Guest Author - Chidori Phillips
Gyoza, or potsticks, is a dish that originated in China where all sorts of filled dumplings are steamed, baked or fried. It is said that potstickers came about when a busy cook left the dumplings over the flame a little too long and their bottoms got stuck to the pan. In America, many restaurants serve potstickers but sadly, some of them do not cook yaki gyoza properly. In an effort to hasten the cooking process, cooks drop them into a deep fryer and they end up heavy and hard. Deep fried gyoza is called age gyoza. The dumplings can be boiled in water and then drained or served in soup (sui gyoza), too. But neither is like a true potsticker (yaki gyoza) which has a delightful golden crust on the bottom and slightly chewy and soft top.
One difference between Japanese gyoza and other Asian potstickers is the thickness of the skin or wrapper. Japanese gyoza wrappers are thinner and less doughy.The filling also departs from its Chinese counterpart in that it mainly uses ground pork with chives. Chinese potstickers can be filled with chicken, beef, pork, seafood or only vegetables. I like to add some shrimp and Shiitake mushrooms, too.
You can purchase frozen gyoza in Asian markets and even mainstream grocery stores. The good thing about them is that they do not need to be defrosted before you cook them. But while they come in several varieties (chicken, pork, shrimp, vegetarian), I find their flavor a bit lacking. Still, they come in handy for quick meals and I buy them regularly (sssh.)
As for making them at home, it is worth the effort, especially if you get the family to pitch in. Make a large batch and freeze them on a cookie sheet until frozen through. Then, you can put them all in a zip-top freezer bag.
I have made the skins, or wrappers, for homemade gyoza and the process is similar to making ravioli or pasta. I did not use a pasta roller and I couldn’t manage to get the dough to roll out evenly so some of my gyoza come out thicker than others. Thankfully, there are many choices of gyoza skins (wrappers) available at my local Asian market. If you can’t find any, if I were you, I’d consider buying online or venturing to make your own. Potstickers are so worth the effort.
Folding them is uses a different technique than folding a won ton. Gyoza wrappers are circular rather than square. You place about a tablespoon of filling in the center. Moisten the edges of half the circle with a fingertip dipped in water. Here comes the hard part to explain:
Bring up two sides of the circle (as you face it, these should be the back and front with the filling in the center). Start at one end and pinch the two sides of the circle together. Work your way up until halfway to the top (about at the 70 degree point), with your thumbs, fold the wrapper by tucking a bit underneath itself, making little folds or wrinkles. Do this until you get to the other side of the circle at the 140 degree point. Place the gyoza on the work surface so it will form a flat bottom and will sit by itself. Do this with the remaining gyoza. At this point, you can freeze them on cookie sheet. When they are frozen, transfer them into a sealed freezer container or zip-top bag. This method will keep them from sticking together.
Japanese Pork and Shrimp Gyoza
2 pkg. prepared gyoza wrappers
1 lb. ground pork
¼ lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined and minced
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup nira or Chinese chives, minced (OR green onions)
1 cup cabbage, minced
3 large Shiitake mushrooms, soaked, drained and minced
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
½ Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Mix the filling ingredients well. Follow the instructions on filling and folding the circular wrappers as stated in the text above.
To fry them, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet with a lid. Place the gyoza onto the hot oil and let them fry without touching them for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat (if they are frozen, this will take longer). They will develop a nice golden crust on the bottom. Do not move them! They must stick to the pan or they will get soggy when you steam them. Pour in about ¼ cup of water into the pan and then quickly cover the pan with a lid. Lower the heat and let them steam for another 4-5 minutes or until the steam/water is gone.
Use a spatula to unstick them and serve them right away with gyoza dipping sauce. The contrast of the crisp bottom and the tender tops makes this savory filled dumpling especially delicious.
Gyoza Dipping Sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
2-4 drop yu oil (red chili oil)
½ tsp. toasted sesame oil
Blend all ingredients and serve with gyoza.