Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Difficult" foods Gyoza Dumplings or Potstickers

You know... those foods that look like they might be difficult.  They really aren't always that difficult.

Anyone here ever had gyoza, or potsticker dumplings as they're sometimes called?  Those little half-moon shaped steamed dumplings with veggies and meat in them that they serve at Japanese restaurants?

They look like they might be difficult, huh?  They're not.  And they're CHEAP!

Here's what you need:

  • 1/4 lb ground meat.  Typically these are made with pork, but I've used chicken and it tastes just fine.  
  • 2 green onions - chopped
  • 4-6 leaves of cabbage (the dark green outer leaves preferrably).  People rip these off all the time, and just leave them laying in the cabbage bin.  These leaves have the most nutritional value, and cook up best for this particular recipe. 
  • 2-ish cloves of garlic - minced
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce or Tamari
  • about 1/4 tsp each ground ginger, salt and pepper (though I usually skip the salt since the Tamari or soy generally adds plenty of salt
  • 1 tsp or so of sugar (sounds weird, but it works I promise)
  • I also like to add several healthy shakes of good hot pepper.  Scotch Bonnet is a particular favorite. Anything with solid fire in it, just not a whole lot of it. 
  • Sesame oil (or other vegetable oil, but sesame oil tastes *perfect* with this.  Any oil you cook with lends its own flavor, and sesame tastes way better than plain vegetable oil.  Olive oil just doesn't taste right at all.)
  • Gyoza wrappers (wonton wrappers will also work).  These are usually available at your local Asian market.  They also make an appearance in the health nut section of Kroger and very rarely Walmart.  DO NOT BE FOOLED!!!  These "no animal byproduct" health conscious substitutes are GARBAGE!  They disintegrate when you cook them, and where they don't disintegrate, they turn into a plasticy type of glass that can cut leather.  

If you're feeling really industrious, just make your own.  They're about $2-$3 dollars for a package of 200 wrappers at the Asian market.  So, they're not expensive.   But if you have to drive three hours to find some, then you may as well have just thrown the gas money away, because all they are is flour and water.  Ding!  That's it.  Totally complicated.

  • 2c All Purpose Flour - Sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • several cups of boiling water
  • a damp cloth
  • patience!!!!!

Above, you'll see everything I needed for actually prepping the gyoza, aside from the filling ingredients.  If you look at my rolling pin, you'll see that there are two thick rubber bands around each end.  This lets me be completely inattentive while rolling the gyoza out.  The rubber bands are the same thickness I wanted my pastry.  They keep my dough even and prevent me from rolling them too thin.  This is very useful!  Of course, it only works if whatever you're trying to roll out is no wider than your rolling pin, but gyoza wrappers are only 3-4 inches in diameter. The handy dandy little dumpling press there was a really cheap investment.  It came in a set of four different sizes for $6.  They're perfect for perogi, gyoza, pies, and all sorts of other little filled goodies.  They speed the process up remarkably.  I have stuffed and folded dumplings by hand, and believe me, these little cheap plastic hoojies make a difference!

Sift two cups of all-purpose flour into a bowl.  Mix in your salt.

 Slowly stir in boiling water by half cups until your dough forms a ball.  The original recipe called for 1c water.  I used nearly 2c down here in central Texas.  You might need more or less, so play with it.

 Cover the bowl with a wet cloth, and let it rest for 1 hour.  While you're waiting, skip down to the filling.
 Now the truly tedious part begins.  It's not hard, but it's time consuming.  Flour your work surface.  You'll see I have a biscuit cutter in the picture.  If you want pretty round wrappers, that could help.  But my biscuit cutter turned out to be a little too small, so I didn't use it.  Turn your dough out and knead flour into it until it's smooth.  About 5 minutes is really plenty.  You just want it elastic and workable.
 Roll your dough into a log (this makes it easier to divide)
 And divide it into 40 slices, as equal as you can.  Use a really sharp knife, or just pull it into wads.  Whatever works.  Then roll these out into about 3 inch circles.  Use LOTS of flour!  You want the surface to be dry and powdery, not sticky.
This is not what gyoza wrappers from the store look like.  They would be laughed at in Japan, but I'm not in Japan.  I am not entering Dim Sum contests for beautiful dumplings, and my husband ate all of them, so let them be ugly.  Taste is more important ;-)  And just a note, don't do like I did and stack them all in one stack.  The weight of the ones above end up squishing the bottom ones together too much, and I couldn't peel them apart.  Also, the amount of dough this makes is enough for two batches of the filling.  So, either double the filling, or half the dough if you want it to come out somewhat even. 

