Friday, June 19, 2009

Gyoza! Gyoza! Read all about it!

It started a couple of days ago. I was depressed for various reasons, and when I'm depressed, I get food cravings. The cravings were so massive I had dreams about it for two nights straight. (And another one involving a rather cute doctor and a large black grizzly being injured then left on the side of the road, but that's a story for another time/blog.) This time it wasn't chocolate or peanut butter, but dumplings. The pan-steam-fried potstickers or gyoza bursting with pork juice and loaded with veges.

But life being life, there was no time to go out and gather up ingredients. As for the pre-made frozen type... there's no way I'd buy that out of my own volition, when dumpling and wonton making is like a culinary reflex.

Then yesterday, I got a question about gyozas. A recipe for gyoza fillings, actually. I was stumped, for a moment.

While I can name the ingredients in a filling, I couldn't do the same for the actual quantities. It's always been just meat (minced from the store or hand minced), then a slurp of cooking wine, sprinkle of salt, sugar, and pepper, an egg (or two, if it's a big batch), water, and sesame oil. It was the same for the vegetables: my mother never told me exactly how much was needed, it was always this much meat=that much vegetables chopped up. There was no recipe. And it turned out perfect every time.

Gyoza with Pork and Cabbage Filling
Makes about 40
200g pork mince
1/6 small cabbage, finely shredded
40 dumpling/gyoza skins, approx 8-9cm in diameter
1 egg
1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
large pinch of pepper
4-5 tablespoons chicken stock/water
2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon cooking oil

1. In a large bowl (preferably deep rather than overly wide), mix the pork mince, cooking wine, sugar, salt and pepper well.
2. Make a small well in the middle of the mince, and place the egg in the well. Beat slightly before mixing it into the pork mince, until well incorporated. Continue stirring the mince in one direction, until the mix feels slightly "elastic" and offers slight resistance when pushed with a wooden spoon/chopsticks.
3. Add stock or water to the mince, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until the liquid has been completely incorporated into the mince before adding the next. Once all the stock or water has been added, mix in the sesame oil. It should look similar to the second picture above.
4. Add the shredded cabbage. The cabbage should not be too long (no more than 5cm in length), and very finely shredded (no more than 2mm wide). Mix through the mince well, until evenly distributed.
5. To wrap the dumplings (this is by no means definitive; merely what I believe works the best.)

Place the wrapper in your hand, so that the small well between your fingers and palms is covered by the centre of the wrapper. Put a heaped teaspoon of filling slightly off the middle, towards the bottom.

Fold the bottom over to the top, place your thumb and second finger to secure only the middle of the arc by a fingertip.

With your other hand, make a small fold about a quarter of the way on the arc of the semicircle. 

Follow the natural fold to "pleat" by pushing the skin down.

And it should end up like this:

Then repeat on the other side. The dumplings should sit on its own quite well.

6. For potstickers, heat some cooking oil in a pan until almost smoking hot. Place the dumplings in the pan as it sits naturally. Allow it to pan-fry until the bottoms are crispy and golden, then add 1/2 to 1 cup of water (depending on the size of the pan and number of dumplings) over the dumplings and cover. Cook over medium to high heat until all the water has evaporated, and bottoms are well crisped. Serve immediately with vinegar and chili oil dipping sauce, if preferred.

By all means, these babies can be steamed or boiled.

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