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What are Gyoza? Unwrapping the Japanese Dumpling

Gyoza or dumplings snack with soy sauce

Gyoza, the Japanese culinary gem, has captured the hearts of food enthusiasts worldwide with its delectable crescent shape and exquisite flavor profile. A close cousin to the Chinese dumpling, gyoza are a testament to the delicious results of cultural exchange, filled with a harmonious blend of minced meat and finely chopped vegetables, all encased in a thin dough wrapper. Pan-fried to achieve a tantalizing contrast of a crispy bottom and a tender, steamed top, these bite-sized delights are often served with a side of soy-based dipping sauce that perfectly complements their savory filling. In this article, we delve into the world of gyoza, unfolding the secrets behind their popularity and exploring the various ways in which they can be prepared and enjoyed.

Gyoza: What is it? 

Gyoza is a delicious little snack that originated in Japan. This Japanese dish is basically a dumpling that has been fully stuffed with vegetables, and often ground meat such as chicken, duck, or pork.  That being said, whilst these are called dumplings, they are far from the likes of the dumplings we have here in the United States. They are actually more like potstickers than the dumplings you know and love. 

What are potstickers, we hear you ask…well, potstickers are a Chinese dish that is also known as Chinese pan fried dumplings. They are plump little cases filled with minced veggies and meat and served as an appetizer or side.  They became very popular here in Japan when soldiers stationed in Manchuria during world war two were fed them and loved them. This led to them coming back home to the to rave about them and recreate them.  Gyozas are very similar to this but are often smaller in size and with thinner dumpling cases or skin. This means that they can get crispier. There is often more flavor used on them, too, such as garlic.

The different types of gyoza

There are three main types of gyoza that are enjoyed by people worldwide. All of the recipes remain the same or at least very similar. It is just the way that they are cooked that changes.  Of course, the way that you eat gyoza is up to you, and it will fully depend on your personal preference. There is a method to suit everyone. The three most popular are: 

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Deep fried

Fried Gyoza
Fried Gyoza

These are also known as Age Gyoza. They are as crispy as they come as they have been deep fried. For many people, this is too crispy for gyoza, and people do not tend to make them this way at home. You will, instead, typically find these at a restaurant. 

Pan fried

Pan fried gyoza, or Yaki Gyoza, as they are also known, is by far the most widely known method of cooking gyoza. It is quick, easy, and super tasty. They get pan fried in a skillet with cornstarch and water. This allows the inside of the gyoza to be soft but allows the outside to be crisp and tasty. 

Boiled 

Boiled gyoza is somewhat underrated in my opinion. They do not get the credit they deserve because they are not as crispy and do not have the same golden brown appearance as their fried counterparts.  That being said, boiled gyozas are equally delicious with their tender skins and soft juicy insides. They are often served in a light but flavorful broth. 

Gyoza Sauce

gyoza with ponzu sauce

Gyoza sauce is one of the best parts of gyoza. Technically, gyoza can be dipped into any sauce you want, but it is most common to see them with a soy sauce-based condiment or with a specific sauce known as Ponzu.  The soy sauce-based dip is typically soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. If you would prefer Ponzu you can make this too. 

Ponzu sauce is citrus based and can be made without the use of soy sauce, making it suitable for those trying to avoid it. However, it still has that wonderful umami flavor thanks to the mirin, rice vinegar, katsuobushi, kombu, and citrus fruits (usually yuzu or lime and lemon together if you cannot find yuzu).  Umami is something that is so important in Japanese cuisine. Soy sauce is one of the main umami flavors, as is Worcestershire sauce and tamarind. Umami, if you don’t know, is a flavor profile that is used to describe something sweet, sour, and savory, all at the same time. 

As well as dipping your gyoza into this sauce, you can also pour the leftovers over any other meals you are eating alongside it such as noodles. Gyoza is often served on a bed of shredded veggies, including carrots, cabbage, and even pickled ginger. You should dip these veggies into your sauce. 

Where and when to eat gyoza 

Gyoza can be served both as a main meal and as a side dish. You may find it as a main course at large family gatherings, or perhaps as an okazu, which is basically a side dish. Some people may even eat gyoza as a sort of starter course before they have their main. You will also find gyoza as a popular meal accompaniment at ramen restaurants, sushi joints, and izakaya (this means a bar or a pub). They are super easy to eat and so they work well as finger food and appetizers at many different eateries and social places. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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