Love dumplings? How about crispy, juicy fried dumplings? Could there actually be any better antidote for a major dose of Shanghai winter blues?
Guōtiē ( 鍋貼 literally pot-stick) are pork dumplings with a crispy fried base, made in much the same way as regular jiaozi cooked in water, but with a thicker and tougher skin to withstand frying. The filling is an unctuous mixture of pork seasoned with ginger, shaoxing wine, a little garlic, sesame oil and salt, wrapped in a circular skin and the edges crimped together to form the typical flat-bottomed double-horned shape.
Cooking happens in three continous stages, first a gentle frying, then some steaming, then a final fry to crisp up the bottoms of the guotie. The guotie are placed in a broad shallow circular iron skillet over a gas flame, row upon row, around a hundred in every skillet. Depending on demand, the skillet may be filled half and half with guotie and shengjianbao, because the cooking method for both dumplings is identical.
While the crowds line up to purchase the freshly-cooked guotie, the cook ladles in oil and turns up the heat to begin the cooking. He lets the bottoms fry a little first, then using a pair of pliers to get a good grip on the scalding hot rim of the skillet, he grasps it and gives it an almighty spin with all his strength, preventing the pot stickers from sticking to the pot.
The next step requires steam, so a few ladles of water go into the the skillet and a heavy wooden lid goes in, but the arduous spinning continues.
Lastly the final frying – the lid comes off with great billows of steam, and a couple more ladles of oil are added to really get the bottoms of the guotie satisfylingly browned and crisp.
Guotie are usually eaten standing on the street, using tiny chopsticks to grapple the oily, slippery dumplings from a rectangular styrofoam tray into your mouth. The first bite sends hot oil pouring down your chin – guotie are seriously oily!
The smooth and chewy top is a wonderful contrast in texture to the crunchy bottom, with the salty savoury pork filling in between. Guotie are rich, but you can dip them in a little dark vinegar to cut through the oil if you desire. But after a tray of these oily, salty dumplings your winter chills will be banished for the day.
The Shanghai Street Food Series
Number 24 Guotie – potsticker dumplings
Number 25 Nuomi Cai Tou – fried clover pancakes