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Cooking at Home with Helen Chen

Written By Julia Tuladhar 14 May 2020
Cooking at Home with Helen Chen

Helen Chen is a local culinary hero. When Kitchen Outfitters opened 13 years ago (2006), she recommended that we host cooking classes. We took her suggestion and have been hosting classes ever since. Helen is one of our most sought after instructors. The daughter of Joyce Chen, and widely acknowledged in the United States as an expert on Chinese cooking, Helen brings her Asian expertise to the art of cooking. She understands the needs of the American cook as only a native can, yet she is intimately knowledgeable about the culinary practices and philosophies of Asia.

We had scheduled two classes with Helen this Spring which we have cancelled until further notice as our doors remain closed during the pandemic. One of those classes was to be a potsticker class. Helen’s mother, Joyce Chen, coined the term Peking Ravioli which many of us are familiar with here in Massachusetts. Peking Ravioli are a traditional pork filled potsticker that Helen teaches along with her own turkey and garlic chive potsticker recipe. During this class, students learn about the fillings and have a chance to fold their own dumplings.

I encourage you to give Helen’s potstickers a try. Here is her recipe:


(Ground Turkey and Garlic Chives Filling)

These popular pan-fried dumplings are called potstickers because they stick to the pot when they are cooked. Round potsticker skins , sometimes called gyoza skins, are thicker than wonton or egg roll skins and hold up better giving better results.

Makes about 32 potsticker dumplings

1 pound ground turkey (prefer 85% lean)

2 ounces garlic chives, cleaned, tough ends removed and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1- 2 tablespoons cooking oil, canola or vegetable (use 2 tablespoons if meat is very lean)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon dry sherry

2 teaspoons dark sesame seed oil

2 teaspoons peeled and grated ginger


Mix all the above ingredients together



The following is Helen's description from a previous class:

This is one of my mother's most treasured recipes. Although everyone raved about the Peking Raviolis in our restaurant, we always favored the homemade ones that came out of our family kitchen. In the Chinese tradition, we would all help making the ravioli and then everyone would count the number they could eat. My mother coined the name Peking Ravioli, because when we started serving them in our restaurant in the 1950's, no one had seen anything like them before. Borrowing from the Italian version at least gave people the idea that these were dough pockets with a filling. Interestingly, although the name Pot Sticker is common now, just about all the Chinese restaurants in this area still call then Peking Ravioli because of my mother's influence.

The name for these meat filled dumplings is Jiao zi, that is if they are boiled. They take on different names depending upon the manner in which they are cooked. If they are pan fried, they are called Guo Tieh or Pot Sticker because they stick to the pot when cooked.

Jiao zi are popular in Northern China in areas such as Beijing and Shanghai where wheat flour is used. Making Jiao zi is a social occasion for the whole family.

I will give you my mother's recipe just as she gave to us:

1 pound napa cabbage

1½ teaspoons salt, divided

¾ pound ground pork

1½ tablespoons soy sauce, dark

1 tablespoon dry sherry

½ teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or bacon drippings

1 tablespoon sesame seed oil

Wash and drain cabbage and chop very fine, sprinkling 1 teaspoon salt over the cabbage as you chop. Place chopped cabbage in a cloth bag or in a sheet of cheesecloth, doubled over. Squeeze out enough liquid to make 1 cup. Discard liquid. Put the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and add the cabbage. Mix well - hand mixing is the best way. Cover and set aside.

Follow this link for folding techniques:

Place formed dumplings on a floured baking sheet or plate until ready to cook. Keep them covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying.

NOTE: Uncooked dumplings may be kept in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for several weeks. To freeze, place the dumplings on floured baking sheets in the freezer. When they have frozen, you can put them into a plastic bag and seal. Do not drop them into a freezer bag while they are soft or they will stick together.


Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in a stock pot. Slip the dumplings into the boiling water, making sure there is enough room to allow them to swim about freely, cover and cook over medium high heat until water boils again. Keep an eye on the pot because it can foam and boil over easily. As soon as the water returns to a boil, add a cup of cold water, cover and continue cooking over medium heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil a third time, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 2 - 3 minutes. This procedure ensures that the filling will be cooked through.

Remove dumplings with a wire strainer or slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Transfer to a plate or shallow platter and serve immediately.

It is customary to serve boiled jiao zi with a vinegar/soy (light)/hot oil dip that guests may put together themselves. Just set out cruets of each (you can also use Chinkiang vinegar) and let people mix their own. I and my family actually prefer to eat jiao zi with just cider vinegar.

TO PAN FRY: (Potsticker)

The more popular way in America to serve jiao zi dumplings is not boiled, but pan fried. The pan frying is cleverly done to achieve two objectives - to cook the dough and brown it while also being sure that the meat filling is cooked through. The pan frying used is really a combination of pan frying, boiling and steaming. You can serve the same type of dip as with boiled jiao zi.

