Japanese Food Gyoza?
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Gyoza has taken on regional variations as well as becoming a convenience food such as frozen gyoza. To make gyoza, wrap the ingredients with gyoza skin and boil/grill them. Vegetable gyoza is available to cater to vegetarians.
What is Gyoza?
In Japan, gyoza is pan fried. Gyoza is meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of round dough made of wheat flour, water, and salt. They may be pan fried, boiled, steamed, or deep fried. Depending on the cooking method, they are called yaki gyoza (pan fried), sui gyoza (boiled), or age gyoza (deep fried). There are other variations as soup gyoza and steamed gyoza.
Sui gyoza with thicker skin is the most typical in China. They are boiled, strained, and eaten with dipping sauce. They are often served as the main food in a meal. Gyoza is one of the most known Chinese foods, but it is also very popular in Japan. You will find them in restaurants, take-out stores, and frozen and refrigerated sections in grocery stores.
Homemade gyoza is also very common in average Japanese homes. In Japan, gyoza is typically pan fried and served as a side dish with dipping sauce along with a bowl of rice. They are first steamed in a pan with some oil and water. Then, they are browned in the same pan after removing the lid. Sauce is made with equal parts of soy sauce and vinegar with some hot sesame oil.
When gyoza was introduced in Japan, they used to use mutton. To mask the strong smell of the meat, they would often add garlic which was a typical ingredient used for that purpose. Garlic has become a common ingredient for gyoza, however, even though ground pork is now used instead of mutton.
Other ingredients usually include cabbage rather than Chinese cabbage with some Chinese chives.
The origin of gyoza dates back to the ancient Mesopotamian Civilization. In Japan, it was first introduced to Mitsukuni Tokugawa during the 17th century, and it became available to the average Japanese population during the early Showa era (1926-1989).
Although gyoza is often thought to have originated in China, they found food “wrapped and cooked in a rolled piece of wheat dough” in the archeological site of the ancient Mesopotamian Civilization. Similar foods also existed in India, Nepal, and Mongolia in the Southeast Asia for a long time.
It is presumed that gyoza was introduced to Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). One of the Shoguns in the 17th century, Mitsukuni Tokugawa, is believed to have been the first Japanese to eat gyoza.
Gyoza became a common food to the average Japanese during the early Showa era when the soldiers returning from China (Manchuria) recreated it to enjoy the taste they missed.
In China, left-over sui (boiled) gyoza is reheated in a frying pan. In Japan, people started to cook fresh gyoza by pan frying. Because of the ease of preparation, it became wide-spread.
Gyoza can have different filling or skin, and they can be pan fried in different ways. Today, it is available at the ramen noodle shops and gyoza specialty stores. It is also sold as refrigerated or frozen food. Gyoza has become a convenience food in the Japanese homes.
Types of skin and the frying method define the gyoza. It is preferred to have both crispy and chewy parts in the skin in a pan-fried gyoza in Japan. This makes it important to pay attention to the preparation of the skin and the frying method.
Gyoza skin is made with wheat flour, water, and salt. Chewiness and stickiness of the skin can be controlled with the water temperature when mixing with flour. Gyoza skin is made according to how the gyoza will be cooked. Pan-fried gyoza has thinner and slightly smaller skin to keep the meat juice inside and be crunchy when eaten. Gyoza is typically cooked by browning one side and steaming to heat it through. Cooking requires some attention since the amount of water and the temperature can affect the result.
This pan-frying method can be further divided into two categories. One is to brown the gyoza first before steaming then letting the water evaporate by removing the lid. Another is to steam it first and browning at the end. Since gyoza is often eaten at home, method of frying depends on each family to fit their taste.
There is another type of gyoza called hanetsuki gyoza (“with wings”) to obtain the desired crispiness. When it is steamed, flour or starch mixed with water is added to the pan to create crispy chips attached to the gyoza.
Gyoza Rakes on Different Forms to Fit the Japanese Culinary Culture. The Japanese returning from China spread gyoza in Utsunomiya (Tochigi Prefecture) and Hamamatsu (Shizuoka Prefecture known for Mt. Fuji). Other varieties of gyoza were also introduced with sprawling China Towns in Japan. Over time, gyoza took on different forms to fit the local’s taste in places such as Kobe and Fukuoka. Local specialties offer different skins or filling, are fried differently, or are served with unique dipping sauce.
Gyoza, introduced by the Chinese, has now become part of the Japanese culinary culture.
1. Utsunomiya Gyoza (Tochigi Prefecture)
Utsunomiya gyoza is well known throughout Japan. The city boasts many gyoza specialty shops. “Every Miyakko” (the citizen of Utsunomiya) has his or her favorite shop. Many of those shops only sell gyoza, and some of them sell nothing but yaki gyoza! There are many stories as to why gyoza became such a big deal in Utsunomiya. One of the reasons is that gyoza was a perfect food to give strength to the people who live in the extreme inland climate which is very hot in summer and very cold in winter. Another possible explanation is the division of military being stationed in Utsunomiya during the war. The soldiers returning from Northeastern China could have spread gyoza. For this reason, there are many gyoza specialty stores.
