Wednesday, September 17, 2008


It all started with empanadas, oddly enough. One of my co-workers made empanadas for another co-worker's birthday. My gut reaction was, "I've got to learn how to make those." This was quickly followed by the realization that there were all sorts of Asian dumplings, gyoza, shumai, spring rolls, summer rolls... that I had never tried making, so maybe I should start with them.

The thing that had scared me off making Asian dumplings in the past was the perception that it was a lot of work to assemble everything. "A lot of work" can jinx a lot of things, especially when you're cooking for one. In the end, all the work it took was salting some Napa cabbage and squeezing the water out afterward (which killed a kitchen towel, but that's another story), grating ginger and garlic, slicing scallions, and mixing all that with ground pork, shoyu, sugar and black pepper. Not such a big deal, in the end, and especially not so on a weekend.

The recipe I used came from Hiroko Shimbo's The Japanese Kitchen, and also included instructions for making gyoza wrappers. As a first-timer, I opted to buy some wonton wrappers from the Asian supermarket instead.

Ideally, one seals the dumplings with water and crimps the seams together, but I just threw the gyoza into the skillet and pan-fried them. Once the undersides were golden, I added enough of a combination of boiling water and sesame oil to reach "one-third the height of the dumplings." Then I covered the skillet and streamed the gyoza until the liquid was mostly gone. I only made one skilletful of gyoza, so the extras went right into the freezer for future reference.

You can make lots of fancy dipping sauces, but I just sprinkled the cooked gyoza with shoyu and tucked in. I was very impressed; they were easily the equal of any gyoza I'd had in a restaurant.