Gyoza: Small Delights with Big Flavor

Source: pbs.org

Wrapped in thin dough and filled with delicious, rich goodness of meat and vegetable, gyoza is not your ordinary dumpling. You can have it either steamed or fried and is actually enjoyable eaten with a few drinks or on its own. Described to have a common people’s taste, gyoza is enjoyed by most Japanese working class people and is found almost everywhere too. You can find it in groceries, supermarkets, and most izakayas. Cheap without scrimping the taste, gyoza is one of the most convenient dishes you’ll find in Japan.  But what makes gyoza different from the other dumplings?

It was said that gyoza is a direct descendant of a Chinese dumpling called jiaozi. A Chinese medicine practitioner named Zhang Zhongjing was rumored to have discovered this delicacy by accident. He would boil medicines, vegetables, and meat in a pot and would wrap these ingredients in small dough wrappers. Intended to help raise people’s body temperatures because of the cold weather, he decided to make the dumplings into a shape of ears. Over time, people had adapted the recipe and were used widely in China. Japanese people had only made direct contact with jiaozi during the Second Sino-Japanese War when they quartered in China. Because of the frequency at which Chinese people make and eat jiaozi, it’s no wonder that Japanese soldiers had taken quite a liking to this delicious dumpling. When the Japanese soldiers came home to their beloved country, they decided to recreate jiaozi and put their own twist on it. Thus, the birth of gyoza.

Today, gyoza is celebrated as one of the most delicious dishes in Japan. It is often served as an appetizer in many Japanese restaurants, both locally and internationally. You can have a classic serving of gyoza or opt to become adventurous and try other fillings. After all, gyoza is an ever-evolving dish and it only gets better in time.

Types of Gyoza and How to Eat It

Depending on one’s preferences, gyoza can be divided into three variations which all result in one, delicious serving of dumplings.

  • Yaki Gyoza – known as the most common way of preparing and cooking gyoza, yaki gyoza is done by pan frying the gyoza in a skillet. A mixture of cornstarch and water is then poured in, letting it covered the dumplings. While the heat from the skillet makes the thin dough crispy, the mixture of cornstarch and water actually helps the filling in the gyoza to remain chewy and soft to eat. Yaki gyoza is typically served bottom side up with a golden brown color that shines through.
  • Sui Gyoza – this method requires the gyoza to be boiled in water or in a light broth, resulting in tender and chewy dumplings to eat. Sometimes they serve it with the broth to maintain the moistness of the dumplings. However, unlike the popular yaki gyoza, sui gyoza is much less common and is mostly served in special gyoza restaurants and Chinese restaurants.
  • Age Gyoza – similar to yaki gyoza, age gyoza is done by deep-frying the gyoza, making it crispier and you can actually hear the crunch in every bite. It is commonly served piping so you better be careful when you take a bite so you won’t burn your tongue.

Though it can be eaten on its own, gyoza is most preferred to be dipped in sauce. You can opt by mixing an equal amount of soy sauce and vinegar but you can also mix chili oil, garlic, and sesame oil to your sauce to make it more flavorful. Most restaurants have already set out the ingredients for the sauce and you can always ask the staff to recommend you the best combination of the sauce. Unlike in China where gyoza plays an important role being the main dish, it is different in Japan. Japanese people eat gyoza as a companion dish next to ramen or served with white rice. Most ramen shops have a set menu for ramen and gyoza.

Source: epicurious.com

Best Places to Eat Gyoza in Tokyo

Because of how convenient it is, gyoza is sold and found almost everywhere. It is most seen in ramen shops and izakayas where most Japanese working class people go to after work. These are some of the restaurants which serve one of the best gyozas in town:

  • Taikorou – known for their big, juicy servings of gyoza, Taikorou has been around since 1949. Their main store in Yaesu, which is just a three-minute walk from Tokyo Station, has become a legend. Aside from their wide selection of dishes, people from all over the world flock to this restaurant because of their special handcrafted gyoza which is almost the same size of a mobile phone! They also offer beers and a number of great Chinese dishes. Taikorou is located in 1-9-7 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.
  • Sweet Baozi – if you’re willing to wait for a short time to get your hands to their delicious gyoza, then Sweet Baozi is the place for you. Located just a minute walk from Jimbocho Station, Sweet Baozi has been around for quite some time now. They make everything handmade and the chef uses the same recipe over the years, maintaining that same delicious taste it did years ago. They also serve one of their specialties called mizu gyoza, where they serve the gyoza swimming in mouth-watering broth. Sweet Baozi is located in 1-13 Jimbocho Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.
  • Okei – looking for something authentic and traditional? Then Okei is the restaurant for you. Just a three-minute walk from JR Itabashi Station, Okei serves up one of the best crispy gyozas in town. You can eat them on its own or order it with soup, ramen, or white rice. Pair it with beer and you’re good to go! Okei is located 2-12-16 Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.
  • Ichimireirei – with a variety of flavors ranging from tomato, seafood like scallops and shrimp, lemon, etc., Ichimereirei is a specialized gyoza restaurant. Just a three-minute walk from Shinbashi Station, Ichimereirei mostly serve traditional Chinese gyoza. You can choose whether to get them pan-fried or steamed. Both are delicious and give you that homey feeling once you take a bite of it. Ichimereirei is located, 3-19-2 Shinbashi Minato-ku Tokyo.
  • Kameido Gyoza – if you’re looking for something affordable but delicious, Kameido Gyoza is the answer to that question. With a serving of five pieces gyoza at a very affordable price, it’s no wonder this restaurant it always packed with people. Located just a minute walk from Kameido Station, Kameido Gyoza serves up juicy and crispy fried gyozas which is most recommended by people to pair with beer. If you want to be seated right away, better come early because you might wait too long but you know for sure you’ll be eating the best gyoza for the day. Kameido Gyoza is located in 5-3- 3 Kameido, Koto-ku, Tokyo.

She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.

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