Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Art of Making Gyoza

Today, my friend Naoko was kind enough to teach our foodie-mommy group how to make homemade gyoza.  If I haven't shared before, Naoko is a French-trained chef and an AWESOME teacher.  So this post will be a how-to for anyone interested in making it.  It is fairly easy, but time consuming since you end up with over a hundred dumplings.

Note: Click on the hot links to learn about certain ingredients.

Ingredients for Gyoza 
Most of these ingredients can be found in a Japanese supermarket.  Or you can substitute certain ingredients when shopping in an American market.

  • One whole won bok/chinese cabbage/napa cabbage (photo below)
  • 1 unit/bunch of garlic chives/garlic grass (photo below)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 lb to 1 lb shrimp, tail off, peeled and deveined
  • 1-3 cubes of beef fat (photo below)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup cooking sake (photo below)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • water
  • cornstarch
  • 3-4 packs of gyoza wrappers (photo below)
The photo below is the won bok aka Chinese cabbage aka Napa cabbage.  You can buy it in any supermarket, Asian or Western.  If you want your gyoza a little meatier, I used only 1/2 a head of cabbage (Sorry, Naoko).  Now you may think that's a lot but trust me, after preparing the cabbage it shrinks, A LOT!

The first ingredient that may be hard to find (at least I had never heard of it) is Garlic Chives or Garlic Grass.  They sell it in cellophane wrapped bunches in the Japanese Supermarkets.  Naoko said if you can't find it you can use regular garlic that has been minced.  I would say a few tablespoons of regular garlic is an even swap for the Garlic Grass.   However, if you can get the Garlic Grass I recommend going that route.  I find them at the Daiso-Musashimurayama (next to Aeon Mall) food market and at Japan Meat market at Joyful Honda.  They look like green onion but if you smell them, they smell like garlic.  Photo of Garlic Chive below.

Now the next ingredient that you have to go to the Japanese market for is the beef fat.  It is little cubes of rendered beef fat.  Yum!  I questioned the need of adding it to the recipe, however, Naoko insisted it adds flavor AND moistness to the gyoza.  I suggest trying it and then decide if you want try making gyoza without it.  I'm not going to argue with a chef.  The beef fat cubes can be found for free in the meat area of the markets.  They are individually wrapped and I grab two or three when making gyoza.  I can't find them individually wrapped at the Joyful Honda market, but they are readily available at the Seiyu market and the Daiso-Musashimurayama market.  Stateside you can substitute with lard or save the fat you trim off your meat and render it.  Photo of beef fat below.

You will also need the gyoza wrappers.  Some people say you can substitute wonton or other type of dumpling wrappers.  Hey!  If you are in Japan go for the real stuff!  You can find the gyoza wrappers in the meat department by the ground pork.  They come in packs of 50.  Buy at least three packs, especially if you are using the entire head of cabbage.  Here's a photo of the gyoza wrappers.

Finally, the last ingredient that may be hard to come by in an American market is the cooking sake.  I'm thinking, like wine, you can always use regular sake.  I don't know what else you can substitute in place of it.  I'll ask Naoko and update the info later.  Now the bottle of cooking sake was written completely in Japanese characters, so the way I found it was by taking a photo of Naoko's and finding a bottle that had the same characters.  I believe I looked in the vinegar section.  Here is a photo of Naoko's cooking sake...

And here is a photo of mine.  I'm crossing my fingers that it's the same thing, I'm sure Naoko will tell me.  Oh well, I've already used it and everything tasted okay.  Go to the Japanese market with patience and an open mind.  It can be overwhelming but part of the fun is seeing all the different foods there.

So that's it for the ingredients, next up are the directions accompanied by a few photos.


  • Parboil the shrimp for about a minute or two.  You don't want them completely cooked.  Then finely chop them. Place to the side
  • Finely chop the won bok and parboil in hot water, about 5 minutes.  Cool and then squeeze all the water out of them.  You can strain them in a mesh colander or I put it in cheese cloth and squeeze it out.  You want ALL the water squeezed out.  You will also see how much in size this shrinks the cabbage. Here is photo of the cabbage after being boiled and squeezed, sorry it's a little blurry.  That's an ENTIRE head of won bok.

