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!)
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