Monday, July 18, 2011

Yaki Gyoza – exceptionally good for the human soul

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From the first moment I tasted Yaki Gyoza, I was addicted. The pan-fried crust of the dumpling wrapper... the succulent filling... the simple dipping sauce, it was love at first bite.

Yaki Gyoza - Japanese for Utterly Delicious

While Gyoza is the Japanese name, these little dumplings are thought to have originated in China more than a thousand years ago, with the first mention in literature describing them as “being exceptionally good for the human soul”.

Living in the depths of beautiful County Wicklow presents a major hindrance to my Gyoza addiction – I live in the-middle-of-nowhere. Well, in the-middle-of-nowhere-near-an-Asian-restaurant-that-serves-these-divine-morsels.

To avoid complete withdrawal, I’ve created a gyoza package – wrappers, filling, sauce – from scratch. I’ve chosen a pork filling. You could use any meat or fish, create a vegetarian version, or even fill them with fresh fruit and deep-fry them for a dessert version.


A haiku: Yaki Gyoza / Also known as potstickers /Always delicious



For approximately 30 dumplings you will need...
Gyoza Wrappers
200g plain flour
75g corn flour
½ teaspoon salt
165 mls boiling water (approximately)

1                 Place the plain flour, corn flour and salt in a stand mixer, with a dough hook*. Slowly add the boiling water, mixing all the time. Keep adding the water and mixing until there is no dry mixture left and the ingredients come together in a soft smooth ball. You may not need all the water, or you may need a little more – it depends on the weather and on the flour you are using. Continue mixing for a further 5 minutes. (*You can mix this with chopsticks, then knead by hand for 5 minutes once the mixture forms a ball but it is pretty labour-intensive).
2                    Cover the dough and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to cool and rest.
3                    What follows is my non-traditional way of making the wrappers, but hey, it works! On a work surface liberally dusted with flour, roll the rested dough out to a thickness of about 3mm (about the thickness of a €1/£1 coin.
4                    Using a 7cm (3”) cookie cutter, stamp out rounds of the dough, then roll these rounds out to approximately 10cm (3 ¾”)  in diameter, making the edges slightly thinner than the centre. This helps keep the dumpling from splitting during cooking. Stack the prepared gyoza wrappers, dusting with flour between layers to prevent them sticking, and wrap in clingfilm. Chill until ready to use.

Gyoza Filling (Pork)
80g cabbage, shredded, finely chopped and sprinkled with ½ teaspoon fine table salt
400g minced pork (ground pork)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 fat cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon mirin or sake
¾ teaspoon fine table salt
a pinch of caster sugar
80g spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
5 dehydrated Chinese mushrooms, soaked in boiling water until soft, then drained and finely chopped
 
On the way to becoming exceptionally good for the soul
1                    First, prepare the cabbage: once you have sprinkled the cabbage with a ½ teaspoon of salt, set aside for about 30 minutes. Then, wrap in a clean tea-towel or cheesecloth and wring the moisture out.
2                    Place the pork in a mixing bowl and add the ginger, and garlic. Mix well – hands are best (if you are squeamish about this task, use food-grade gloves or mix in a stand mixer). Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin/sake, salt and sugar, mixing well between additions. The meat should be a sticky paste.
3                    Add the prepared cabbage, spring onions and mushrooms and mix well. To test the mixture for seasoning, fry a small piece until cooked through, taste and adjust as necessary. Chill the raw mixture until ready to use.

Soy far, soy good

To assemble the gyoza (right-handed instructions - swap obviously if you favour the left)
1                    Sprinkle a tray with flour and fill a small bowl with cold water.
2                    Place a wrapper in your  left hand, so that the edge touches the tips of your fingers. With your right hand, place approximately a teaspoonful of the mixture in the centre of the wrapper. Don’t over-fill or the dumplings will be difficult to seal and will burst during cooking – less is more! Leave a margin of about 1.5cm (½”) around the edge of the wrapper. Moisten the edge with a finger dipped in cold water.
3                    With your right hand, fold the gyoza into a crescent, wedging it open at the top with your index finger. You are now going to pleat one side of the crescent: with your free hand, pinch the left side together. With your right index finger, make a small pleat and with your left thumb and index finger, pinch the pleat, gluing it to the opposite side of the crescent. Continue making small pleats along the edge, pinching them closed until the crescent is completely sealed. The theory is that the pleats allow the filling to expand, making the dumplings less likely to split when cooking. It is probably a good idea to have the kitchen to yourself as you will probably swear profusely during the first few gyoza, but by the 3rd or 4th dumpling you will be getting the hang of it. Well done you!
4                    Place the finished gyoza on the floured tray, with the pleats at the top. Cover the tray of finished gyoza and place in the freezer so that the dough has a chance to firm up before cooking – 30 minutes will be sufficient. You could of course transfer the firmed gyoza in a freezer bag and freeze until needed.

We ain't the prettiest gyoza ever, but we're pretty tasty!
Note: If you are utterly confused at this stage, watch this guy. It is easier to do than to explain.

To cook the gyoza:
 
1                    My preferred way is to rub the surface of a lidded frying pan with some kitchen paper dipped in a little cooking oil. Pre-heat over a medium heat.
2                    Place the gyoza in the pre-heated frying pan, making sure they don’t touch. Add enough boiling water to the pan to come to a depth of about 3mm. Place the lid on the frying pan and let them cook in the steam for about 5 minutes.
3                    Remove the lid and allow any remaining water to bubble off. Add about 2 tablespoons sesame oil to the pan, lifting each gyoza so that the oil can seep underneath. Let the gyoza sizzle for about 3 minutes or until the base is golden brown. They are ready to eat right now, however I prefer to fry each side for a further minute so that they too are crisp and golden.

Serve immediately with this simple dipping sauce:
Time for a quick dip!
Dipping Sauce (per person)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar (or wine vinegar)
a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
 
Mix – it really couldn’t be simpler.

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