What is your culture’s dumpling?

I am a huge fan of all dumplings, but as someone who’s half-Japanese, my culture’s dumplings are gyoza.

Imagine – it’s a chilly, rainy night in Tokyo. Finally, after a 10+ hour flight, and another hour-long train ride into the city from Narita airport, you’ve made it to your hotel room.

Exhausted and in a bit of culture shock – it is your first international trip, after all – you go searching for dinner. Something close, something tasty, something familiar.

You stumble upon a ramen shop around the corner from your hotel, and step into the warm, welcoming environment. On the menu – gyoza… yes please!

A juicy pork and shrimp filling, a crispy wrapper with just the right amount of chew… they’re the perfect dumpling.

And as quite possibly the most common Asian dumpling – in the US, at least – they’re a familiar comfort food when in an unfamiliar locale.

Since we can’t travel these days, all we can do is reminisce from home about our very first Japan trip, a decade ago… but at least we can make our own gyoza from scratch!

If you’d like, you can absolutely use store-bought gyoza wrappers.

But if you’re looking for a bit of a project (or arm workout), homemade is even tastier. If you want to make your own wrappers, you can refer to our homemade dumpling wrappers post, and make the dough up to the point of putting it in the bag so it can rest while you prep your filling.

Now let’s make our filling.

The whole reason why I decided to make gyoza is because I bought a head of napa cabbage on a whim… and then decided I just didn’t feel like making kimchi.

But that’s okay – because a triple batch of gyoza used that napa cabbage all up! The cabbage in your gyoza will make them very light, so it’s not a heavy, meaty dumpling.

Core and very thinly slice your cabbage, and then salt it to draw out some of the liquid.

Let it sit for 15 minutes or so, and then rinse it really well. You don’t want to skip this and end up with suuuper salt gyoza.

Squeeze out as much liquid as you can so your gyoza aren’t soggy.

Next, we’ll add garlic and ginger, for flavor. Since you want both of these to be so finely ground or minced that they’re essentially a paste, we’re using the frozen garlic and ginger cubes to save a bit of work.

If you can get the flat chinese chives, that would be excellent here. Otherwise, just chop some green onions – both the white and green parts. Whenever you use green onions, don’t throw away the stems! You can plant them, or even stick them in a cup of water, and the green onions will continue to regrow. Free food!

Lightly chop your ground pork just to loosen it, since it’s usually packed pretty tightly together, then add that to your cabbage.

Shell, devein, and chop up some shrimp, then add that as well.

Add a tiny bit of sugar just to bring out the flavors, and a bit of black pepper.

Shoyu, aka Japanese soy sauce, for umami.

Sake, a rice wine, for a touch of brightness.

And then a bit of nutty sesame oil, all for that classic gyoza taste.

Mix this all up and set aside for a bit.

If you’re making the dumpling sauce from our last post, you can make that while your filling rests.

And if you made your own wrappers, start rolling them out now!

Wrap your dumplings, using a scant teaspoon of filling for each dumpling. I’m doing the pleated crescent shape. Please ignore how much of a disaster my folding technique is.

To cook your dumplings, add a little canola and/or sesame oil to a pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place your dumplings in the pan, making sure they all lay flat.

Fry for a couple of minutes, until they’re just starting to brown, then pour in about a third of a cup of water. This will splatter like crazy, so be ready with a lid to cover it immediately.

Turn the heat down to medium, and let the dumplings steam for 6 minutes or so.

After six minutes, shift the lid so it’s slightly ajar to allow steam to escape.

Once all the water has evaporated and you start to hear a frying sound again, remove the lid and let the dumplings cook for another minute or two until they’re nice and brown on the bottoms.

We want the goldilocks of dumplings here – not too lightly golden, not to dark and burnt. Trust me, I’ve done both – and right in the middle, a rich bronze, is the perfect amount of fry.

Serve with the dipping sauce and some Japanese hot mustard, and enjoy!


from Asian Dumplings

  • 2 cups lightly packed, finely chopped napa cabbage (about 7 oz)
  • 1/2 tsp plus 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced and crushed into a paste
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger, or 1 tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp chopped chinese chives or scallions (white and green parts)
  • 6 oz ground pork, coarsley chopped to loosen
  • 1/3 lb medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and chopped (4 1/2 oz net weight)
  • scant 1/4 tsp sugar
  • generous 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp shoyu
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 lb basic dumpling dough or 32 store-bought gyoza wrappers
  • canola oil or sesame oil, for panfrying
  • dumpling dipping sauce
  • Japanese hot mustard
Cooking Directions
  1. To make the filling, in a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes to draw excess moisture from the cabbage. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer (the cabbage may fall through the large holes of a colander), rinse with water, and drain again. To remove more moisture, squeeze the cabbage in your hands over the sink, or put into a cotton kitchen towel and wring out the moisture over the sink. You should have about 1/2 cup firmly packed cabbage.
  2. Transfer the cabbage to a bowl and add the garlic, ginger, chinese chives, pork, and shrimp. Stir and lightly mash the ingredients so that they start coming together.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 tsp salt, the sugar, pepper, shoyu, sake, and sesame oil. Pour these seasonings over the meat and cabbage mixture, and then stir and fold the ingredients together. Once you have broken up the large chunks of pork so none are visible, briskly stir to blend the ingredients into a cohesive, thick mixture. To develop the flavors, cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. You should have about 2 cups of filling. (The filling can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before assembling the dumplings.)
  4. Meanwhile, form 16 wrappers from half of the dough. Aim for wrappers that are about 3 1/4″ in diameter.
  5. Before assembling the dumplings, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (If you plan to refrigerate the dumplings for several hours, or freeze them, lightly dust the paper with flour to avoid sticking.) For each dumpling, hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. Scoop up about 1 tbsp of filling with a utensil and position it slightly off-center toward the upper half of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a flat mound and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4″ of wrapper clear on all sides. Fold, pleat, and press to enclose the filling and create a half moon, pea pod, or pleated crescent shape. Place the finished dumpling on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining wrappers, spacing them a good 1/2″ apart. Keep the finished dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel as you make wrappers with the remaining dough and fill with the remaining filling.
  6. Once all the dumplings are assembled, they can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours; they can be cooked straight from the freezer. For longer storage, freeze them on their tray until hard (about 1 hour), transfer them to a zip-top freezer bag, seal well, and keep them frozen for up to 1 month; partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed during freezing, before cooking.
  7. To panfry the dumplings, use a medium or large nonstick skillet; if both sizes are handy, cook two batches at the same time. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tbsp oil for a medium skillet or 2 tbsp for a large one. (If you are combining oils, use 2 parts canola oil and 1 part sesame oil.) Add the dumplings one at a time, placing them sealed edges up in a winding circle pattern or several straight rows. The dumplings may touch. Fry the dumplings for 1 to 2 minutes, until they’re golden or light brown at the bottom.
  8. Holding the lid close to the skillet to lessen the dramatic effect of water hitting hot oil, use a kettle or measuring cup to add water to a depth of about 1/4″; expect to use about 1/3 cup of water. The water will immediately sputter and boil vigorously.
  9. Cover the skillet with a lid, lower the heat to medium, and let the water bubble away until it is mostly gone, 8 to 10 minutes. After 6 to 8 minutes, move the lid so that it is slightly ajar to allow steam to escape.
  10. When the bubbling noise in the skillet turns into a gentle frying sound, remove the lid. Allow the dumplings to fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown and crisp. Turn off the heat and wait until the sizzling stops before transferring the dumplings to a serving plate, using a spatula to lift up a few of them at a time. Display them with their bottoms up so they remain crisp.
  11. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce and mustard.

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