Homemade Gyoza Wonton Dumplings


Josh decided to get fancy on the presentation.

Josh decided to get fancy on the presentation.

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.

photo-28My 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.

photo-29Mother 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.  photo-31But 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

photo-30Combine 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).

photo-32Heat 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!

Mary’s Farfalla with Grilled Chicken


My 14-year old son Josh loves anything cooked by his best friend Sammy’s mom, Mary.

“Mom, can you make me sandwiches like the ones Sammy’s mom makes?” I oblige by going to the supermarket and calling Mary on the cell phone in the aisles, asking her the exact brand of the bread, mayo, cold cuts, and cheese. I want to make sure that I reproduce her amazing sandwiches perfectly.

Last month, Josh came home from an overnighter at Sammy’s.

“How was your time there?” I ask.

“Oh, the toast at breakfast…” he replies dreamily, which forces me to get on the phone once again.

“Mary, what is the secret ingredient of your toast? Josh says it was so good.”

Mary replies, “Smuckers.”

So the next morning, I serve my son toast with butter and Smuckers.

“That’s pretty good, Mom,” he declares. “But not as good as Sammy’s mom’s.”

Of course.

He then spends the next couple of days gushing about this pasta dish he had at Sammy’s house.

“What was in it, Josh?” I ask.

“Well, it had bow tie pasta, pesto sauce, grilled chicken, and toasted pine nuts.”

“Mmmm…I love toasted pine nuts, but it’s so easy to burn them,” I remark.

“Yeah, good thing Sammy’s dad likes burnt ones. He didn’t let her throw away the first batch.”

Well, it was good to know that Mary is human, after all.

From the description, it sounded like a dish I would also enjoy, so I called Mary one more time. I got her recipe and made it for my family, and it was a hit. Even Josh thought it was good. Of course, not as good as when Sammy’s mom makes it, but good enough!

Here’s her super secret recipe for you all to enjoy:



  • 3 tbsp. pine nuts
  • Pesto Butter (recipe follows)
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 10 oz. dry Farfalle (bow tie shaped) pasta
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (or water)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Salt
  • 2 tsp. chopped roasted red pepper (dry)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1- 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup lightly packed parsley (fresh)
  • ½ cup lightly packed basil leaves (fresh)
  • 1 green onion (including top)
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • ¼ cup butter (melted)


Spread pine nuts on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Prepare Pesto Butter. Cook chicken in frying pan until cooked through. Cut chicken into ½ inch wide bite-size strips. While chicken is cooking, boil pasta just until tender, drain well and set aside. In a wide frying pan, combine Pesto Butter and wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbly (about 2 minutes). Stir in cream and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring often. Season sauce to taste with salt then add roasted red pepper (2 tsp. can be too spicy for kids – I use about 1), pasta, chicken and Parmesan cheese. Mix lightly using 2 spoons. Sprinkle with remaining pine nuts.

Pesto Butter

In a blender or food processor combine 2 tbsp. pine nuts, garlic, coarsely chopped parsley and basil, green onion, olive oil, butter and pepper. Whirl until well combined (about 2 minutes).

Recipe for Busy Moms — Caprese Pizza

Trader Joe's Heirloom Tomato Caprese Pizza

My post on facebook yesterday about making the Trader Joe’s Caprese Pizza was so popular, I thought I would share the recipe here with you.  It’s super easy and very yummy!  And really — Trader Joe’s is not paying money me to do this!


1 pkg Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough (you can use any other store’s refrigerated raw pizza dough)

1-3 Large Heirloom Tomatoes

1 pkg Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (the soft, fresh ball kind.  At TJ’s, I even found some pre-sliced!)

Garlic Olive Oil

Dried Basil

Balsamic Glaze


My new weapons against boring meals -- garlic olive oil and balsamic glaze

Let pizza dough come to room temperature and roll out on well-floured cutting board.  I rolled it into a rectangle which fit nicely onto a foil-lined cookie sheet, sprayed with non-stick oil.  Brush with garlic olive oil and par-bake at 425 degrees for 6 – 7 minutes.  The smell of the garlic olive oil will fill your home at this point.  Remove tray from oven and arrange heirloom tomato slices (I used two large tomatoes) and and fresh mozzarella cheese slices in overlapping rows and sprinkle dried basil on top.

Return to oven and bake for additional 4 – 5 minutes or until cheese melts (which took me more like 7 – 8 minutes).  Remove from oven and drizzle balsamic glaze over slices.  Cut and serve.


David loved it!

If you have a pizza stone, it might be better to use that instead of my foil-lined baking sheet.  The middle stayed a bit soggy for my taste, while the pizza stone would have absorbed the liquid a little more readily.  But in either case, this was easy and delicious, just in time for your summer entertaining.

Share with us some easy recipes like this one!  We Panda Moms want to know.


Recipe for Busy Moms — Scampi and Spicy Red Sauce

Here’s a recipe for busy moms — are there any other kinds? — which I received directly from Cathy, the owner/proprietor at Lucca Cafe in Irvine, one of my and David’s all-time favorite restaurants. If you’re ever in Southern California, you’ve got to go there, especially for dinner when they have European-style cheese plates and dishes that must be shared. (And for the record, no, this is not an advertisement but simply an enthusiastic endorsement of this wonderful restaurant and the following recipe!)

Here's TJ's Italian parsley, but you can get them anywhere.

This is a tasty and easy recipe for pasta and shrimp lovers, ready in about 20 minutes. Most of the ingredients come from Trader Joe’s, but of course you can go anywhere else you like to purchase them.


Trader Joe's salted plum tomatoes, small can

1 can Trader Joe’s Whole Tomatoes

1 lb linguini pasta

1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped (I buy frozen at TJ’s. In a pinch, you could use pre-cooked, but it’s not as tasty)

3 cloves garlic, minced

To taste, red chili flakes or jalapeno

I use this frozen, peeled, deveined shrimp from TJ's, but you can get them anywehre. Best if not precooked.

Splash, dry white wine

1/4 cup parsley, Italian, chopped

To taste, sea salt (sea salt has a richer saltiness, in my opinion!)

To taste, pepper

I finally get to use my burr mixer which we got as a wedding gift!

Start boiling water for your linguini and follow the package directions. Meanwhile, simmer tomatoes in a sauce pan to reduce — about 20 minutes — then hit with a burr mixer to break up the tomatoes. (Yes, right in the pan. If you only have a regular blender, you’ll have to transfer to the blender and mix. Not as fun.) Reserve. In a large frying pan over medium heat, saute garlic and chilies in olive oil until you smell the aroma and before the garlic burns (do not use if it burns. It will taste bitter!). Add shrimp and sear on both sides, but do not cook through. Add wine and poach the shrimp, then add the reduced tomato sauce and the parsley. Check sauce for salt and pepper. Toss with the cooked linguini. Serves about 4 or 5.

Cathy says:

  • Only cook pasta to al dente.
  • Do not overcook the shrimp — they will turn rubbery.
  • Never burn garlic. Start over if you do.
  • Never put grated parmesan cheese on seafood.
  • CostCo olive oil is one of the very best!

Panda mom says:

  • If your splash of wine turns into a gush due to a slip of your hand, your children will complain bitterly that it tastes too alcoholic. Trust me.
  • All the ingredients except the Italian parsley is non-perishable, so I keep all the ingredients around at all times so I can have a good, easy, quick recipe always ready to go in case a special guest suddenly shows up at our door.

[Check back for a photo of the finished dish. I'll probably make it sometime this weekend!]

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Anyone else want to share an easy recipe with us? Please add in the comments below!