Chinese pork shumai, grandma’s Romanian/Ukrainian pyrogies filled with cottage cheese or Korean kimchi dumplings; almost every culture seems to have its take on a filling wrapped in dough. Japan’s version, imported from China, is gyoza.
Eating gyoza with freshly cooked rice became a regular meal after Hitoshi and I moved to our new place in Tokyo. The grocery store down the street sold a ridiculously cheap and delicious brand. The fresh gyoza came in a tray of ten and the floured morsels were ready to fry. If we were lucky, they were on sale for 50 yen!
Hitoshi’s method was to fry the gyoza first and then add water for the final minutes of cooking. This created a desirable crunchy “skin” or “wings” under the gyoza. A five-star finish was when skin stuck in small sheets to the gyoza and we fought over who got the bigger pieces.
Gyoza in Canada – *sigh*
Moving to Canada was tough but Japanese food took us back to our other home. The local Korean store sold frozen, imported dumplings that were pretty close to the gyoza we enjoyed in Japan. Finding gyoza was the easy part! Cooking was more than a headache.
A gas stove was at the top of our Missing List from Japan. Stable, intense heat is the norm for gas stoves and this makes them perfect for frying gyoza. Gas stoves are rare in Canadian homes so we had to replace whining with figuring out how to work with less than impressive electric elements. While we still have not been able to recreate the magical “skin/wings”, at least we can get one side of the gyoza crunchy!
Finding the right pan was another issue. Super insulated, regular aluminum and light non-stick were all failures. Gyoza disintegrated, stuck to the bottom or piled in a clump. A small ceramic pan on the highest heat came closest to what we wanted. This works for about 16 or fewer gyoza.
How to cook gyoza on an electric stove
We haven’t tried the fry first method that Hitoshi likes since our gyoza is frozen.
- Place gyoza with one flat side down in ceramic pan. Pour water into pan until the bottoms are just underwater.
- Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat up high. Once you see steam coming from the pan, set a timer for three minutes. If you’ve added too much water, the pan may boil over so crack the lid slightly.
- After the timer goes, drain the water from the pan and place on another element. (This prevents the gyoza from burning to the pan.) Drizzle vegetable oil over the gyoza but take care they aren’t bathing in oil.
- Return pan to original element under high heat, cover with lid and set timer for one minute.
- After one minute, turn off heat. Leave pan on element with lid on for at least five minutes or more.
- Use a spatula to remove gyoza from pan. Hopefully they aren’t glued to the bottom!
- Serve with toppings including chili oil, seasoned vinegar, Japanese soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds.
If you have fresh gyoza, you can boil first and then fry or fry first and then add water at the end to help make the skin. For the latter method, make sure the pan is very hot and use a lid.
Lower heat still can get good results. If you are worried about ruining the gyoza, try starting at medium heat.
Update! I made gyoza and got a tiny skin by mistake. Cover only the bottom of a flat pan with water. Add gyoza. Cover and cook on high heat until most of the water is absorbed. This took about three minutes. Listen for the transition period so the gyoza doesn’t burn. Next, drizzle oil over the gyoza, cover and continue cooking on high heat for about 1-2 minutes. Listen and smell to make sure the gyoza doesn’t burn. Turn the heat off but leave the gyoza on the element with the lid on for at least five minutes or until ready to serve.
Some gyoza restaurants in Japan offer the chili oil, vinegar and soy sauce pre-mixed. Others offer them separate. Some people dip gyoza in a mixture of the three toppings using a small dish provided or the indentation in a gyoza dish. Others pour the three toppings over the gyoza in the amounts they prefer. Some skip one or more of the toppings. It’s up to you!
How about you?
Are you a wizard with gyoza outside Japan? What are your tricks?
If you’re in Japan, do you fry or boil first? This is a debate in Hitoshi’s family!