One of the best things about a trip to Japan is getting to eat all the delicious food that this country has to offer. Many people who travel here will already know about Japanese classics such as sushi, sashimi, and tempura, but what about some of the other dishes that Japan is famous for?
Just one of these is the delightful gyoza, a kind of Japanese dumpling. But what are gyoza? What can you expect when you order them? And what is the best way to eat these toothsome little dumplings?
Here is everything you need to know about eating gyoza...
What are gyoza?
Gyoza are little dumplings that are originally of Chinese origin. Usually gyoza are made with minced vegetables such as garlic, cabbage, and chives and ground meat like pork or chicken. The ingredients are contained in a paper-thin skin that is made from a basic dough of flour mixed with water.
Gyoza can come in many forms and can be cooked in different ways to achieve a slightly different result each time. Some of the most popular methods include grilling, steaming, frying, deep frying, or simply boiling the dumplings.
What are the different kinds of gyoza?
If you are going to eat gyoza in Japan then you need to know the different kinds available.
By far the best loved gyoza are called Yaki Gyoza which are pan fried. Only one side of the dumplings are fried in sesame oil so that they get a crisp bottom which is slightly charred and chewy. The top of the gyoza (that are not fried) lightly steam in the pan as water is added towards the end of the cooking time and the dumplings are covered.
Sui Gyoza are the closest thing that you will find to the traditional Chinese dumplings known as jiaozi. These are simply boiled to cook them and they are often served in a soup. It is more difficult to find these kind of gyoza all over Japan so you will need to go to a dedicated gyoza restaurant if you want to see these on a menu. Chinese restaurants will also usually serve them as well.
Age Gyoza are deep fried so that the skins are crispy and the gyoza crunch when you bite into them. You will find these kinds of dumplings in gyoza restaurants although they are not common on most other restaurant menus.
Where can I eat gyoza?
Many Japanese families cook and eat gyoza at home, but if you want to try them on a trip here then you can find them in many restaurants. One of the most popular places to find gyoza is in a ramen restaurant as they are often served as an accompaniment to the ramen noodle soup. Gyoza are usually served as a side dish and are not considered a main meal.
How do I order gyoza?
When you order gyoza in a restaurant they will usually arrive in the form of a one person or two person serving. On one plate you will probably find about 6 individual gyoza which are enough for one person or can be shared between two people. You can expect to pay anything from around ¥200 to ¥600 for a plate of gyoza.
One of the best things about gyoza is the dipping sauce that they are always eaten with. This includes a mix of soy sauce, vinegar, and a pungent and fiery chili oil known as raayu. Without the sauce gyoza are still delicious, but you may find them a little bland for your tastes and the dipping sauce really brings the flavors alive.
You will often get a large dish with the gyoza to make the dipping sauce yourself, and this is perfect as you can adjust it to your tastes. For example, if you like a little heat then you can add as much raayu as you want.
How do I eat gyoza?
The best way to eat gyoza is to pick up the whole dumpling with chopsticks and then dip the soft side (the side that hasn’t been fried) into the dipping sauce. Then pop the entire dumpling in your mouth. You may want to wait for the dumplings to cool slightly before you do this and watch out for the juices inside each dumpling that can be hot.
If you can’t eat a whole gyoza in one bite then you can bite it in half. You should not place the gyoza back on your plate however or dip it again in the sauce. Instead, hold it in front of you with your chopsticks until you are ready to finish it.
Where are the best places to eat gyoza?
If you are a real gyoza fan then you need to head to one of the two famed ‘gyoza towns’ in Japan. These are the towns of Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture and Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. Both of these places are known for their sumptuous dumplings and there are hundreds of different gyoza restaurants that you can try. They also serve a range of gyoza such as plump dumplings that contain soup, steamed gyoza, and fried gyoza.
Hamamatsu in particular is known for it specialty gyoza that come served with a topping of crunchy bean sprouts. You will also find a range of unconventional fillings here including things like mushrooms or seafood.