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Gyoza (Japanese dumplings)

Larissa Burgos from France

Serves
10
Preparation
65 minutes (less if you have help!)
Cooks in
10 minutes
Country of origin
Japan

I learned how to make gyoza, or Japanese pan-fried dumplings, in 2007. I was living in Hyogo, Japan, for my first-ever trip abroad. Japan is where I got my first taste of life abroad, and where I connected with another culture through cooking. Japan is where I learned how to make the best gyoza, from the best host parents I could have wanted. My host parents were English-speaking, California-loving people who coolly shirked traditional Japanese expectations and gender roles: a father who cooked, cleaned, and brushed the girls’ hair before ballet class, and a mother who worked late, spoke her mind, and took no shit.
My host mother taught me how to make the filling, and my host father, who learned to cook in a Japanese restaurant in the United States, taught me how to correctly fry them. Half-fried, half-steamed, these dumplings are juicy, succulent, and so flavorful. Learning to make them became my main preoccupation; my little host sisters even remixed the Pokémon theme song in my honor; instead of “Pokémon master,” we sang about becoming the “Gyoza master.” One evening, we all sat down together, surrounded by piles of vegetables, meat, and round dumpling wrappers, and set down to work together.
Sweat beads on my forehead, I learned how to painstakingly fold little pleats to make my gyoza picture-perfect. At first they looked like ugly misshapen turds, but after a bit of practice, my gyoza started to look more like succulent bundles. My host sisters were my cheerleaders, and my host parents were my teachers. It was thanks to the combined family effort that I learned to making perfect gyoza. That is the secret to this recipe: don’t make it alone!
Flipped crispy-side up onto a plate, served with a tangy dipping sauce of soy sauce and rice vinegar, these gyoza send me to heaven every time. These dumplings taste like pure heavenly satisfaction, best served with a glass of cold beer. Kampai!

Ingredients

  • 8 large leaves of chinese napa cabbage, finely diced (⅛-inch)
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • About 4-5 stalks of spring onion (or a large handful of chives), finely chopped
  • 500g of lean ground beef or pork
  • 2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon saké or mirin (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or potato starch)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 packets (about 60) round dumpling wrappers

Method

  • After finely chopping the cabbage leaves, place them in a colander with a couple large pinches of salt. Let the cabbage drain its water for about 15 minutes. Rinse lightly and thoroughly squeeze out all excess water.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the ground meat and break it up a bit with a fork or your fingertips. Add all seasonings and mix thoroughly by hand. (If the filling smells good, it will taste good!)
  • Mix in all the vegetables, and refrigerate the filling for about 20 minutes. If you want to check the seasoning, cook a small bit of the filling in a pan, then adjust according to taste.
  • Make the gyoza! Dampen the edge of a round dumpling wrapper with a finger dipped in water, add a teaspoon of filling to the middle, then fold one edge accordion-style with your thumbs, while folding the dumpling in half to seal. Press firmly to seal, otherwise they will come apart when cooked!
  • * You must cook the freshly-made gyoza within 12 hours after making them, as the raw filling will easily spoil if left in the refrigerator. Freeze the rest on a plastic-lined plate right away.
  • Heat a lightly oiled nonstick pan on high heat. Place the gyoza in rows and fry for about 2 minutes.
  • Add about 4 tablespoons of water, then cover the pan to allow the gyoza to steam and finish cooking. You may lift the cover every 2-3 minutes to allow excess moisture to evaporate.
  • When all the water is evaporated and the top of the gyoza are nicely steamed, leave them to finish frying for another minute or two. Peek underneath the gyoza; they should be golden brown.
  • Using a spatula, flip them onto a serving plate, crispy side up. Serve with a dipping sauce made from 1 part soy sauce to 1 part rice vinegar.

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