The Japanese have adopted a lot of dishes from around the world and over time, they make a gradual transition into something that is uniquely Japanese in spite of them not actually originating from Japan. This is certainly the case with Japanese curry which would confound lovers of traditional Indian curries and their complex flavours. Another thing that has undergone that Turning Japanese metamorphosis is Gyoza, or Chinese-style dumplings.
Gyoza is essentially the Japanese version of jiaozi dumplings which are filled with a pork mince mixture and steamed. Gyoza differs in that the skin used for the dumplings is much thinner and the use of garlic and chives is far more liberal. They are also prepared by pan-frying first (to get a nice crispy exterior) then steamed in the same pan with a dash of water. The result is a soft but slightly crispy dumpling which you then dip into a soy/rice vinegar sauce.
I had had a hankering for Gyoza for some time but I finally decided to do something about it last night. I actually have ready access to frozen Gyoza via my local Asian grocer but it’s not quite the same as fresh dumplings. I also had the perfect secret weapon: a nifty contraption that helps fill and seal dumplings (courtesy of J-Box though I think you can buy them from Asian grocers too). This simple kitchen tool makes light work of dumpling making. You simply lay your skin on the round rim of this tool, put dumpling mixture on one end and fold the tool over to seal the dumpling. Without this tool you’d be pressing the edges together by hand. Not a hard task but no doubt a frustrating one for Gyoza making novices!
Once I popped my dumplings onto the hot frying pan, I was instantly transported to an old ramen shop in Tokyo. The fragrance of garlic and chives with a hint of sesame oil is intoxicating! I didn’t hesitate tucking into a few of the dumplings with some ready made Gyoza sauce.
Most noodle shops in Japan offer Gyoza as an entree dish or an accompaniment. I like to eat them with a nice bowl of steamed rice. Glass of Asahi Super Dry optional :D
1 pack of Gyoza skin (wonton skins are thicker – do not use)
200g pork mince
1-2 cloves of garlic (I think one is enough but garlic freaks – go for it)
6 stalks of chives
small piece of ginger finely diced
1 piece spring onion
1/4 cabbage (I used Chinese cabbage and a bit of fennel)
2 fresh shiitake mushroom (just something I like to add)
a dash of soy sauce
a dash of sesame oil
pinch of salt
To make: Finely dice garlic, ginger, spring onion and chives. Add finely shredded cabbage, fennel and chopped shiitake. The fennel and shiitake are just personal additions so can be omitted. Gently mix in pork mince and then season with soy, salt and sesame oil. This process is easy to do by hand but those blessed with a Thermomix can go through this process as per making meatballs. Prepare dumplings by laying out Gyoza skins. Place a heaped teaspoon of pork mince mixture on one-side of skin, wet the outer rim of skin and fold over other half to seal. You will need to use your fingers to pinch the sides together (preferably aesthetically if you have the skill!) if you don’t have my super contraption. Heat frypan (that has a lid) to medium heat and pour in a generous amount of vegetable oil (enough to keep the dumplings from sticking but not as much for shallow frying). Once one side of dumplings is golden brown, flip over. When the other side is done, pour enough water to fill one-third of pan height and place lid over pan. The dumplings will finish cooking with all that steaming. Once all or most of the water has evaporated, remove dumplings. Gyoza is usually served with a sauce made of soy sauce (2 parts), rice vinegar (1 part or to taste) and a drop of sesame oil).