Gyoza have gone global. Originally from China, and now on every Japanese menu, these little parcels of joy are loved all over the world.
These traditional Asian dumplings are filled with ground meat and vegetables, wrapped in a thin – almost translucent – dough, which is folded over and sealed by 'crimping'. They're about the size of your thumb and usually served as a side or bar snack, but beware: these bite-sized beauties – particularly the way wagamama do them – are enough to make your main meal jealous.
Introducing the nira chive
A typical gyoza filling is made up of the usual suspects; ground pork, finely chopped cabbage, green onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil. However, it also includes nira chives — less well known in Western cooking.
If you find these in their fresh form at an Asian market, they look like long blades of bright green grass, and are often known as 'Chinese leek' or 'garlic chives'. One whiff of these and you'll see why. This fragrant herb is a staple of Asian cooking, and once you've discovered it, you'll be hankering after dishes with that nira chive hit.
Traditional versus trendy
Alongside traditional gyoza fillings of aromatic chicken, hoisin duck and garlic chilli prawns, wagamama have gone for modern Americana with a pulled pork gyoza. It's a fine example of gyoza's versatility. Even though these dumplings aren't an age-old Asian classic, the rich slow-cooked melt-in-your-mouth meat and smoky BBQ sauce speaks for itself.
Of course, there are vegetarian gyoza too – yasai gyoza. If you're a big meat-eater, don't be put off – these are every bit as tender and moreish as their carnivorous counterparts. The fillings vary, but you'll usually find a combination of finely sliced carrots, sweet red peppers, chopped coriander and shitake mushrooms in there – sometimes with smoked tofu, too.
Whatever you choose, all gyoza are united by their dipping sauce. This dark and deeply flavoured dip is typically made with rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, green onion, sesame oil and chilli. It's salty and savoury, creating a complementary contrast to the delicate and fragrant packages.
The gyoza hat-trick
There are three 'types' of Japanese gyoza, and it all comes down to how they're cooked.
Sui-gyoza is one of the most popular ways to cook them. The dumplings are boiled in salted water, which gives you a soft and moist dumpling that falls apart in your mouth.
Age-gyoza are devilishly indulgent and deep fried to a crisp. A crunch coating protects the treasures within, and the contrast in texture from the outside to the inside takes the gyoza experience to the next level.
But our favourite has to be the yaki-gyoza – this cooking method gives you the best of both worlds. In a hot pan, the gyoza is fried on one side, giving it a crispy skin underneath. Once the oil has been soaked up, water is added to the pan and it is sealed with a lid, which steams the upper part of the gyoza.
If wagamama think it's the way to go, who are we to argue?
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