When I think of "gyoza" (pot stickers), it brings me a sense of nostalgia. Well, first of all, everyone in Japan loves gyoza. It's like burgers to the Americans. But thinking about gyoza gives me a warm feeling inside not just because it is a tasty comfort food, but also because when I was younger, my mother and I would always sit at the table side by side to wrap the dumplings while we chit-chat.
My mom's version of the filling was usually made with ground pork, nira (Chinese chives), ginger and garlic. Now that I don't eat meat and the combination of chives and garlic is a bit too strong for me (gyoza breath on the next day is inevitable...), I modified the recipe for the filling. The pre-made wrappers are readily available in Japan but good quality ones are hard to come by. So here's my version of wrappers from scratch. Making your own is a bit of a hassle but it is well worth it.
makes about 2 dozen pieces
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, minced (about 1 3/4 cups) (You can also cut the mushrooms in chunks and pulse them in a food processor. Be careful not to grind them up too much or they will turn into paste.)
6-8 leaves of napa cabbage, minced (about 3 cups)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 to 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1 1/2 TBS toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 TBS arrowroot (OR potato starch)
1 TBS shoyu
2 tsp ginger juice
1 cup unbleached white flour (all-purpose flour)
3 TBS arrowroot (OR potato starch)
pinch of sea salt
1 TBS virgin sesame oil
up to 1/2 cup water
arrowroot (OR potato starch) for dusting
1 TBS toasted sesame oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup boiling water
To prepare the filling:
Put the minced napa cabbage in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and mix. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Squeeze out the water by hand. Mix the cabbage with the rest of the ingredients. Set aside to work on the wrappers.
To prepare the wrappers:
Place the flour, arrowroot and a pinch of salt in a bowl and mix. Add sesame oil and pour the water little by little while mixing the dough with your hand. Adjust the amount of water to reach the softness of an earlobe. (Yep, earlobe. Funny expression but that's how we Japanese describe it.) The dough shouldn't be too sticky but easy to handle. I ended up having about 2 TBS of water left.
Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes and shape it into two balls. Shape each ball into a long cylindrical log. Cut each log crosswise into 12 pieces.
Dust each cut side with arrowroot to prevent the dough from sticking and drying out.
Take a piece of dough and lightly flatten it with the palm of your hand. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece out thinly into a 3- to 3.5-inch circle. Dust both sides of the wrapper with a generous amount of arrowroot before stacking them together.
To wrap the filling:
Take about 2 tsp of the filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Wet your index finger with water and trace a line around the lower half of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling and close it by creating pleats in the top part of the wrapper. I make mine with the front edge pleated and the back edge flat but this takes a bit of practice. Just make sure it's sealed so the filling is contained. Pleating the top gives the dumplings a base so they stand up.
To pan fry the gyoza:
Heat oil in a frying pan big enough to hold the dumplings. (You may need to divide the batch into two.) Put the gyoza in the pan and fry on medium high flame until the bottoms turn brown. Add boiling water and cover immediately. (Be careful since the water can splash.)
Lower the flame and steam the gyoza for about 7 minutes or until almost all the water is cooked off. Remove the cover and turn up the flame to make the bottoms crispy. Shake the pan so the dumplings lift from the pan. Place a plate over the pan and flip over to serve.
Serve gyoza with dipping sauce. You can use just straight shoyu or shoyu diluted with water but I like mine with vinegar and a touch of heat from hot sesame oil (ra-yu). I've always eaten them this way and I feel like it cuts the greasiness (not that that's a bad thing!).
2 parts shoyu
1 part rice vinegar
drops of hot sesame oil (optional)
The dumplings are great in soups too! Add the dumplings to seasoned broth with veggies and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. They will float to the top when ready.