Saturdays were gyoza making days at my parents’ take-out restaurant, Red Hill Japanese Deli in Tustin, California. My dad worked the cash register up front, my mom ran the kitchen, and my two sisters and I were the sou chefs.
My mom would thaw industrial-sized package of wonton wraps — circular, not squares — and several pounds of ground pork overnight on Fridays so that we could sit around a counter in the kitchen to make several hundred little dumplings after our Saturday morning Japanese school. Often, my mom would forget to start the thawing until too late, resulting in us nearly freezing our little fingers while mixing the ingredients by hand. If the wraps weren’t thawed, they would stick together and tear when we would try to pry them apart, so we would dunk the whole sealed package in warm water before we could begin the work. We had no microwave ovens in our kitchen back then.
Mother would place the thawed (or nearly so) ground pork in a big bowl, then crack a few eggs on top. She would add chopped nira Japanese chives, salt, pepper, and a dash of sesame oil. Nothing was measured, as our master chef cooked strictly by instinct. You couldn’t exactly taste test raw pork either, so we never knew exactly how the gyozas would taste until they were all cooked. By golly, they always tasted perfect. Never the same each week, mind you, but always delicious.
We would each place a thawed (or nearly so) wrap in our left hand, spoon out a small amount of the pork mixture with our right, then we’d wet the outer edge of the wrap in order to create an adhesive seal when we folded them closed. But just pressing the edges together to make a half-moon shape was too boring; we each added a signature crimp on the top flap to add our own flair. No two gyozas were alike. We were not machines.
So, here is my recipe for a more normal amount of gyozas for a family of four. I’m a little iffy on the exact amounts for each ingredient, so you might have to try this a few times before landing on your favorite mix. I hope you add your own flair, too!
- 3/4 lb. ground pork
- 2 packages (you probably won’t use them all) wonton wraps, 24 count, preferably round and powdered with corn starch, available in the refrigerated section of most Asian markets
- one egg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
- pepper, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons chopped nira Japanese garlic chives, available at Asian markets, or substitute regular chives
- a bowl of water to dip your finger in to seal the dumplings
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
Combine pork, egg, salt, pepper, sesame oil, and nira in a bowl. Mix by hand, squeezing the mixture through your fingers again and again until thoroughly mixed. Take one wrap and place about 1/2 teaspoonful of the meat mixture in the center (not too much or they’ll ooze out when closing). Dip your finger in the bowl of water, and follow the circular outer edge of the wonton. Close the wonton by folding it in half, although you might gather the top layer 3~4 times to add crimping (see photo above).
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium high, then place about 10 gyozas at a time, crimped side up. When the bottom is browned in a few minutes, flip them over to sear the other side for about one minute. Add 1/2 cup water in the pan, then cover. Let it steam for about 2 minutes or until the water evaporates and the pork is cooked thoroughly.
Serve with or without sauce. I like to make my own: 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (or chili sesame oil if you want a little kick). Measurement approximate!
You could also boil these dumplings in water and drop them into your favorite noodle dish. Tip: You might make just a few dumplings to start, cook them, then taste before committing the entire batch without adjusting the seasoning. I hope you like them!