In honour of the Tokyo Olympics, I thought I would continue my adventure in learning about and trying my hand at some of the more famous Japanese recipes. Last week, I attempted okonomiyaki (a cabbage-based, pancake-like dish).
This week, I am all about the dumplings. Every culture in the world has its own variety of dumpling, and gyoza are the classic in Japan. You'll find them on most Japanese restaurant menus and they are a crowd-pleaser. Filled with a mild mixture of ground pork, Asian chives (I didn't have these so used green onion), and cabbage; the flavour is really in the ginger and garlic, as well as a few other bits.
The filling is wrapped in dumpling wrappers. I was in Dublin last week and visited an Asian supermarket, so I bought some wonton wrappers (found in the frozen section). I used these for the gyoza, but you can also make your own wrappers from water and flour (just make sure you roll them out very thinly).
I really like this recipe for gyoza from Tasty and it includes a how-to video, which is a great way to learn. That said, dumpling-making isn't as easy as it looks. Getting the right "folds" and knowing how much filling to add takes time and practice – this is not a quick weeknight dinner, but it is a fun weekend project and kids love to help making them.
Frying and steaming
Gyoza are usually fried on one side and steamed on the other. You get this affect by starting them in a non-stick pan with a little bit of oil. Then, you add water and cover with a lid. The bottoms get nice and crispy while the tops are soft. I added a bit of flour to my water, which gives you a potsticker-effect where all the dumplings are fused together.
You can get dumpling-making kits sent right to your door these days, thanks to Dublin-based chef Kwanghi Chan, which will make your life a lot easier. His kits are all around €50 and feed three to four people. You can choose from his pork and prawn or chicken and Chinese greens Sichuan-style wontons.
Happy dumpling making!
For the filling:
400g minced pork
50g shitake mushrooms (I didn't have shitake, so I used king oyster), minced
250g green cabbage, minced
1 bunch green onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1-2 cloves grated or minced garlic
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp sake (optional, I had Korean rice liquor so used a bit of that)
1 package frozen dumpling wrappers (or make your own dough)
30ml vegetable oil
1 small dish of water
2 tsp flour (optional)
40ml light soy sauce
15ml rice wine vinegar
Sprinkle of togarashi seasoning (optional)
1. Make the filling: by hand or with a food processor (much easier), mince your cabbage, green onion and mushrooms. Add the minced vegetables to the minced pork.
2. To this, add the salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and sake (optional) and, using your hands, mix well until everything is combined. Set aside.
3. Set up a dumpling-making station: line a tray with baking parchment and keep it close. Place the dumpling wrappers, filling and dish of water near to you and start assembling.
4. Make the dumplings: place a dumpling wrapper in the palm of your hand (my wonton wrappers were square, so to get the right dumpling shape for gyoza I used a circular cutter to cut out circles) and, using your fingers, wet the edges of the wrapper with water.
5. Place a small amount of filling in the centre of the wrapper and gently bring the edges together. This will take practice, but usually, one side of the wrapper is folded a few times to make the classic gyoza creased look. But just bring the edges together however well you can. Once sealed, place the prepared gyoza on the lined tray. Continue until all the wrappers have been filled.
6. Cook the dumplings: heat a non-stick pan on medium high and add the oil. Place the gyoza seam-side-up into the pan. Fry for two to three minutes (just starting to get a bit of colour on the bottoms) and then add the water (or mix the flour into the water and then add it in, if you want the dumplings to stick together). Cover with a lid and allow to steam on top and fry on the bottom for another five to seven minutes.
7. When the bottoms are browned, the tops are translucent and the pork filling is cooked and springy to the touch, the gyoza are ready.
8. At this stage, I take a large plate, cover the pan with the plate and flip the entire pan of dumplings on to the plate that way.
9. Make the sauce by mixing the rice wine vinegar and soy sauce together.
10. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce and a sprinkle of togarashi (not sure if that's traditional but it adds a nice spice!).
*I didn't cut all of the wonton wrappers into circles; I got lazy and just added filling to the square dumpling wrappers and fried them with the open bit facing up - this was just as delicious and kind of like the dumplings I used to eat when I lived in South Korea.