March 25, 2012
Sunday mornings… as a school kid, weekends were the best, I could sleep long and drag myself from bed for a late breakfast. I have clear memories from some of those days… coming to the kitchen and noticing the smell of nira (garlic chives) in the air, was almost like immediate happiness. I knew we were making gyoza for dinner and confirmed my theories by opening the fridge just to find a small ball of dough wrapped in a damp towel there.
Making gyoza was always a family activity for me. My dad would make the dough and roll it very thin, cutting the gyoza skins/wrappers with the lid of our tea box (it was a metallic one and way better than any round cookie cutter ^_^), my mother prepared the vegetable-meat filling and taught me and my sister to assemble the dumplings. So fun… And we always made lots! Enough for a happy feast at night.
For those unfamiliar to it, gyoza is a dumpling, with its origins in the Chinese cuisine. It consists typically of ground meat mixed with cabbage (although my mother told me I can use napa cabbage too), green onions, garlic and garlic chives (nira) wrapped into a thinly rolled round piece of dough. Usually eaten pan-fried/steamed with a dipping sauce.
The gyoza wrappers (the dough) are certainly laborious to make, I made them a couple of times from scratch here in Finland. Nowadays I can buy ready ones (frozen) from Asian food stores (for Finnish readers,Tokyokan and Aseanic Trading have them), it saves a lot of time when wanting to make the gyoza.
The recipe I share here is an adaptation of how I´ve learned to make gyoza from my mother. Her measures are not that exact (isn´t it amazing how moms have those “special” dishes that don’t have actual recipes just directions?), after trials and adjustments, according to what I have available, this is the one I use the most.
Gyoza – Japanese potstickers
It made 48 generously filled dumplings for us. As forming them requires a bit of practice (sealing and crimping), I´d recommend to use a smaller amount of filling in each, using 3 packs of 24-piece gyoza wrappers instead.
- 2 packages of gyoza wrappers (thaw them overnight in the fridge, sealed in the original package)
- 500 g ground pork (Finnish readers, 400 g package will do fine).
- 400 g napa cabbage, finely chopped (kiinankaali)
- 3-4 chopped scallions (or half scallions and half garlic chives/nira if you find it, I usually don’t)
- 1 grated garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp grated ginger (I sometimes omit)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (please read the notes below)
- pinch of sugar
- vegetable oil for frying
- water (1/2 cup per batch when frying)
- sesame oil (for each batch of frying gyoza)
For the dipping sauce
- soy sauce
- rice vinegar
- sesame oil
- chili oil (Rayu)
Put the chopped napa cabbage in a big recipient and sprinkle salt over it rubbing the cabbage with your hands. This will make the cabbage “sweat”. Let sit for 15 minutes, drain and squeeze the cabbage firmly to remove the excess of moisture.
In another big bowl, place all the ingredients (except the oil and water for frying the gyoza). Knead well with your hands until the meat mixture becomes “sticky”.
Assembling the gyoza
Prepare to form the dumplings. Have a little bowl with water, a clean chopping board (or a flat plate), a baking tray with parchment paper, the wrappers (keep them inside the package) and the filling. I usually “pre-divide” the filling into small equal balls to make sure I have enough to fill all the wrappers. Or use a teaspoon for measuring.
Ready to go!
Place one wrapper on the palm of your hand, dip your finger in water and moist the edges of the wrapper.
Put about one teaspoonful of the filling in the middle (you can add more after some practicing) fold the wrapper in half, pressing firmly only the top middle of it.
From the middle to right, start sealing the wrapper by placing a pleat every 1cm. When you are done with this side, pleat the left one. The final result is a dumpling that is flat on one side and all pleated on the other. Make sure the gyoza is well crimped to avoid the filling to escape during the cooking process.
Put the ready dumplings on the prepared tray and repeat with the rest of your wrappers.
Obs: I used to pleat the gyoza all the way from left to right but found out (on Maki´s Just Hungry blog) it is much easier the way I demonstrated above . Alternatively, you can form your gyozas like showed here, on Lovely Lanvin blog.
Cooking the gyoza
The most common way is to cook them is combining shallow pan frying and steaming.
In a large non-stick frying pan (which has a lid) , heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Place the gyoza into the pan, together in rows (it will be easier to remove them when flipping onto the serving plate).
Have your 1/2 cup water ready near your working station and the lid of your frying pan.
When the bottoms of the gyoza get browned, turn the heat to low and cover the pan with the lid. Hold the water in one hand and with the other, grab the lid uncovering the pan slightly, pouring the water in at the same time. Quickly cover the pan again and steam the dumplings until most of the water evaporates.
When the water is almost gone, remove the lid, turn the heat up to high and let any remaining water evaporate. Drizzle with a bit of sesame oil and cook uncovered until the gyoza gets crisp on the bottom.
Using a spatula, remove from the pan onto a serving place, crispy side up.
Serve immediately with the dipping sauce on the side.
The dipping sauce is a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and a few drops of chili oil (Rayu) or sesame oil.
