Gyoza are one of the most popular dishes in Japan. It consists of an outer dough layer with minced pork and vegetables inside.
Credit: Inazakira CC
Gyoza is a Chinese recipe that was adapted to Japanese tastes.
Credit: Tatsuo Yamashita
An example of hanetsuki gyoza, the dumplings are stuck to one another.
Credit: Vivre Le Japon
Sui-gyoza are boiled rather than fried
Credit: Vivre Le Japon
The delicious Japanese dumpling
Gyoza are one of the most popular dishes in Japan, but what do we really know about this Japanese dumpling? Where does it come from, what is it and how best should you eat it? It's time to unravel this little dumpling's mysteries!
The origins of gyoza
Gyoza is a typical dish in Japan. Japanese cuisine has adapted the traditional recipe of Chinese dumpling to the taste of the rising sun. This Japanese dumpling is directly descended from the Chinese jiaozi, which consists of an outer skin of wheat-based dough encasing a pork and a vegetable stuffing.
It seems that the adoption of gyoza by the Japanese people is recent: it goes back to the Sino-Japanese war, from the beginning of the 1930s, during which time the two countries' peoples maintained contact. It was during the invasion of Manchuria in particular that the Japanese would have learned the recipe for these dumplings from the Chinese.
The characteristics of gyoza
This Japanese dumpling is shaped like a half-moon. It differs from its Chinese counterpart in the texture of its dough and the seasoning of its stuffing: gyoza contain more garlic, and the dough is generally thinner and lighter. It can be browned (yaki-gyoza), boiled (sui-gyoza) or deep-fried (age-gyoza).
Yaki gyoza is the most common type of cooking in Japan: the dumplings are fried on one side in a frying pan, then water mixed with a little cornstarch is added to the hot pan before being covered for a few minutes. It's this mode of cooking that sometimes attaches them to one another. These are hanetsuki gyoza , literally "winged gyoza". These gyoza are then served with the grilled side facing upwards.
Traditionally, gyoza are stuffed with minced pork mixed with green onions, spring onion, cabbage, ginger, and garlic. But nowadays, some establishments offer alternate recipes - such as shrimp or seafood - and experiment with different flavors. You can even find cheese gyoza in some specialty restaurants!
Where to enjoy gyoza
Whoever has not yet feasted on gyoza should quickly remedy it by heading to an izakaya (traditional Japanese bar-restaurant), a ramen restaurant or, for the new generation, a "gyoza bar"! They are usually served in six or twelve and are enjoyed with a side of vinegar soy sauce and/or spicy sesame oil (ra-yu). Some gyoza are eaten only with the spicy oil, so as not to alter their taste. This is the case of shrimp gyoza, which do not mix well with vinegar.
Gyoza are usually served as part of a meal (along with bowls of noodles or rice, mostly) but more and more "gyoza bars" offer a menu based only on variations of dumplings. Don't panic: even if the concept might seem intimidating to some, this is far from the case! The various ways of cooking gyoza allows the menus to offer an amazing selection that will delight your tastebuds.