Friday, October 26, 2007

The Gastronati Do Japan!

Our latest meal was a Japanese extravaganza! As you can see from the montage, there was no shortage of sushi or other delectable delights. Peanut Butter and Jelly made the sushi - they even made my personal favourites - unagi (BBQ eel) and saba (mackerel). Squeaky and Calimocho brought the pickled carrots, and spicy eggplant and ginger-beef dishes. I made the yakitori skewers that I've blogged about before. This time I used enoki and shiitake mushrooms, leeks, green onion pieces and bacon. And S made gyoza from scratch! Gyoza is ground pork, hakusai (Japanese cabbage), ginger and onion in a light rice wrapper and pan-fried. It's really time-consuming, but for a special occasion it's worth it!

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes
Cooking time: about 25 minutes per panful

Serves six to eight people as a side or three to four as a main.

For filling:
350 g ground pork
1 onion, medium-sized and diced
a hunk of ginger, minced
8 large leaves of hakusai, thinly sliced
6 mushrooms, minced, preferably shiitake
1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar
a couple of pinches of salt

For wrappers:
gyoza wrappers
bowl of water and
1 human finger!

For dipping sauce:
1 part soy sauce
1 part rice vineagar
a few drops of La-Yu oil (a kind of hot sesame oil with chilis)

Mix all ingredients for the filling together in a big bowl.

You need gyoza wrappers from a Japanese or Korean market. Double Happiness is one of many brands you might find. Gyoza wrappers are small and round, they're about the width of your palm. Lay out 12 wrappers on a cutting board. Scoop a tablespoon or so of the mixture in the centre of each wrapper. The exact amount you find easy to work with may take a bit of trial and error.

This next part takes practice! This is the difficult part. Dip your one human finger in the water and wet a ring around the edge of the wrapper. Timing is important. Do about six wrappers at once. Now dry your finger. Next, fold each wrapper in half, pressing the wet edges together. Lay the closed gyozas aside on a plate with the seams facing up. Finish making your gyoza until you have enough to fill the frying pan you will be using, as shown in this Wikipedia photo.

The hard part is getting the right amount of water on the wrapper. You want the wetness to be just right when you fold it together. If it's too wet, it'll stick to your fingers and fall apart. If it's too dry, it won't stick to anything at all.

Put some vegetable oil in your frying pan and turn up the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, start putting in the gyozas by hand. Drag each gyoza in the oil to coat both sides as you place them. This will keep them from sticking together. Continue until you fill the pan. Then pour about one centimetre of water into the bottom of the pan. Put the lid on and let them cook 15 to 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take off the lid but keep the heat on. Now you want them to dry out and brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

As the first panful is cooking, make the dipping sauce and prep the second batch of gyozas. You can refrigerate the filling for one day and make the rest tomorrow, but don't freeze it.

When the gyozas have browned nicely, let them cool a bit, slide them all out onto a big serving plate, and serve with the dipping sauce.


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