2. Hamamatsu Gyoza (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Hamamatsu gyoza is believed to have started as a street food. The civilians returning from China in the early 30’s of the Showa era sold it near the Hamamatsu train station. What makes Hamamatsu gyoza unique is the way they are all laid in a radial pattern on a frying pan when cooked and that they are served with bean sprouts. Although the filling contains lots of vegetables such as cabbage, the addition of pork makes it filling. It makes it guilt-free to keep eating because it is not too rich and is made of healthy ingredients. There are more than 300 gyoza shops in the city, and each offers its unique variation.
The Hamamatsu gyoza lovers joined together to create a volunteer organization called Hamamatsu Gyouza Society. They create and maintain the “Gyoza Map” and hold promotional campaigns to the rest of the country.
3. Fukushima Gyoza (Fukushima Prefecture)
There are gyoza shops with 40- to 50-year history in Fukushima. Because the war damage was minimal in the area, the soldiers and citizens returning from Manchuria opened many restaurants and bars in the black market there. Fukushima gyoza is served on a round plate, beautifully arranged in a radial pattern. This was believed to have been started by one restaurant, Manpuku, which has been open since 1953. It is cooked using little oil. The basic rule for the filling is to use 7 parts vegetables (mainly Chinese cabbage) and 3 parts ground meat. It is crispy and is loaded with the flavors of sweet Chinese cabbage and juicy ground pork. “Fukushima Gyoza no Kai (Fukushima Gyoza Society)” was established in 2003 to try to make Fukushima known for its gyoza.
4. Miso-Dare Gyoza (Hyogo Prefecture)
The pan fried gyoza is typically enjoyed with the sauce made with miso rather than soy sauce. It is very unique to this region. You can enjoy miso-dare gyoza in many parts of Kobe, namely Sannomiya, Motomachi, and Nankinmachi (China Town). Nankinmachi is where the miso-dare gyoza was believed to have been created, and it is lined with many gyoza shops. Miso-dare can have different variations depending on the ratio of the ingredients or the type of miso used. Each restaurant, even within the same franchise, may offer its own unique sauce. Vinegar and/or garlic may be added to the sauce. Miso goes so well with gyoza that you may wonder why you have never had gyoza this way before.
5. Tsu Gyoza (Mie Prefecture)
Tsu gyoza is made with a very large skin (15 cm in diameter) and is deep fried. The school board of Tsu (one of the main cities in Mie Prefecture) developed this large gyoza to make it easier to serve in school lunches. One piece is large enough for one serving. It has been a very popular item on the school lunch menu since its introduction in 1985 because of the crispy skin and juicy filling as well as its unforgettable size. City of Tsu has become known for Tsu gyoza since then, and it is served in many restaurants within the city. In 2010, the “Tsu Gyoza Kyokai (Tsu Gyoza Society)” was established to promote the city with the character named Tsutsumin, the spirit of Tsu gyoza.
6. Hanetsuki Gyoza (Tokyo)
Kamata has recently become famous for its gyoza following the lead of Utsunomiya. There are as many as 20 gyoza shops within the 500-meter radius of the Kamata JR station. Many people go there to enjoy the crispy gyoza “wings,” chewy skin, and juicy filling loaded with flavor.
7. Yahata Gyoza (Fukuoka Prefecture)
The Yahata area of the city of Kitakyushu is known as a steel town since the installation of the Government-run Yahata steel mill in 1901. Yahata gyoza has been the main staple to support the men working at the steel mill. Yahata gyoza is enjoyed in many different ways; from tetsunabe gyoza served on the hot iron pan, to gyoza with ramen noodle, cooked in pork broth. The common denominator is that the people enjoy Yahata gyoza with yuzu zest & chili pepper paste. The Yahata gyoza lovers created “The Yahata Gyoza Kyogikai (The Yahata Gyoza Council)” which offers the Yahata Gyoza Map featuring 22 shops in the area.
8. Hitokuchi Gyoza (Fukuoka Prefecture)
Restaurant Hountei, first developed this bite-size (“hitokuchi”) gyoza. It has been in operation since 1949 in Nakasu, Hakata. They are smaller than the regular gyoza and can be enjoyed in one bite. It has crispy yet chewy with flavorful filling. Being able to put the whole piece in the mouth prevents the meat juice from dripping. Ladies love the easy-to-eat, small size. It is served with your choice of sauce such as soy sauce and vinegar or ponzu citrus soy sauce. Try it with the local favorite, yuzu zest & chili pepper paste, which can be found at most gyoza shops in Fukuoka.
9. Susono Sui Gyoza with Jews Mallow (Shizuoka Prefecture)
City of Susono is located at the foot of Mount Hakone and Mount Fuji. There are more gyoza restaurants per capita in Susono than any other cities in Japan. The consumption of frozen gyoza is also higher than other cities in Japan. In this gyoza lover’s city, sui gyoza with jews mallow was invented. Dried and powdered jews mallow is mixed into the dough to make this skin. Filling contains the extract of green tea which is locally harvested. This gyoza is considered a health food loaded with fiber, minerals, vitamins, and calcium. It is gaining popularity as a regional gourmet food for its healthy ingredients and the signature chewiness.
Susono Gyoza Club promotes the city of Susono through this gyoza and attends various promotional events.