The humble dumpling is popular throughout Asia and in Japan it is known as gyoza. Gyoza are not native to Japan and the name derives from the Chinese word for dumpling, giaozi. Gyoza first came into English print in 1965, in an article by a journalist for the Valley Independent newspaper (U.S.). The article describes observations during an overseas trip and as part of a street scene the journalist writes: “Some of the people walking past on their way to work were munching on a kind of meat dumpling called ‘gyoza’”. Strangely enough, this trip was actually to Beijing, China, so why the journalist used the Japanese term is a mystery; nevertheless, it goes down in history as the first appearance of gyoza in an English language publication.
It’s always difficult to write an article about food – especially as lunchtime approaches – and this is certainly true when the topic is gyoza. This simple bitesize treat is created from a small lump of pork or seafood mixed with Chinese chives, garlic and ginger all wrapped in a delicate skin of dough which is sealed and crimped around the edges. Gyoza are pan fried at the base, but water is added to the pan and a lid placed on top to steam cook the top of the dumpling. Deep-fried gyoza or steamed-only gyoza are also popular variations.
There may be foods in Japan that Western visitors to the country struggle to eat, but gyoza is not one of them. Its salty, heavy-taste can be a welcome relief from the lighter flavours of sushi and its contents less exotic. Gyoza do not normally constitute a main dish, however, but as an accompaniment to dishes such as ramen.
Ah, ramen and gyoza…in a competition of comfort foods, these would be the winners.
You can find gyoza in the frozen section of the supermarket, but this dish is best enjoyed at the end of a long day, in a backstreet restaurant – ramen, gyoza and a beer. Indulge in this calorie-fest then sit back with a smile on your face.