Gaga for Gyoza — Japanese Pork Dumplings

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A Japanese friend of mine once told me that in her house “Gyoza Night” was family night. The evening had one very strict rule. Every single member of the family who wanted to eat these amazingly flavourful dumplings, from the grandparents down to the small kids, had to take part in the “gyozo chain”.

One would scoop the mixture into the wrapper, one would dampen the edges, and the last would pleat it so that it looked pretty.

I almost want to have more kids just so I can recreate her family’s tradition. With music though, of course. There is nothing like a little Lionel Richie to get me in the family night mood. Which for the record explains why my husband has forbidden me from teaching my son about good music (my favourite bands are still Wham! and Wilson Phillips).

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Gyozo, also known in English as pan-fried dumplings or pot stickers, are one of my guilty pleasures.

Gyoza originated in China (known as Jiaozi) but have since become a popular dish in Japan and Korea. Packed with ground meat, ginger and chives, and wrapped tightly in a thin dough, these flavourful dumplings are a must try if ever travelling in East Asia.

For those who have never made dumplings, I’ve tried my best to provide step-by-step directions in sealing and pleating them. These babies take time, so be sure to make them on a day when you either have peace and quiet in the kitchen, or children old enough to be part of the gyoza chain.

Right. Let’s get started. The easy part is the filling, so let’s cover that first.

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Shredded cabbage is a must in this dish. Toss it in the food processor, then put it in a bowl with a good amount of salt. Leave it for at least 10 minutes, then using paper towels or a cheese cloth, wring it or press it as firmly as possible to draw as much water out. The last you want is watery dumplings, so take this part seriously folks.

Once the cabbage is dry, add to the bowl ground pork, soy sauce, garlic, a few small spoonfuls of red miso paste, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, minced green onions, corn starch and some red pepper flakes (optional). And don’t forget the ginger.

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A good thumb-sized piece of ginger will go a long way. But if you are feeling a bit adventuress, add another small spoonful. The more the merrier, I say.

Once all your ingredients are in the bowl, give everything a good mix. Now for the fun part. You need to tenderise the meat. Time to get your hands messy. Scoop the mixture into a ball, lift it up, then fiercely toss it back into the bowl. Do this a few times, all the while thinking of that kid who unfairly made fun of you in front of the whole class when you were six years old. I still tell off these people in my head. I know, I know. One of these days I’ll get over it. But for now, they go into my gyoza aggression.

Now that your mixture is done, it’s time to move onto making the actual dumplings. This looks much more challenging than it is. I’ll be honest with you, the first couple times you do this you’ll probably mess it up – perhaps you’ll add too much egg white to seal it and it’ll get all mushy – perhaps you’ll pinch it incorrectly and end up with an oddly shaped dumpling.

Point is that after the first few attempts your hands will get used to it and you’ll start flying. And who cares if one is misshaped by the way – as long as it seals and fits into your mouth, you are good to go.

Take the gyoza wrappers out of their package, and be sure they are thawed if frozen (Basel folks, you can find these in the frozen section of the Asian store near the SBB). This is also the time you need to put your egg white into a small bowl. Keep it nearby, together with the gyoza mixture.

Separate about a fourth of the wrappers, place on a dry surface, and leave the rest safely under a damp cloth to make sure they don’t dry out. This is especially important to do if it’s your first time working with dumplings, as it could take ages to get the hang of it!

IMG_3807Place one wrapper on the palm of your left hand (assuming you are right-handed), and put a barely full tablespoon of the mixture into the centre of the wrapper. Feel free to start out with a heaping teaspoon if it makes you more comfortable. You can always add more as you go along.

Using the tip of your index finger, dab the egg white around the edges of the wrapper. Put just enough to slightly wet it — anymore and the dumpling will fall apart.

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Fold the wrapper over in half to enclose and pinch the wrapper in the centre to seal the middle edge. Don’t worry about sealing the entire thing – just focus on that middle bit.

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Once the middle is sealed, pleat the wrapper beginning from the middle out. Repeat until all dumpling mixture is used. You can keep the wrapper balanced in your left hand as shown above, or simply place it on the dry surface (preferably on wax paper) and work from there.

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When one side is done move onto the other side. I usually do three on the first side and then another quick two on the other side. Once the entire wrapper is pleated, firmly press the edges to make sure everything is nicely sealed.

