I wouldn’t dare calling gyōza just dumplings. Gyōza is a philosophy. Once tried, you’re addicted.
I still remember the first time I’ve tried gyōza. It was in a small, family-run restaurant in Izumi, Osaka, near our student dormitory. No one would’ve known about this little restaurant if it wasn’t for a legend, passed from the students leaving Osaka to the newcomers. Ben, my friend I’ve met while in Japan, was the one who was told about the restaurant and the amazing ramen and gyōza served there.
When we first decided to go there, maybe 5-6 of us, all international students, all of us hardly speaking Japanese, we did feel a little bit embarrassed. We didn’t know how to act in a restaurant run by one 60-something guy, with only locals inside. We went in and were greeted by the owner, with a big smile, an amazing host he was! He took our names, wrote them down in a small notepad he’s been using for years to write down students’ names, all of us were staying in Japan for at least one semester, so he wanted to be able to address us by our names, if we come there to eat again.
We were seated at a small, low table, after taking off our shoes and making ourselves comfortable on small, flat pillows, on the floor, he took our order. There was no menu, some of the things available were written on the pieces of paper hung on the walls, all in Japanese, of course. We’ve ordered gyōza and a bowl of rāmen each. I will never forget that flavour, the atmosphere in that restaurant, that owner. Sometimes I wonder if he’s still there, cooking his portions of gyōza and bowls of rāmen for another group of students, arriving in the small town of Izumi to become students of the Japanese university for at least one semester.
This post is my attempt of recreating that flavour, the very first gyōza I’ve tried in my life and – how it turned out later – the best. Let me guide you through the recipe for those small Japanese masterpieces. But let me warn you, you need to be armed in huge amounts of patience, gyōza making is fun but also very fine work, requiring some skill or at least a willingness to learn.
My Mum mentioned recently, she’d like to try making those little dumplings. There you go, Mum, be brave! I’m waiting for the pictures of your version of gyōza!
JAPANESE GYŌZA (餃子)
for the gyōza wrappers
250g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
130-150ml hot, just boiled water
potato starch (for dusting)
8-9cm cookie cutter or glass of that diameter (I used a big wine glass)
for gyōza filling
300g ground pork
3-4 Napa cabbage leaves
2 green onions or scallions
2 shiitake mushrooms (optional)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1-2 tsp grated ginger
for the seasoning
1/2 tbsp sake
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
for the dipping sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp Japanese chilli oil* (optional)
other ingredients (needed for frying gyōza)
2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp sesame oil
*be very, very careful with the amount of chilli oil. It’s extremely spicy! One drop too much and you won’t be able to enjoy the sauce.
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Let’s start with preparing the gyōza wrappers, since it’s the most demanding part of making gyōza overall. Firstly, make sure to measure the flour properly. I highly recommend using a kitchen scale to do so. Sieve the flour into a large bowl.
2. In a separate dish, mix the salt with just boiled water, until the salt dissolves completely.
3. Start slowly pouring the salty water over the flour, bringing the flour into the water with a rubber spatula. Keep mixing the flour with water until just combined. Then, transfer the mix onto a lightly dusted pastry board and knead the dough with your hands. You should knead the dough for about 7-10 minutes, in order to get required elasticity and consistency.
4. Form a ball out of the dough and cut it in half. Shape each half into a long log, about 2,5cm in diameter. Wrap each long log in cling film and let it sit for about 25-30 minutes. Don’t put it in the fridge.
5. After that time, unwrap the dough. Sprinkle the pastry board with potato starch and cut the logs into pieces, you should get about 12-13 pieces out of each log. Move the dough pieces into the surface dusted with potato starch (to prevent from sticking) and cover them with a dump cloth or kitchen towel (to prevent from drying out).
6. Roll each piece with your hands into a shape of a ball.
7. Press the ball onto the pastry board and roll it out with your rolling pin. If it starts sticking to the surface, add more potato starch. In order to roll them into a nice, round shape, do not roll out the top and bottom of edge. Keep rotating the dough while rolling instead. Try to roll it out quite thinly.
8. Using a cookie cutter or a glass, cut out a round shape out of the rolled out dough, saving the leftover dough. In order to do so, press lightly dusted cutter down and you’ve got a nicely round shaped gyōza wrapper. Transfer the wrapper onto a lightly dusted with potato starch surface, sprinkling each of them with a bit more potato starch and covering them with a damp towel or cloth. Remember to cover your scraps with a dump towel, too. You can later join them together and roll, repeating the process of making gyōza wrappers.
9. You can keep your wrappers for about 3-4 days in the fridge or freeze them for up to one month.
10. Once that’s done, start preparing your gyōza filling. Microwave the cabbage leaves for about 1 minute and chop them up into tiny tiny pieces, they should almost look like they’ve been minced. Chop the green onions and shiitake mushrooms as well, making the pieces as small as you can.
11. Combine the meat and seasonings in a big bowl. It’s best to do it with your hands, that way you’ll make sure everything has been mixed well.
12. Add the rest of the filling and mix the meat again, using your hands.
13. Now, time for wrapping. Take a wrapper and place it on your left palm. Add a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the wrapper.
14. With your finger dipped in water, make the edges of the circle wet, it’ll make it easier to fold.
15. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling, and pinch it in the middle with your fingers. But don’t stick it together yet.
16. Using your thumb and index finger start folding the dumpling. You should get a nice pleat, tucking the dough from the right side to the left. As you fold each pleat, press it lightly so it stays in place.
17. That’s how your finished gyōza should look like.
18. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. When hot, place the gyōza in circular shape, flat side down.
19. When the bottom of your gyōza turns brown, add the water to the pan and cover with a lid immediately. Now steam your gyōza for about 2 minutes.
20. Take the lid off and wait until the remaining water evaporated from the pan. Add sesame oil and cook uncovered until the gyōza is cooked through and crisp on the bottom. Transfer to a plate and serve with the dipping sauce.
21. To make the dipping sauce, simply combine all the ingredients. Now indulge in the amazingness and fabulousness of gyōza, celebrating each piece. Your tastebuds will be grateful, believe me!