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.