Heat an 8 or 9-inch heavy (non-stick works best) skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon cooking oil. Starting at the outside of the pan, arrange the uncooked dumplings carefully in concentric circles, going the same direction and working your way to the center. The dumplings should touch each other lightly. In the center, put two dumplings facing each other. You should be able to cook about 16 pieces at one time.

Add ½ cup cold water to the pan, cover and cook over medium high heat 6 - 7 minutes. When the water has evaporated, lower the heat and continue cooking, still covered, for another 2 minutes, or until the dumplings are golden brown on the bottom.

Gently loosen the dumplings from the bottom of the pan with a spatula and un-mold in the following fashion:

Select a serving plate that will fit over the skillet. Place it, upside down over the uncovered skillet, then holding it in place, invert the pan and give a little shake so the loosened dumplings will fall out onto the plate in the design in which they were cooked. The gold brown bottom of the dumplings will now be on top.

Leftover dumplings: Leftover boiled or pan fried dumplings should be kept covered in the refrigerator. Pan fry over medium heat in a covered, oiled skillet (about 1 tablespoon oil) without water, since the filling is already cooked.

Copyright ©1994, 2005 by Helen Chen. Reprinted from Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking, William Morrow and Company, Publishers, with permission of the author. All rights reserved.


Helen’s Dipping sauce is the best, I highly recommend making it.


Yield: about 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons light soy sauce (such as Kikkoman regular soy sauce)

¼ cup canned chicken broth

1 tablespoon finely shredded peeled gingerroot

1 tablespoon very thinly sliced scallion, green and white parts

1½ teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame seed oil

In a small bowl combine all the ingredients. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and let sit for 5 to10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and develop.

Serve in individual little shallow dipping dishes.


Helen’s recipes are a wonderful way to become acquainted with cooking Chinese food, give these others a try:


Dan Dan Noodles are Sichuan street food at its most traditional. Dan Dan refers to the thumping sound made by the pails of noodles and sauce at the ends of bamboo panniers as they are carried through the streets in a sort of traveling fast-food restaurant. The noodles are served cold or tepid. Once assembled, the dish holds well, although the noodles absorb the sauce after an hour. If you like saucier noodles, dress them just before serving. I sometimes add blanched and shredded snow peas or blanched bean sprouts along with the scallions for added texture.


1 pound Chinese wheat or egg noodles, or thin spaghetti

2 tablespoons sesame oil

3⁄4 cup creamy peanut butter

3⁄4 cup canned chicken broth

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 teaspoons chile oil, or to taste

1 heaping teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground (see note below)

1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1. In a large pot, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until a little more tender than al dente. Avoid overcooking, or the noodles will be mushy. Stir occasionally to keep the noodles from sticking together. When done, drain and rinse with cold water until thoroughly cool. Drain well. Transfer to a large serving bowl, and gently toss with 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil (hands work best).

2. In a small bowl, blend the peanut butter and broth together until smooth and creamy. Add the soy sauce, chile oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, the Sichuan peppercorns, and the cayenne and mix thoroughly. If you have the time, let the sauce sit for 30 minutes or more to allow the spices to develop.

3. Pour the peanut mixture over the cooked noodles, then sprinkle with the scallions and toss. I use my hands to toss the noodles because they mix the ingredients more evenly and the noodles don’t break. Serve cool.

Note: Toast the peppercorns in an ungreased skillet over medium heat until they smoke lightly and are fragrant. Don’t let them burn. When they are cooled, grind in a mortar with a pestle and sift through a strainer, discarding the larger pieces that do not pass through.


Every Chinese person who travels a lot knows what train fried rice is - it's the type of fried rice usually served in dining cars in China. My mother coined this name when we were children because she thought we would find the dish more appealing. I guess she was right, because this was one of our favorite dishes.

Serves 3 to 5

4 cups cold cooked rice

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon dry sherry

4 tablespoons canola, corn, or peanut oil

2 tablespoons minced onion

1½ teaspoons salt

½ cup diced baked ham

½ cup fresh peas, parboiled, or thawed frozen peas

1. Place the rice in a mixing bowl and use your fingers to separate the grains until they are loose. Set aside. Lightly beat the eggs and sherry together with a fork or chopsticks. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a wok or stir-fry pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the onions and the eggs. Scramble until the eggs are dry and break into small pieces.

3. Add the rice, salt, ham, and peas and stir constantly until the ingredients are well blended and heated, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Copyright © 1994 Helen Chen. Reprinted from Helen Chen's Chinese Home Cooking, William Morrow and Company, Publishers, with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Helen’s Recipes are a joy to make and share, enjoy!







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