I love dumplings. I really do. But finding the time to make them seems close to impossible. The one time I made wantons were at a friend’s house. It’s always good to make them with a couple of friends since we Asians tend to make a ton of these things at a time and looking at a large bowl of filling can be daunting if not tedious to work with. The “Hungry” Hubby, by the way, is banned from making dumplings since he made his unwillingness to do such manual work known by pasting two wrappers together and making his own design.
As luck would have it, my first recipe as a Washoku warrior (a group cooking from Elizabeth Andoh’s book) was to make homemade gyoza – a dumpling I’ve always enjoyed at a restaurant, a friend’s house or gasp (!) microwaved. I was looking forward to this challenge as I’ve always wanted to make gyoza before. We were given a choice to make or buy our gyoza wrappers.
Never thought I would make my own wrappers, but I did! This part was challenging because I did not know what to expect specially after kneading the dough a while that it became too tough to roll into a log and would have taken two people to pull it on either end to get it to 12 inches. Definitely did something wrong here but since it was my first attempt I wasn’t overly concerned. The recipe could be found at La Fuji Mama’s .
So on to the main part of the gyoza filling. It looked relatively easy, right? Mince some of the ingredients and mix. But working with wakame seaweed was a new experience for me and I realized it wouldn’t get ground in the food processor. I tried to smash it to pieces but they kept on bouncing off the countertop. I was doubtful that I was headed the right direction when my cabbage-leek-wakame blend appeared very watery after running it through the food processor. In fact, when everything was blended together ,the whole filling seemed so packed with moisture that when I threw it on the surface of the chopping board to tenderize the filling it gave an audible splat and I was surprised none of the mixture backfired into my face.
But that was not my biggest problem. I took out my gyoza wrappers and was miffed to find out that they’ve become so stuck together that it took careful peeling to get them to separate and I did suffer more casualties than I wanted. I’m pretty sure I dusted them with enough flour but that seemed to have been absorbed by the wrapper. Much to learn about these dumpling wrappers.
I was excited to get started pleating. It took me a while to figure it out. My first one did not have any pleat at all. Why? Because when I pressed the center, both sides already sealed shut so I just sighed and pinched them firmer.
The next one was not any better, I got 1 pleat.
For the third one, I decided to pay more attention when I pinched the center. And with nimble fingers, managed to make 3 pleats on the right side and then without thinking turned the gyoza and pleated on the left side until …WTF! Why are the pleats on opposite sides?!
After that I stopped counting but in the end as my fingers got more coordinated I managed to turn out pretty decent ones some may have 6 pleats , others 5 or 4 but as long as they are sealed shut – I was happy.
Cooking them wasn’t as scary as I thought (adding water to a hot pan with oil). I did wonder if I had the pan too hot because the water I added evaporated almost as soon as the water stopped sizzling. I have a fear of undercooked pork and I may have been too zealous about cooking it longer.
The verdict: The filling was a bit bland but I did think my mixture was watery to begin with so I don’t think it was the recipe. And I did overcook my dumpling as the pork filling was dry. Nothing a little gyoza sauce can’t fix.
This was a great learning experience, the gyoza wrapper was a bit tougher, but definitely tastier than store-bought. My thanks to Rachael of La Fuji Mama for picking this fantastic challenge. She has a round up of the group’s individual rendition of the Wafu Gyoza on her site.
(some of you must be wondering where’s the dipping sauce…it was late at night…I forgot to include it in the picture)