Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Japanese Gyoza with Spicy Dipping Sauce

I have about 5 other recipes I've been needing to write about on here, but I just can't wait another day before posting this one. Y'all, this is by far the BEST gyoza I have ever tasted.... and I've lived in Japan for 2 years. Crazy, right? Isn't it supposed to be that the local foods are better than what I make in my kitchen for the first time?

Normally, yes, absolutely. But I've been researching gyoza for months now. I've been asking pretty much any Okinawan who speaks English what they think makes the best gyoza. I've ordered nothing but gyoza from restaurants to continue studying it. What a horrible assignment... "eat gyoza!" Like I'm gonna pass that one up.... yeah, right! Bring. It. ON.

If you've never had gyoza, you better fix that, and fast! They're a standard appetizer here in Japan, and each chef, family, and generation has their own version of the recipe. The basics include ground pork, leeks or cabbage, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. The secrets are in the additives, as with any popular and passed down recipe. 
My favorite advice I received about what goes into the gyoza was from one of our Japanese interns, Dr. Ando. Each year the Naval hospital employs 8-10 doctors who are Japanese, in order for them to mainly practice their English and to further their training. Many of them end up with fellowships in the States, so it's a great opportunity for them. They're wonderful to work with and are a wealth of knowledge. Anyway, Dr. Ando is always at the hospital, like most interns, and is super sweet and a ball of energy. 

So here I am talking about gyoza with her at 1 in the morning, and I tell her about my quest to learn the secrets of these scrumptious dumplings. "What recipe were you taught by your mother and grandmother, Dr. Ando?" I asked her. She looks at me with great concern, brow furrowed. She folds her hands in typical, ├╝ber polite Japanese style, and says, "Please, please. You must use leeks. This is very important. You must use leeks and lots and lots of ginger and garlic." Dr. Ando went on to explain that the rest of the ingredients her family uses were any variety of vegetables that were fresh at the store- mushrooms, carrots, celery, and cabbage. 

Despite this wonderful advice, no one I talked to really had any semblance of ratios and measurements. Thank goodness for the internet, which was a lot of help in figuring out a starting point with how much to toss in. I also included a perfect recipe for a spicy dipping sauce, which is an absolute must, even though these gyoza taste amazing by themselves. 

A few important tips about making these before we get into the recipe: 
-Traditional gyoza is made with pork, but I actually prefer it with chicken. It tastes better to me and is not as fatty. You could use turkey or tofu if you want, it's pretty versatile that way!
-Prepare your knives... you'll be mincing the veggies so give yourself enough time based on your skills. You could try to mince them all together in a food processor, but I don't think the celery would do well with all of those strings. 
-The folding aspect is one of the most daunting parts of the recipe. It's not difficult at all, really. Pictures you'll see of gyoza show pleats all across one side, with the other side flat. My left hand is a wet fish compared to the muscle coordination of my right, so I pleated the right side, turned the dumpling and pleated the "other" right side. It's what worked for me. Just get them sealed however you can, they'll still taste great.
-Finding out how much to fill each wrapper might take a bit of patience, especially if you don't have real gyoza wrappers. Can you believe the Japanese grocery stores didn't have gyoza wrappers? I just used egg roll wrappers and traced around a 28 ounce can of tomatoes with my knife to give me 4" ish circles. That's what worked for me. If you find gyoza wrappers at your supermarket, great- use those. I wouldn't use lumpia wrappers- they are wayyyy too thin and won't hold up during cooking.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's get to cooking!

Japanese Gyoza with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Inspired by several family recipes. Ratios and assembly guided by Serious Eats

2 cups cabbage, shredded or very finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
2 stalks celery, minced (yes, minced.)
2 leeks, white and green parts, minced
   *Update: after hearing from readers, I forgot to mention that Japanese leeks can be somewhat smaller than American grown. Plan for about 3/4 to 1 full cup, depending on your taste.
1 pound ground chicken
2 heaping teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder (about 3 minced fresh cloves)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Mirin 
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon togarashi (Japanese chili spice. Substitute red pepper flakes if you can't find it)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
40-50 gyoza wrappers (or egg roll wrappers cut into 4" diameter circles)
small bowl of water
salt and oil, for cooking

Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon togarashi
3/4 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 green onion, green part minced

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and toss with a few large pinches of salt. Allow this to sit for about 15 minutes. While this sits prepare the dipping sauce and store in refrigerator until the gyoza are ready. Squeeze out any excess liquid with paper towels and return to the bowl. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the wrappers. With your clean fingers, mix very well. Wash your hands and prepare the wrappers. Work one by one to prevent wrappers from drying out. For a 4" diameter wrapper, place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center. Dip your finger into the water and trace around the outer edge of the wrapper circle.  

Thinking of the wrapper as a clock, bring 12 and 6 together and pinch lightly together. Hold that center pinch with your left fingers, and use your right hand to pleat the right side of the wrapper. Turn gyoza 180° and repeat the pleat on the current right side. Place on cookie sheet and repeat with the rest of the filling and wrappers, until you run out of one. 

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of canola or olive oil. Once it is shimmering, add a few gyoza to the skillet, setting them on their flat bottoms, with the pleated edges pointed up. Make sure to not add too many or they'll be overcrowded and will be soggy. Pan fry for about 3 minutes, until the bottoms are brown and bubbly. If you like crunch, turn them on one "side" and pan fry for another minute or so to crisp the side. Add about 1/4 cup water to the pan and quickly cover with a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat to low and steam for about 4 minutes. The gyoza are ready to eat when the dumpling is plumped up and shiny from the steaming. Just to be safe, cut one open to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Cook in batches if you're making a lot of the gyoza. 

