Monday, 10 August 2009


I often jokingly remark that despite my brown hair and grey/green eyes, I'm part Chinese - or at least my stomach is! When I was 13 my father married a Chinese-Canadian woman, who happened to be a great cook. For the next 7 years most dinners at our house were eaten with chopsticks and accompanied by white rice. I was spoilt with delicious home-made mapo tofu, spicy eggplant, and basic meat/veg stir-fry. About once a month we'd have dinner with her parents and, if we were eating at their house the menu almost always included potstickers. We would go over hours before dinner and her father would have just about finished rolling out the dumpling skins. We'd all gather around the big dining room table and fold the dumplings - filling them with pork and vegetables, or shrimp, or even crab.

We would often fold a couple hundred dumplings at a time, lining them up on cookie sheets to freeze for later meals. Any that looked a bit funny, hadn't been folded properly, or were about to break open, would go into the soup-pot. The rest would be pan-fried - coming out golden brown and crispy and chewy and juicy and DELICIOUS. We'd bite off the very end, and use a small spoon to pour garlic soy sauce into the dumpling. We'd all end up smelling of garlic - as would the entire house - but it was worth it, a delicious meal and an activity that this teenager actually enjoyed doing with her extended blended family!

So when la Fuji Mama announced that this month's Washoku Warriors' challenge was wafu gyoza (and edamame and proper rice) I was THRILLED. When she offered the added challenge of making the gyoza skins from scratch I knew I had to try it. Since for me making dumplings is a group affair, and because gyoza must be eaten with beer and beer is best drunk with company, I enlisted the help of a good friend for this challenge.

My friend, while very much Japanese, is the daughter of a Taiwanese father who grew up in Japanese-controlled Taiwan before emigrating to Japan as a young man. Her mother's family adopted her father, thus giving him a Japanese name. His palate, however, belied his origins, and my friend grew up eating dumplings, Chinese sausages, steamed stick rice in banana leaves, and other delicacies. We've often gone for Chinese food together - always complaining about the dumplings, saying the skin was too thin and not nearly as good as what we used to eat at home. This challenge offered us the perfect opportunity to make the skins just the way we like them - thick and chewy!

Making the actual dough was easy. The hard part was forming it into circles that were even thickness and actually somewhat close to what is normally accepted to be a "circle." Things did not start out well, but a few ragged triangles later I remembered how my ex-step-mother's father (phew, that's a mouthful!) had held the small rolling pin and rolled in an arc - creating a somewhat concave circle that made it easier to fold (or at least easier to hold more filling!). We swapped back and forth - one rolling out skins and the other folding and as the evening progressed we got better at rolling out circles (although I'm fairly sure the beer hindered us in this respect). We both knew how to fold the dumplings, so that was easy. Frying them was fairly straightforward too, although since we had made our skins fairly thick, however, I did find we had to use a bit more water in the steaming stage and cook them a bit longer than Andoh had called for.

Since my "kitchen" is actually a number of cupboards, a sink, fridge, and two burners, all located in the hallway, we didn't have a lot of room to spread out. And since we had decided to double the recipe and were faced with a seemingly endless amount of dumpling dough and filling, we decided to start by making a dozen dumplings that we would then cook and eat before tacking the next round. The first round was gobbled up immediately (accompanied by both Andoh's rice vinegar and soy sauce dipping sauce as well as my family's garlic soy sauce) and then we were back into the kitchen for round two. Since we both love the gyoza's more strongly flavoured Chinese sibling, we added salt and pepper, along with some chopped garlic to the dumpling filling mixture. We found this gave the dumplings just a bit more zip. Having taken the edge off our hunger with the first batch of gyoza, we were able to take our time over batch two along with the other challenge items and a daikon radish and cucumber salad with pickled plum dressing.

Having eaten our fill we returned to the kitchen (which was by now entirely covered in a thin layer of flour and smelling strongly of garlic) to finish making the dumplings. Since I don't have an oven and thus don't have cookie sheets, we had to be a bit creative (adding to the feeling that we ended up using just about every dish I own), but we ended up freezing another meal's worth of gyoza. We chatted and joked as we rolled and folded, both agreeing we would have to do this again sometime. As we finished my friend asked me what time it was - she was wondering how soon she'd have to leave to catch a train home to the other end of Tokyo. Apparently, however, we'd been having far too much fun, as it was at least an hour past the time she'd have had to leave to catch the last train home. Out came a hotel toothbrush, a spare pair of pajamas, and the extra futon. Not too long after we were both fast asleep - with sated stomachs in an apartment that while the layer of flour has been removed, still smells of garlic!