  • Finely chop the garlic chives
  • Mix together cabbage, garlic chives, ground pork, cooked shrimp, beef fat, chicken broth, sake, salt and soy sauce.  Make sure you do a good job incorporating the beef fat into the mix.  Don't want to bite into a large chunk of that.  And that's it for the filling, here's a photo of how it looks.

  • Get a cup of water and mix in about 2 - 3 Tbsp of cornstarch to create a loose slurry.  This will seal the gyoza wrapper after you fill it.  Here's another photo, sorry it's blurry.

  • Also, dust a plate or a cookie sheet with corn starch so you can place the uncooked gyoza on them after you prepped them.  I say cookie sheet because this recipe makes close to 200 gyoza and good luck finding a plate to accommodate that many.  There's another reason, but I'll get to that later.  
  • Now you are ready to fill.  Take one sheet of gyoza and wet the edges with the water/cornstarch slurry on half the side (1/2 the circumference).  This is the glue.

  • Place about 1 Tbsp to 1 1/2 Tbsp of filling into the middle of the gyoza wrapper.  Fold in half to form a half moon and use a ribbon crimp to seal the edges.  Press down to make sure the edges are completely sealed.  If not, your gyoza will explode on cooking.  It's important not to put too much filling into your wrapper, if it's too much you won't be able to seal it well.

  • Make all the gyoza before cooking them.  If you like freeze the extra.  Keep them on the cookie sheet and place the entire thing in the freezer.  Once the gyoza is frozen solid, seal them in a ziploc bag or airtight container.  No need to defrost when cooking.  Just slap them in the pan.

  • Put a kettle of water to boil.
  • Get a large nonstick pan with an airtight cover (preferably glass) and put on medium heat.  
  • Pour a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in the pan.
  • Once the pan & oil are hot, place the gyoza in the pan, making sure that the bottom of each gyoza has some of the hot oil on it.  Just rub it around in the pan.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until the bottom has a light brown color to it.
  • Pour the hot water from the kettle into the pan, about a 1/4 cup. This will create a steam bath for the gyoza.  Make sure to use hot water, pouring cold water will cool down your pan and stop the cooking process.
  • Cover the pan and cook the gyoza until most of the water has evaporated and the wrapper is translucent, about 10 minutes. Then uncover and fry until crispy.  

And that's it.  Take your gyoza out of the pan and place onto a plate.   Now grab your dipping sauce.  Naoko makes her own sauce but I just use Ponzu sauce (fancy recipe).  Kikkoman Ponzu is my favorite but I can't find it in Japan.  Ironic.  Here is a basic Ponzu sauce recipe

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup or more of dashi
If you don't want to make your own, you can buy it.  Here is the one I pick up at Joyful Honda.  You can find it in the soy sauce/marinade/vinegar aisle.

Or if you are stateside, there is Kikkoman Ponzu, my favorite.  It's a little stronger than the above sauce but I've gotten used to the intense soy sauce flavor and enjoy it.  You can order it from Amazon.  You can order for me from Amazon if you like.  I'm just saying...

That's it for Gyoza.  Here is a photo of gyoza I made a few weeks after this posting.  Looks pretty good, huh?  And soooooo oishii!  These I folded by hand and it took me about 2 hours to crimp close to two hundred gyoza.  I froze half, cooked some and gave some to friends.

 I also just recently purchased a gyoza crimper from Daie.  I haven't used it yet but, if it works, will save a lot of time since I don't have to ribbon fold each dumpling.  It was only 150 yen, so even if it sucks, it didn't cost much.

And now you are all ready to create your own gyoza.  It's fairly simple but, like I said, labor intensive.  I suggest having a gyoza making party so that everyone can help.  That's what we did when Naoko taught us.  Making 200 gyoza goes by quickly when you have more than one pair of hands.  Have fun with your gyoza adventure.  Until next time.

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