Serve immediately with dipping sauce. 

The gyoza freeze wonderfully and will keep in your freezer until you eat them all (so, about a week!) The sauce will keep in an airtight container for a few weeks. To cook from frozen, follow same cooking directions as above, just steam for about a minute longer to ensure the chicken is cooked through.


  1. Wow, these look so amazingly crisp! And gyoza has been on my bucket list for so long - thanks for such an awesome recipe. I will most definitely have to try this one out :)

    1. Thanks, Chung-Ah! I think the trick to the crispiness is pan frying and steaming at the right temperature so they don't get soggy. Please let me know how yours turn out if you make them! :)

  2. Gorgeous!! Seriously impressive girl. I love gyoza too! When I would visit my guy in Iwakuni we would always go eat gyoza because I can't get enough :) and that dipping sauce? oh man...my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I can't wait to try this!

    1. Arigato gozaimasu, Abby! Japan is a pretty neat place, huh? The dipping sauce is pretty darn tasty, for sure.

  3. Oh, man; must get Keith right on this! We have lots of Asian and Polynesian/Samoan places around here; but I don't think I've seen mirin or togarashi yet.

    1. Thank you, Susan! I would ask a Japanese restaurant in your area where they get their goods- if you have one in your area, of course. I know Amazon has both, though! I don't think I've ever had Polynesian/Samoan food... that'd be a fun cooking challenge!

  4. These look wonderful!! I have a couple of questions... Do you think a chili garlic sauce (made by the same folks who make Sriracha) would work as a replacement for the togarashi? And should I rinse the salt off the cabbage before I dry it?

    Looking forward to trying this!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Beth! That's a good question about the Sriracha.... it would probably work well enough to give it the bite and spice, but the taste might be a bit off. I'd recommend using any kind of chili powder or red pepper flakes as it would impart the right flavor. Give it a try though- maybe do a test run with a half portion of the sauce and lemme know how it goes! I am curious, for sure. A Thai style chili sauce would be tasty as well, but again, it'd be a different flavor.

      I do not think the cabbage needs rinsing of the salt- the point is to help draw out excess moisture so the final gyoza are not soggy, so by rinsing you might negate the point of salting in the first place. If you really dry the cabbage well with paper or dish towels, the majority of the salt is bound to go with the water, so I wouldn't be worried about the filling being overly salty, if that's what you were getting at. If you're needing to be sodium conscious for health reasons, I'd go with low sodium soy sauce to help with that concern. I hope this helps! If you try something different and it works out well, please let me know! :)

  5. Another question... not sure if you'll see this in time, as I'm ready to start putting this together. After mincing the 2 leeks, I have almost 3 cups of minced leeks!! This looks like a lot to me! Do you think I should cut back the amount I put in? Or does the ratio sound about right to you? Thanks for responding so quickly. My tastebuds a ready! :)

  6. OK. After browsing dozens of Gyoza recipes on the interwebs, I decided that, yes, 3 cups of leeks was WAY too much. LOL I settled on about 3/4 C and that seemed to work just fine. These were yummy!!!! I found myself wanting a bit more of a ginger taste in the filling, but that may just be my personal taste. And after watching a video on the web... and after about my 24th dumpling, I had the folding down to a science! :D Thanks for the recipe, Jordyn! It's a keeper!

    1. Haha HOLY Leeks, Batman! Your leeks are definitely eating their spinach. About 3/4 cup of leeks sounds about right- I went ahead and updated the recipe to account for super bionic leeks. I think I forget that in Japan all of the produce is somewhat mini compared to American grown. I'm so glad you enjoyed them and I can guarantee your folding skills were way better than mine!

  7. Can never pass up a good dumpling post, these look fantastic. Great job with the pleating. I cheat and have a dumpling maker. I am going to have to add this to my list of new dumplings to try. I see the togorashi in there, mine's still sitting on my desk waiting for me to pull that tab and open that baby up. I promise I will let you know as soon as I do. Maybe this week as I try one more time to make an Asian Lasagna muffin and sprinkle a touch on my portion.
    Huggggs Jordyn.

  8. I am really interested in what you wrote here. This looks absolutely perfect. All these tinny details are give me a lot of knowledge.

  9. I made these for dinner tonight, they were amazing. I added in some shredded chicken to make it more of a "meal". You're instructions were very helpful, although I did get lazy when making the dumplings and skipped on the pleats after the first dozen. It's quite the time consuming process! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Thanks, Paige! I am glad it worked out well for you. I agree that the pleating is a tiring process!

  10. You can find a recipe for gyoza wrappers on the Internet and make them yourself from scratch but it takes forever.

  11. For the leeks: are we talking about negi or nira? Green onions or scallions in America are usually the same species as Japanese negi, but sometimes thinner. Nira are known as garlic chives in America, and can usually only be found in Asian markets.

    American leeks are a different species, more fibrous, with a stronger flavor, and more solid. Green onions/scallions/negi/Welsh onion are hollow in the green parts and less leaf-like.

    1. Matt- great question! I forget sometimes that what a name denotes in one country might mean a totally different product in another. In the few times I've made these gyoza I've used both negi and American leeks, without noticing much difference in flavor.

      The Japanese negi that we had available were quite large, but I didn't notice that they were any less "solid" than American style leeks. I have used American leeks with these gyoza and they work out just as well. Personal preference on which you'd like to use, I suppose.

      Hope this helps and thanks for stopping by!


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