Pork based gyoza fillings are the most usual ones but there are other variations. You can use half pork and half beef mince, ground chicken or finely chopped shrimp. It is possible to make vegetarian gyozas using mushrooms or other vegetables.
As I said previously, the recipe above is the one I use the most. Sometimes I feel like adding freshly ground pepper and miso-paste to the filling. Actually, my mom´s recipe includes both… but it is difficult to say the right amounts to be used.
Talking about amounts… the filling of the gyoza must be tasty but not over salty. Remember you are going to dip the ready ones in a soy based sauce, so go carefully and know your ingredients. The quantity of salt in soy sauces and miso pastes can differ considerably. If in doubt, always put less than what the recipe requires, fry or microwave a tiny bit of the filling and try it before assembling the dumplings. You can then adjust and fix the seasonings.
April 15, 2011
Update on 27.04.2011: The box has been sold for $107,50! I am so happy it reached such price :). Thank you very much for everyone who got interested about it and specially, to the auction winner! The set is already on its way to WA ^_^!
As I posted here before, a group of bento lovers across the globe got together to raise funds for Japan. My fabulous fellow bento bloggers have been working hard keeping the Bento4Japan alive and at full steam.
The charity auctions on eBay have been terrific! Lots of bento boxes and gear had found new owners and I can only thank to the beautiful people´s generosity.
Everyone knows that I wanted to offer something to be auctioned for the cause. The problem is that I really can’t find anything suitable for the theme where I live. Bento gear is rare, most of my personal purchases were made online.
It is true I selected stuff from my own collection to offer in the Bento4Japan raffle (by the way! The winners had been picked already, just give us a little more time and we will announce them :). My contribution is already traveling to the lucky one!).
So I thought… would it be bad to offer something handmade? Inspired by my friends who always support and keep me going ahead, I decided to craft my offering for Bento4Japan ^__^.
Bento box food play set – eBay auction
I handcrafted this lovely take away style bento box meal, perfect for pretended play or for display. The items are about life-sized and hand stitched with love and care for details.
I really try my best to make things in a way they last but felt and yarn creations are not as plastic ones, they won´t probably last as much as they would have been made from another “long lasting” material.
This set will be a joy for your little one to serve you obento anytime! (And you can also sneak to the play and practice making your bento too ;))
Most of the items which belong to the box were featured in my previous post , with addition of these little ones:
So… without further ado, what is inside the box!
- 1 lettuce leaf
- 2 onigiris (rice balls)
- 1 shiozake piece (salted salmon)
- 1 lotus root (renkon) slice
- 1 kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) wedge
- 1 broccoli floret
- 1 shiitake mushroom
- 2 tamagoyaki (omelet) slices: spinach and traditional
- 1 carrot flower
- 1 edamame pod
- 1 cherry tomato with wooden pick
- 1 usagi ringo (apple bunny)
- 2 grapes
- 1 strawberry
- 1 orange slice
- 2 food cups (paper and felt polka dot)
- 1 pair of bamboo chopsticks – not disposable type
- 1 origami chopstick “envelope”
The full description of the materials and other important information can be read in the auction page for the bento box.
I hope this can raise some money. Remember, 100% of the proceeds will go to to GlobalGiving’s Japan Relief fund. If you win, be sure you are getting something made from the heart.
Please take a look, this is the auction page! Check out the other Bento4Japan auctions too ;).
March 3, 2011
It is bizarre but it seems I always have trouble during this time of the year. I still remember the 2010 Hinamatsuri day… we were going through a very delicate situation here and I was so uninspired I tried hard to make an effort and come up with a Girls´day bento (ah, yea, forgive me the terrible
picture everything) to my little ones.
After all, they ALWAYS deserve a celebration ^__^ ! My girls are usually the main reason I actually do something instead of complaining all the time :P.
Explaining the Hinamatsuri: it is held on every 3rd of March in Japan. Originally it is the “Doll Festival” (hina is doll) but it is also called “Girls´Day”.
The doll set displayed during the event represents the Japanese Imperial House and there are very traditional food to be served in this particular day too (I have none here. Wish I could get some arare.. :P).
Inside the boxes: lettuce, mini plum tomatoes, mini carrots, steamed carrots, edamame, spinach tamagoyaki, grapes, cucumber slices, apple wedges. “Emperor and empress” mini onigiris made with mixed cereal rice, spinach and paprika soy wraps. Details with nori, cucumber and carrot. I had a turkey ham flower that I forgot to put in the bento …
The greeting card you see in the pictures was sent by a precious friend of mine. Written behind, she wishes health, success and prosperity to my little ones. I wish the same to all girls out there too! Happy Girls´Day!
February 21, 2011
Sunday evening. Nobody was really hungry and I wasn’t in the mood to cook anything difficult.
I had a small package of aburaage (fried tofu) in the freezer and I wanted to make something “soupy”. What came to my mind? Kitsune udon!
