When I make my annual trip to Alaska in the summer, I look forward to three things: visiting family and friends, fishing, and eating at all my favorite restaurants.
One of my go-to spots is a Japanese restaurant called Kumagoro. I literally grew up at this restaurant as my dad was their chef, and my mom waitressed there. So I had quite the adventurous palate at a young age. I remember trying uni (sea urchin) and tobiko (flying fish eggs) before I could even tie my shoes. (I also remember spitting the uni out.) But one thing I could not get enough of was the gyoza.
Gyoza are Japanese-style dumplings that hail from their Chinese counterpart, jiaozi, more commonly known as potstickers. While potstickers have a thick wrapper, gyoza’s skin is a lot thinner. Gyoza are also smaller in size and more garlicky in flavor. They’re commonly served as an appetizer or side dish.
Their filling usually consists of ground pork, cabbage, Chinese chives or green onions, garlic, ginger and a few drops of sesame oil and soy sauce for seasoning. But you can use whatever meat or vegetables you choose. And the circular gyoza wrappers can be found at any Asian specialty store.
While there’s a few different cooking methods for dumplings, the popular cooking method for gyoza is pan-fried, or yaki-gyoza. This gives the gyoza its key characteristics of a crispy bottom and steamed top. To achieve this, the gyoza are first fried until crisp and browned on the bottom. Then a bit of water is added and the pan is quickly covered to steam the entire gyoza. I use chicken broth instead of water as it adds more flavor.
Gyoza are served with a simple dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili oil. It really compliments their flavor and completes the taste.
Cooking for a party? Gyoza can also be made a day in advance and kept (uncooked) in the fridge. Just place a damp paper towel over them and store in an airtight container. And they freeze well, too. To freeze, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 30 minutes and then transfer into a freezer bag or container. They can be made right from the freezer, just give them a few minutes longer to cook.
For the dumplings:
1 cup cabbage, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound ground pork
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoon green onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Oil (1 tablespoon per batch)
Chicken broth ( 1/8 cup per batch)
For the dipping sauce:
Toss the cabbage and salt in a small bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes. Using hands, or a cheese cloth, squeeze the cabbage firmly to drain and discard any excess liquid. Transfer cabbage into large bowl and add remaining ingredients, from ground pork to the sesame oil, and mix until combined.
Fill a small bowl with warm water and set aside. Add a heaping teaspoon of pork mixture into middle of gyoza wrapper. Using your fingers, lightly dampen outer edge of half the gyoza wrapper with the warm water. Fold wrapper in half to enclose filling and press and crimp edges to seal, pushing air out as you do. Place on plate, crimped side up, and lightly push down to just flatten bottom. Repeat until desired amount of gyoza are made.
To cook gyoza, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add in just under a tablespoon of oil. Working in batches, place gyoza, flattened side down, in pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, until bottom is browned and crisp. With the lid for the pan in one hand, pour in 1/8 cup of chicken broth and quickly place lid on pan. Continue to cook, covered, for 2-3 minutes, or until broth has dissolved. Using a spatula, carefully remove gyoza from pan, as they could be sticking. Repeat for remaining batches.
Serve hot with gyoza dipping sauce.
To make sauce, in a small dish mix equal parts soy sauce and vinegar, then add a splash of chili oil to taste.