I've missed 2 IMBB  days, so this time I had to jump in. When the theme for this month, You're Just The Cutest Dumpling  was announced by Jarrett  of Food Porn Watch , there was only one dumpling I could make: the gyoza. Specifically, this is a Japanese-style gyoza dumpling.
My family has deep emotional ties to the gyoza. My sister Mayumi loved gyoza when she was a teenager. While her schoolmates put little Hello Kitty dolls and such on their school bags, she made a felt gyoza dumpling and hung that from the handle of her bag. I didn't go that far, but I've always loved this little meat-and-vegetable filled dumpling.
Gyoza originated in China, but as with many other things it's gotten assimilated into everyday Japanese cooking. It is closely related to shumai and wonton. The filling is usually pork based, with cabbage, green onion, garlic or garlic chives, and ginger, though there are variations. I've even had gyoza filled with lettuce and tuna, and it was pretty good. In Japan we usually use thin, ready-made gyoza skins rather than handmade ones, because a thin skin is considered to be desirable. Besides, making all those little dumplings is quite a job so not having to make the skins too saves some time. You can get the skins from Japanese, Korean or Chinese food stores. Try to get ones that are a bit big in diameter, especially if you are a beginner, since it does take a bit of experience to form the dumplings.
Gyoza dumplings can be boiled or deep-fried, but the usual way is to steam-fry them so that they are crispy on the bottom and smooth and slippery on the top. This makes for a wonderful texture. To achieve this please read through the cooking directions; it can be a bit tricky, and these dumpling can stick hard to the frying pan if not done right.
Japanese-style gyoza dumplings
This makes 72 dumplings (3 packs of 24-piece gyoza skins worth). I like to make a lot at one time and freeze batches.
Blanch the cabbage leaves until wilted in boiling water. Drain, let cool then squeeze hard to get out as much moisture as possible. Finely chop the cabbage and the green onions. Grate the ginger and garlic cloves. Mix all the ingredients except for the gyoza skins and oil for frying in a bowl thoroughly. Let marinate for about and hour if possible.
Make your dumpling assembly station ready: you'll need a little cup of water, a large platter, the gyoza skins, the filling and a teaspoon. Keep the skins under a damp cloth or in the plastic pack they come in to keep them from drying out.
Put a skin on your palm and moisten half of the edge with water. Put a teaspoonful of filling in the middle--don't overfill them or you'll have trouble closing them up. Fold over in half and pinch firmly in the middle. Now, fold over the skin on the side facing you, from both sides, pinching firmly as you go. Your aim is to create a dumpling that is flat on one side and plump on the other. Note: if the filling is a bit watery and dribbling out of the dumpling, mix in a little cornstarch.
To steam-fry the dumplings, heat up a frying pan with a little peanut or other vegetable oil in it. A non-stick pan is very good for this. Put the dumplings flat side down into the pan, slightly overlapping. Cook over high heat for a couple of minutes untl the bottoms have started to crisp up. Lower the heat to low.
Now, get a cup with about 1/2 cup of water, and a lid for the frying pan. Hold the water in one hand and the lid in the other, and rapidly pour the water into the pan and immediately put the lid on. Let the dumplings cook on low for about 10 minutes, until the tops looks sort of transparent and puffy (when you open the pan the dumplings will rapidly un-puff.) When the water is almost all gone, turn the heat up to high to evaporate the rest and really crisp up the bottoms. Pry the dumplings carefully off the pan with a spatula and serve crispy side up on a plate.
To eat, dip the dumplings into a soy sauce and vinegar mixture or soy sauce and a few drops of hot chili oil called Ra-yu. Plain soy sauce will work too, or even soy sauce with some Tabasco in it.
The traditional accompaniment for gyoza is shredded raw cabbage, but I prefer to serve a plain green salad with it. And rice, of course.
If you prefer to boil the gyoza, simply drop into boiling water and cook for a few minutes. Boiled gyoza seems to go better with a soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce.
Tip: to freeze extra gyoza, put them on a tray (metal is best) in a single layer; once frozen you can put them in a freezer bag or plastic container. This way they are not stuck together, and you can take out just as many as you want.