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Repeat, and repeat, and repeat until all 40-50 wrappers are used up. This is where the whole family gyoza chain is pretty useful!

 

IMG_3844Once finished, put the gyoza into the freezer for at least 30 minutes, longer if you have time. I usually make sure that the cutting board I am putting my gyoza on can fit in the freezer prior to making these. The last thing you want to do after you’ve pleated 40 dumplings is to have to transfer them all to another plate because the darn board doesn’t fit.

These freeze incredibly well by the way. Freeze separately, throw them into a freezer safe bag, and enjoy for months.

Once you are ready to eat, add a bit of oil, around 1-2 teaspoons, to a large pan (nonstick if you want to keep things simple) on medium-high heat. Be sure the pan you use has a fitted lid. You’ll need it.

Add the gyoza to the pan, pleated side up. Be sure the gyoza are not touching. You’ll have to make a few batches, so don’t be super concerned about cramming then all in.

Leave the gyoza to cook for about 3 minutes, until the bottoms are nicely browned. Using a shot glass or a small espresso cup, quickly add a shot of water into pan (about 1/8 cup) and cover immediately with the lid. Probably best to use the lid as a shield for yourself when you toss the water in — similar to the relationship I had with that kid who bullied me in school, oil and water are not friends.

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Turn the heat down to low, give the pan a good shake, and let cook for another 2-3 minutes, shaking occasionally. When the wrappers are slightly translucent, they are done!

Transfer to a plate, garnish with a few sliced green onions, and be sure to eat with a dipping sauce. You can use plain soy sauce, or a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

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Though it’ll take a few batches to get them all done, serve them immediately. These are a great starter at a casual dinner party. Just be sure to save yourself a few every time you fill the plate up. No reason why you shouldn’t enjoy your share while at the stove top!

This is probably one of the longer posts I’ve written — making gyoza is a daunting task, but it can be done. I hope the step-by-step directions have been helpful. Patience and practice, folks. Stick with it. Your taste buds will thank you.

Full Recipe

Ingredients for the Gyoza

  • 3.5 cups minced Napa cabbage, loosely packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 9 ounces ground pork
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (1 large thumb size)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp green onion (green part only), finely chopped
  • 2 tsp red miso paste
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 40-50 dumpling wrappers
  • 1 egg white
  • vegetable oil and water for frying
Ingredients for the Sauce
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • several drops of sesame oil
  • splash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions

  1. Place minced cabbage in a large bowl with salt and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Using paper towels (or a cheese cloth), squeeze the cabbage firmly to drain it of water.
  2. Add the pork, corn starch, garlic, ginger, green onion, miso paste, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper (optional). Using your hands, mix everything together, then scoop the mixture into a ball and tenderise the mixture by lifting it and throwing it back into the bowl. Repeat several times.
  3. Put egg white into a small bowl. Remove dumplings from package (if frozen thaw out in fridge first). Take out only about 10 dumpling wrappers at a time, keeping the rest covered with a slightly damp towel (to keep from drying out).
  4. Place dumpling in the palm of your hand and place a barely full tablespoon of the mixture onto the centre of the wrapper (use a heaping teaspoon if this is your first time making dumplings). Use your thumb to shape it into a oval.
  5. Moisten your finger tip with the egg white and trace along the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper over in half to enclose and pinch the wrapper in the centre. Keeping the wrapper in your left hand or placing on a dry surface, pleat the wrapper beginning from the middle out. Pinch around edges for one final seal, then place on cutting board covered with wax paper. Repeat until all dumpling mixture is used.
  6. Put dumplings in freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Heat 2 tsp of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet with a tight fitting lid. Place dumplings into the skillet (be sure they are not touching) with the pleated-wrapper face up. Cook for 2-3 minutes until nicely browned.
  8. Once browned, add a shot glass of water (about 1/8 cup) and immediately cover with the lid (use the lid as a shield when dumping the water in – oil and water do not get along well!)
  9. Give the pan a good shake, then lower the heat to simmer for another 3 minutes, shaking every now and again to make sure they are not sticking to the pan.
  10. To make dipping sauce mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil together in a small bowl. Serve hot with sliced green onion as a garnish.

 

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