Here's the photographic evidence for our gyoza-making, be sure to check out the other tales and photos over at La Fuji Mama's!

kneading the dumpling dough

rolling out "circles" (and in some cases that's a VERY loose term for the resulting shapes!)

the filling

perfectly folded

browned and then steamed

thick chewy skin with juicy meaty inside - topped with garlic soy sauce (left) or rice vinegar and soy sauce (right)

the complete meal (minus the one I had bitten into to show the filling for the previous photo and then had to finish off... and minus the rice that for some reason didn't make it to the photo shoot


  1. Wow! I usually cheat by buying the 'kawa'. Clever clever. Maybe when the kids are a bit older and I feel up for a fully floured kitchen we will give the whole monty a go.

    Thanks for commenting yesterday - I think a good night sleep (in the loosest sense of the word) has helped me feel a bit more normal today :)

  2. Hi Sarah! I'm in a Starbucks in Basel, and we're getting ready to leave town for the Swiss alps. I'm so glad that you got something good from your blended extended family - and your incredible dumplings made my mouth water! I'll have to catch up on all your blog posts next week. Enjoy your 'jiaozi' (Mandarin Chinese for dumplings), or 'guotie' (for potstickers, quite literally)!
    love and hugs,
    Cath (and Lorenz, another dumpling master)

  3. Those look so yummy!! I read your blog last night, they decided to cook some potstickers(not by scratch) for my lunch the next day. Got to the train station today and realized I left them in the fridge! Grrr. I'll have to go buy some gyoza now for lunch because I'm still craving them!

  4. Making dumplings is always fun with somebody to chat with. I've never tried the gyoza pleat so that was challenging for me. I am chinese and I am used to a stronger filling taste too. Your gyozas look perfect!

  5. wow! your dumplings look so beautiful. in fact your post inspired me to try to make the wrappers too... but with much less success. your gyoza feast slumber party sounded like a wonderful time.

  6. Gaijin Wife - I'm glad things are going better! Waiting on the whole gyoza making might be a good idea - it gets pretty messy even with adults (although in this case two rather clumsy ones!) It is good fun though, and a great family activity and I've found with my Girl Scouts that even picky eaters will eat things they claim to HAAAAATE if they've made it themselves!

    Cath - While rolling the skins I suddenly had an "aha!" moment and could clearly see your father rolling out the dough. I tried to immitate what I remembered and it got a lot easier from there on out.

    Coletters - the power of suggestion! Tee hee... what can I make you crave next? ;)

    Veron - The gyoza pleat is TOUGH! It took me a long while to get it down... But mostly it was the constant good-natured teasing of my ex-stepmother's mother as she exclaimed over each and every miss-fold. I can be a perfectionist and am VERY stubborn - I didn't like having all my faults pointed out to me so I had to make ones that wouldn't be criticized and relegated to the soup-pot!

    Foodhoe - The ones we cooked up that night were really yummy! Unfortunately we realized later that our dough had too much water and so when I cooked up the ones that had been frozen the skin tasted rather waterlogged - they would have been much better in soup. So next time I want to try the dough with less water and see if the second batch holds up better.

  7. ooo... i am a tofu super fan! sigh. i want the mapo tofu soooooo badly right now. with rice.

    Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.

  8. WOW (impressed look). Your eggplant dish looks so yummy.

    ooo... i am an eggplant super fan! sigh. i want the spicy eggplant sooooo badly right now. with rice.

    Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.

  9. Sophie -
    Unfortunately since I am alergic to eggplant (and tomatoes and peppers) I can no longer eat the spicy eggplant dish I mentioned (nor can I actually eat most mapo tofu sauce packets as they tend to contain ketchup). A friend shared her recipe for my all time favourite mapo tofu in the comments of a post of mine a while back, the link is I haven't made the dish myself, but am looking forward to doing so soon!