the inside is cooked through. A little bit of vinegar or chile oil help amp up the flavors a bit. They may not be moon-shaped, but they are certainly unique.

"We make a very unique potsticker. I think is not in Chicago so far," said Liu.

Some potstickers have pork, others chicken. If you do order them in a restaurant, best to ask ahead of time which version the restaurant makes.

2131 S. Archer Ave.

Ed's Potsticker House
3139 S. Halsted St.

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