Japanify: Gyoza Pt. 1 (Prep + Wrapping)
I have memories of gyoza from when I was in kindergarten. My grandma would invite my mom and aunts to her house -- and they would wrap dumplings all day. My cousins and I would run around, play in the pool and take Oreo and orange juice breaks throughout the day. When the sun began to set, the smell of fried gyoza would begin to fill the house and we would all be rewarded for our grandma's and mothers' hard work.
These memories are both a blessing and curse for my relationship with gyoza. I always want to eat them to remind me of those idyllic days, but I am daunted by task of making them.
When I do decide to make gyoza, I am usually by myself, so I have to reserve at least half a day for gyoza-making. But unlike, my grandma's massive yield, I only end up making about 50. It's a time-consuming task that you have little to show for in the end. But it's also a great activity when I feel like I need a time-out from computers and cell phones.
I have experimented with a lot of gyoza fillings, but I swear by a pork and chicken mixture. I am also a huge fan of the allium family (onions, garlic, etc.) so I will put many types of allium bulbs into my gyoza. This adds an extra fresh crunch against the pork-chicken backdrop.
I've also tried lots of gyoza skins. Your local market may have several types and you will have to try out different types to come upon the one you like best. I am typically a fan of thinner skinned gyoza, so I look for skins at the Japanese market. The skins at Chinese markets tend to be a little thicker.
I found some fresh (unfrozen), delicious skins at the Berkeley Bowl that are more yellow than I'm used to but very thin. I took a chance on these, given there is no brand name on it, but I was very satisfied with the results. It has a great shiny look to it when cooked and I think there is extra egg in the dough, which probably gives it its bright yellow color and a satisfyingly mild, savory taste.
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground chicken
100 gyoza skins
1/2 green cabbage
1 bunch of chives
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp sesame oil
6-10 drops of La-yu chili oil
Potato starch for sprinkling
1. The key to successful gyoza filling and finely chopped ingredients. They should be as fine as you can chop them (without going crazy).
2. Chop the following finely: cabbage, onion, shallot and chives. Put ingredients in large mixing bowl.
3. Grate the following: garlic and ginger and add to the bowl.
4. Add the ground meats and egg to the bowl.
5. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and la-yu chili oil to bowl.
6. Mix the ingredients really well with your hands.
Don't be afraid to get your hands IN there.
7. Wash hands and prepare cookie sheets or shallow plastic containers for wrapped gyoza. Sprinkle the sheet or containers liberally with potato starch*.
*Mom tip: use katakuriko (potato starch) instead of regular flour so the gyoza won't stick together.
8. Prepare a water bowl to wet your fingers with to help "glue" the skin together.
9. Place a gyoza wrapper on the palm of your hand. A little less than a tablespoon will fit into each skin. Place the filling in the middle of the skin. Don't overstuff it, or you'll be dealing with a lot of broken, soggy gyoza skins.
10. Wet the edge of half the gyoza skin with your finger (see above how the top edges of the skin is wet).
11. Fold over the dry side onto the wet side of the skin and gently pleat. You don't need to go overboard with the pleating. 3-4 pleats are plenty.
12. Place in a row onto your holding container or cookie sheet.
13. Once you've filled a container sprinkle more potato starch on top, fit the lid or wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in freezer. If you want to eat them right away, place them in the fridge, until you are done with wrapping all the gyoza.
After wrapping about 30 gyoza, I got really impatient and switched to the shumai format (way easier to make than gyoza).
Even then, I ended up wrapping up about a third of the filling in saran wrap and freezing it because I got too tired of wrapping. My grandma had it right. Next time, I'll invite a bunch of people over and have a gyoza-wrapping party. Anyone game?
Next week: Frying gyoza.