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.


La C. said...

The only thing that has kept me from trying them is the fear that I won't be able to give them up once I can make them any time I want. They look delish.

Winslow said...

Thanks! :) Yes, the realization that one can make these any time one wants is, well, sobering.

Andrew Abraham said...

What is the origin of this well which is the best ingredient to add ...thanks


Winslow said...

The immediate origin of this recipe is The Japanese Kitchen by Hiroko Shimbo (Harvard Common Press, 2000). Shimbo says the dumplings originally come from China, and that the method of pan-frying then steaming them is legendarily supposed to come from servants reheating leftovers of the food they made for their wealthy employers. This prep style became popular in Japan, and gyoza were born.

In terms of the ingredients, I think the combination of a bit of grated ginger and garlic really adds the right zing to the ground pork. You can add all sorts of things to these dumplings, such as sliced mushrooms, chopped shrimp, grated carrot, whatever. They are easily adapted as vegetarian food, as well. Probably the best thing is to get comfortable with a basic recipe and then start playing around with it to suit your taste. Good luck!

beesy said...

I tried making Gyoza for the first time last week and the recipe turned out to be easier than I thought. I am currently living in Japan and the homemade ones are much tastier. I have written about it on my blog - check it out: I followed Harumi Kurihara's recipe - excellent Japanese cookbook!!

Winslow said...

Hi beesy,

Thanks for the cookbook tip. Gyoza are really amazingly easy once you get around to it. I made another batch last week and although the prep took a bit longer than I wanted for a weeknight, it just requires chopping the filling ingredients, mixing them, stuffing the wrappers, and cooking the gyoza.

Thanks for stopping by!