Yaki gyoza

I wanted to make gyoza with some of the ground pork from the quarter hog we bought, but having never made them before, had to thumb through my (only) two Japanese cookbooks for help. One of my books is just a pretty sushi book, but my favorite Japanese cookbook (maybe one of my favorite cookbooks, period) is the Japanese Country Cookbook by Russ Rudzinski. Funny, I never noticed a gaijin wrote that book until just now when I cited it, but it’s really moot because these are authentic home recipes. Unfortunately, there’s no recipe for gyoza, so I decided to shoot from the hip (my always wont).

Scott and I had gyoza in Tokyo that were incredible (Hakata hitokuti gyoza, a specialty of the Fukuoka Prefecture), and though I knew I’d never recreate the perfectly crusted sheet of potstickers, I figure the worst I’d end up with would be cooked pork meatballs. I could live with that. I got started.

I mixed together the ground pork, a chiff of napa cabbage, some finely sliced scallion, (too much) minced garlic and some grated ginger and a little finely-minced shiitake. I added a splash each of tamari, Chinese black vinegar, sake, sesame oil and mirin, and some pinches of salt.

I just sort of went on instinct as to how to actually make the gyoza, but it worked okay. My Asian friends are probably squeamish at the lack of proper folds – I’m sure their grandmas’ nimble fingers get fifty creases along the top edge – but I think I did okay for a gaijin on her first try. I just took the gyoza wrapper, added a spoonful of filling, wetted one edge with a fingertip of water, and then pressed and creased until it was sealed. I steamed them in my bamboo steamer for about ten minutes (next time I will line with parchment to avoid the sticking) until they looked soft on top, then pan-fried them to get a nice crust on the bottom. I served these with a basic dipping sauce of tamari, rice vinegar and mirin and a quickle sopai no daikon that looks like every other sunomono I make, but with daikon instead of cucumber or green muskmelon.

Serve with a cold Sapporo and classic J-Pop hits.