Kitsune means fox in Japanese, so the dish translates to “Fox Udon”. I don’t have any idea why it´s called this way… maybe because foxes like aburaage ^_^? Or… because aburaage reminds the color of a fox? Oh well… belongs to the unanswered questions in life… (ahaha)
If you have time, please make the soup with a homemade dashi stock. And… if you can, use fresh udon. It is a simple meal but tastes very good with quality ingredients :)
The recipe is written with approximate amounts. I’ve learned how to make traditional udon soup/broth with my mother and as far as I remember, she never relied on exact measurements :P.
Serves 2 hungry adults (was enough for 2 adults and 2 children here ^__^)
- 250 g dried udon noodles, cooked and rinsed according to the instructions of the package
- 1L dashi stock (I used instant dashi powder mixed with water but added a small piece of dried kombu seaweed when simmering the soup)
- 2-3 tbsp of soy sauce (I used reduced sodium organic shoyu)
- 1-2 tbsp of mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 1 tsp sugar (or less, I don´t like too sweet soup)
- salt (adjust according to your taste. Remember that ready-made dashi stock and shoyu are already salty)
- 4 aburaage (deep-fried tofu), cut into triangles
- thinly sliced spring onions or scallions
- Shichimi togarashi – “seven flavor chili pepper” to serve (optional)
Put the aburaage in a bowl and pour hot water on it. Drain the pieces and put aside. This will remove some excess of oil from the fried tofu.
Heat the dashi stock in a medium pan, add the soy sauce, mirin, sugar and the small piece of kombu.
When the liquid starts boiling, low the heat and add the pieces of drained aburaage. Cook for about 10 minutes. Adjust the flavor by adding salt.
Reheat your cooked udon by putting it in a colander and pouring boiling water over. Another option is to add the noodles to the simmering soup (I prefer like this so the udon can “absorb” some flavors just before serving)
Divide the noodles into four bowls. Pour the hot soup over the noodles and top with the aburaage and spring onions. Sprinkle shichimi togarashi if desired.
Notes: I also topped with a piece of nori because Luonnonvoima likes it a lot. Kamaboko (fish cake) slices are good too. My daughters´ portions didn’t have shichimi togarashi but I like with it.
Alternatively for a stronger flavored topping, simmer the pieces of aburaage separately in soy sauce, dashi, mirin and sugar (resembling the method for making inarizushi skins).
January 25, 2011
For yesterday´s bentos I used leftover gyozas (Japanese potstickers) I made on the weekend after a fun Sunday out with the girls. We went to do “pulkkamäki” (downhill sledging) nearby and hubs and I ended up pulling the sled uphill couple of times :P… ehehe, I must admit, my thighs are still hurting today ^_^!
And because gyoza is by itself a good portion of protein and carbs, I added only small onigiris to their bentos. Bunny shaped =).
So, the contents of the boxes: homemade gyoza (with pork and beef meat, spring onions and chinese cabbage), cucumber sunomono with ham and omelet strips (under the rice), cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli, lettuce, dark grapes and clementines. Bunny-onigiri made of rice, nori and turkey ham (almost unnoticeable! It is so pale pink… :/ )
hmm… I am sorry about the “shiny” photographs. It was already very dark when I prepared the bentos… *waiting for winter to end*
November 22, 2010
When I started the blog I didn’t have a well-shaped idea of what it was supposed to be or look like. The tagline for the title pretty much explains how messy my blog is ^_^.
So… when talking about food, I don’t necessary mean I am going to write and post the recipe for it. Some of the recipes I make use ingredients that are somehow “exotic” or difficult to find… or sometimes they are just food we eat without any further ado. :)
I decided to create a new category for the blog. It will be my “Food memorandum”. With that, I can keep track of what I am cooking (or eating!) and refer back to them when I run out of inspiration.
Shall we begin?
I’d been thinking about shimeji mushrooms for long… I am a dedicated mushroom-lover ♡♥… eeeehehe and could do anything to get them for my recipes. Yes, total truth.
Couple of years ago, when the big supermarket nearby opened its doors I was amazed and happy to find out they carried shimeji mushrooms in their selection, along with the so called “normal” usual mushrooms (small shiitake and button mushrooms). To my disappointment they had it just for the opening event and soon after the mushrooms disappeared.
I am not sure where else I could find shimeji here but the other day I was reading one of my recent discovered blog and was glad to hear a place downtown would possibly have it on its shelves (kiitos – ありがとうございます ^_^ Sari!). Took me a bit to have time to go there but I finally bought one box! Yay to me!
Having a box of “bunapi-shimeji” (white beech mushroom) I just needed to decide what to make with these little cute white shrooms ^_^. Soon after we were having a comforting Udon-suki to warm us up in a cold saturday night :).
About the Udon-suki. Basically it is a sukiyaki, a Japanese hot-pot where meat and vegetables are cooked in a shallow pot filled with sukiyaki broth, with highlight on the udon-noodle. I´ve made it like this because my girls just love udon and they could share the meal with all the family.
You see, nabe (hot pot) style food has a very special meaning to me. It was when we all sat together at table around the pot and shared the meal together. It is something I really appreciated and remember from my childhood. My wish is to pass ahead the same experience to my girls ^_^.