 Above you see everything you'll need for gyoza filling.  If you bought your wrappers, your recipe would start here.  Less is more in Asian cooking.  The flavors of the foods are more important than masking the ingredients with spices. The cabbage leaves are finely chopped or shredded.  I use kitchen scissors for both the green onions and the cabbage.  I find it is safer for me than using knives... I cut myself.  A  lot.  And using a grater for just a few cabbage leaves is a pain in the butt.  I guess I could use the blender, but I was worried about turning them into mush.  You don't want them demolished, just in small pieces.  Some people even let the shredded cabbage rest overnight, then press it between towels to remove more moisture so their gyoza won't fall apart.  I don't do that, and while occasionally they fall apart, they still taste good.

Anyway, throw all this in a bowl, and mush mush mush mush mush.  Use your hands!  Don't be prissy and use a food processor.  You'll destroy the integrity of the veggies.  Squish it between your fingers (take your rings off ladies.  Dried ground meat is not fun to scrub out of settings or engraving).  Roll it into balls and throw it back in the bowl.  Get everything completely covered in mushed up animal bits, because that's what's going to hold the filling together into a nice little lump and keep it from oozing out of your dumplings as they cook.  If you're making your wrappers, you should have killed an hour by now, so go check on your dough.  If not, go scrub your nails and wait a little longer :-P
If your wrappers are made, or you bought them from the store, keep going.

 My dumpling press!  I LOVE it.  Folding these little boogers by hand takes a long time.  This is about a teaspoon of filling in a 3 inch wrapper.  Don't use much more than a teaspoon.  Not a small eating spoon, an actual measuring teaspoon.  The little cereal spoon is too big.
 Moisten the edges of the wrappers, and squish them together.  If you skip the water, your dumplings won't stay shut.  I usually keep a small bowl of water on the counter and just dip my fingers in it and rub a thin layer of water around half the circle.
 Drizzle just a little sesame oil in a skillet and heat it up on high.  You want it good and hot.

 Put your dumplings in the skillet in a single layer.  Don't overlap them, because they'll stick together.  Let them cook on the high heat until the bottoms are browned, then turn them down quick.

Pour *just* enough water into the skillet to cover the bottom, then clamp a lid on it.  Let them steam at low med/low heat until all the water is evaporated.  This is tricky, actually.  You want them to cook fast enough that the dumplings don't start to fall apart, but not so hot that you burn them.  The good thing is meat cooks pretty quick, and you're really just steaming the dumplings.  You don't need to worry too much about them being raw, unless you just steam them WAY too hot.

Lastly, if you want it, dipping sauce.  It's a little rice vinegar, a little soy or tamari, a little sesame oil, and some hot hot pepper.  You can use hot pepper oil, too, but if you stir it good the flakes work fine.  I mix it really well and drizzle it over my dumplings instead of dipping it.  You want equal parts - ish of the soy and vinegar, and just a little thin layer of oil, then a healthy sprinkling of pepper.  I know that's not exact, but it's really a matter of taste.


  1. these look delicious! your tutorial is very helpful too.
    I just told Terri yesterday that I was wanting to try some new recipes and now I've got yours.

    just curious, are you living in military housing? Your white cabinets and formica are so pretty, much prettier than the weird pressed wood cabinets we had in Marine housing back in the 80's-90's.

  2. Yes! This is the "shitty" post housing we were warned about. OMG! It's so nice! We've got close to 1100 sq ft of living space, and 500-ish sq ft basement, closets everywhere, a PANTRY!!! A privacy fenced back yard with a patio, and a fenced and gated little front patio area, too. I love it!! There's even a half bath! I'm amazed, because it's nothing like the family housing that my family has been in, either. I haven't been able to find a single thing to complain about. I don't know if B actually believes I'm as tickled as I am. He looks at me like I'm nuts when I go off on some happy tangent about how nice it is here. :-D If this is poor housing, I don't know if I'll feel comfortable in "nice" housing.

    And the gyoza are really good. B says cabbage makes him gag, but he ate every single one of these, other than the 8 I snagged for myself. Then when I told him they were gone, he went checking, then asked if I could make more LOL.

  3. The green beans were fresh green beans. I drizzled a little bacon grease in the skillet, added about 1/4 c water, and liberally dusted them with salt, pepper, garlic, and hot pepper. I put a lid on them, but forgot to turn the skillet down from medium to low, so they charred a little bit. The charred bits actually tasted really really good, so it was a mess up that turned into a winner recipe lol. I guess I should call them "caramelized" like the fancy chefs say, but they were burnt :-P They just tasted good that way.

  4. B, your quarters sound really nice! I think you will be happy there.

    I've printed off your recipe and bought some sesame oil today and hope to cook these soon. But I just found out my inlaws are coming tomorrow and I better cook them just meat and potato type stuff but as soon as I can, I am cooking your potstickers.

  5. Have fun with them :-) My first batch was an interesting experience, but they get easier. As long as you keep the spices simple, they always turn out tasting surprisingly good.


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