gyoza

by Sasa Sunakku

If ever I asked "Where shall we go for dinner?" when we lived in Tokyo, F was sure to answer "Gyoza Party." Actually, he often suggested it even when I hadn't asked. Like, daily. In fact though, Gyoza Party (yes, I did intend for that to be capitalised) is less a place, than a state of mind. Gyoza Party is a happy place, a place where an endless parade of gyoza magically appear within chopstick range, dip themselves delicately in the shouyu, vinegar and chilli oil and insinuate themselves gently between your lips, only to explode in an orgy of garlicky porkiness.

There was such a place near where we lived in Shimokitazawa; a noisy place full of steam, smoke and Japanese workmen with their soft split-toed shoes, but the good news for F is, Gyoza Party can be recreated at home.

I know dumplings seem like one of those things that are too much of a hassle to bother with but when you see them lined up on your plate, all steamy without and juicy within and you're transported to Gyoza Party, it will all be worth it. Besides which, it actually only takes about 3 minutes to make the filling and if you go production line style, you can pump out as many gyoza as your little hearts desire in a jiffy.

Gyoza

I think like every other Japanese kid, I've eaten gyoza for as long as I can recall but when we went to stay with my lovely friend Yuko, she made them for us at home, which was a first. It made me realise that's it's actually a cinch. You can use garlic, but if you can find nira, a.k.a. garlic chives, all the better. They are long and flat and you should be able to find them in Asian markets - you'll probably have to buy the gyoza skins at one anyway. You'll want the round white skins, not the square yellow wonton skins, and they're usually in the frozen section.

All you need to remember is that a gyoza has 3 sides - the front with the pinched folds, the back which looks blank and the bottom which is fat and flat enough for it to sit on without rolling (that will be the crunchy bit) and you need to make sure it's watertight or the juices will run out when it's cooking.

For the dipping sauce

Shouyu, rice vinegar and chilli oil in a ratio of about 3:1:1

For the filling

200 grams pork mince
A knob of ginger, very finely chopped or grated - save the juice! (I used a microplane here so there would be no stringy bits)
Two spring onions, finely sliced
Either 2 cloves of crushed garlic OR a bunch of nira, finely chopped
2 tablespoons shouyu (Japanese soy sauce)
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
A sprinkle of white pepper if you have it
Plus about 30 gyoza skins

Mix it all up (except the skins, obviously) and leave for an hour. Set up the production line: get a couple of big plates, a small ramekin of cold water and a teaspoon per person, the skins and the filling. Take a surprisingly small amount of filling with a teaspoon, place it in the middle of a skin, dip your finger in the water and run a damp half-circle around the skin.

Fold the skin in half, pinching the top middle firmly. Make 2 folds on either side of the middle pinch which face toward it. Repeat on the other side. Sit the gyoza on the plate, pressing it a bit so the bottom gets flattened. Repeat until all the filling or all the skins are gone.

Heat a non-stick or very well-seasoned frypan (believe me, this helps later because these bad boys are *desperate* to stick and it will end in tears) over medium heat and prepare a glass with 150ml water in it. Keep a lid handy. Pour in *just*enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Quickly place all the gyoza in the pan and leave until the bottoms are browned, shaking gently to avoid sticking.

Carefully (it might spit) throw in the water and put the lid on. Steam for about 3 minutes, shaking a few times, and then remove the lid and allow the rest of the water, if any, to evaporate. Scrape the bottoms from the pan with the thinnest metal spatula you have to loosen and invert the gyoza onto a plate so the brown side is up. For best results serve with rice, the dipping sauce and a cold Sapporo beer.

Click to see Gyoza photo. Harro! I’m Sasa. I like to cook, write, eat and dance, though not necessarily in that order. I’m 29 and somehow I’ve managed to move more times than the number of years I’ve lived so I always miss someone, somewhere. Sometimes I need to stop myself from crumpling up and floating away so I make food. Some of the places I’ve lived are: New Zealand (home, and the place I miss the most); Japan, where I was born and also the place I most recently lived; Thailand, the place I’d love to stay forever if all the people I loved were there; the U.K and briefly, France. Read more on sasasunakku.com.

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