Our Global Gourmet recipe series is designed to bring the foods we loved while traveling into our own kitchens and onto our own dinner tables. And since no meal is ever complete without a glass of wine to go with it, we’ve included wine, beer or spirit pairings as well.
The key to recreating International dishes at home is to start with an authentic recipe, adapt it to substitute ingredients you can’t find or don’t know how to work with, and simplify difficult techniques. Then it becomes more approachable and possible to make and enjoy at home.
This Global Gourmet recipe is a dish we fell in love with while traveling in Japan.
We spent three glorious days walking around Tokyo sampling all the Japanese food we could get our hands on. We had gyoza, yakitori, sushi, ramen – everything. It was so delicious. But the thing that stands out to me above everything is the gyoza we had at Harajuku Gyozaro. Keep reading to learn more about this amazing experience.
If you’d like to recreate our Tokyo foodie trek, you can do it with our 3-day foodie Tokyo itinerary.
Japanese Gyoza (Pan-Fried Dumplings)
There are so many different foods we love in Japan. It’s so much fun traveling there because of all the foods that are new to most of us, like Osaka’s favorite dish, okonomiyaki, or everyone’s perennial favorite, sushi. We also tried takoyaki, shabu shabu, gyoza, yakisoba, Kobe beef and so many other specialties that we can’t readily get anywhere else. But we always come back to one ultimate favorite thing to eat in Japan, and that’s gyoza.
While we were in Tokyo, we stopped at an extremely busy and cozy restaurant, called Harajuku Gyozaro. They are very well known for having some of the best gyoza in the city, which is saying a lot since there are dozens and dozens of options. At Gyozara, we sat at the bar that surrounds the kitchen, and we watched them make their famous gyoza for almost an hour.
Making Japanese gyoza is an art, just like all other Japanese cooking. The chef spends many years perfecting his craft, and the process is always the same, over and over again, to produce the best possible product. Watching the technique they use helped us learn what we need to do at home when we make gyoza ourselves at home.
They have a special grill that first pumps water into the pan to steam the gyoza. The steaming cooks the wrapper and gives it the perfect amount of chew. Once the water is cooked off, the gyoza begin to fry on the bottom, creating a crispy crust on one side only. That is the key to fantastic gyoza. Chewy on the top, crispy on the bottom.
⇒ Check out our shortcut guide to Tokyo to make planning a trip there easier.
How to Make Gyoza at Home
Sure, we don’t have the fancy equipment they have, but we can replicate it pretty well. A frying pan is all you really need.
Stuffing the gyoza is the time consuming part, but after you make a few and learn the technique, you’ll get faster at it. We like to make up a large batch and freeze half of them for later, since we’re putting in the effort. But you don’t have to make a bunch of them for it to be worth it. Even just making a dozen or two is relatively quick and easy. And they are so much better homemade than store bought ones.
For the filling, you can use just about any combination of ingredients that you like. We like pork gyoza with cabbage the best. You can also make chicken gyoza, or just vegetarian gyoza.
One of the most important steps is getting some of the water content out of the cabbage so it doesn’t make your filling soggy. To do this, salt the finely minced cabbage and allow it to sweat in a colander for at least 15 minutes to reduce the amount of water content. You can speed up this process by putting the cabbage in the microwave for 30 seconds first. Rinse the cabbage to get rid of the excess salt, then pat it dry with a paper towel, or squeeze the cabbage in a dish towel to remove even more water. It’s not necessary, if you don’t have time, but it does lead to a less soggy gyoza.
We use store-bought gyoza wrappers, or dumpling wrappers. You could try to make your own dough, but it would definitely add to the difficulty of this recipe. Plus, you’ll often find that the restaurants in Japan also use pre-made dumpling wrappers. If you’d like to try your hand at making the gyoza wrappers, here’s a great YouTube video to walk you through the process.
Put a dumpling wrapper in the palm of your hand and spoon some filling into the center. Don’t overfill it, or you won’t be able to close the wrapper around it. Judge the right amount by how easy it is to get it closed. You can always remove some, if necessary.
Use one finger to apply a small amount of water along the entire seam of the wrapper. Then close the wrapper around the filling in a half-moon shape, and pinch the very middle between your fingers.
I find it easiest to set the gyoza on a cutting board, with the seam facing me. Then with both hands, I pinch the top layer of the wrapper, to the left and right of the center, and fold them into the center. Do it one more time to make a fan shape facing toward the center on each side. Just two folds is enough. Then press the entire seam down to make sure it’s secure.
If you’re looking for more info on how to form the pleat on Japanese gyoza, check out these detailed instructions on Serious Eats. They don’t have to be perfect, as long as they stay together at the seams. So don’t worry too much if yours don’t look great. They’ll still taste great!
Once all of your gyozas are made, you can begin to cook them. Heat a little bit of cooking oil (peanut or vegetable) in the bottom of the pan. Add as many gyoza as you want. They don’t need to be spaced out. Fry them on medium for about 3 minutes to get a nice seared crust on the bottom.
Then add about 1/4 cup of water and place the lid on top of the pan. Steam them for about 3 minutes, then remove the lid and allow all of the liquid to evaporate. Cook an additional 2 minutes after all the water is gone to recrisp up the bottom. This process makes perfectly fried gyoza that are chewy on top, crispy on bottom.
Once they’re done, plate them up and serve them right away. They won’t stay crispy and warm very long, so it’s best to eat them immediately. Whatever you’ve made up that you can’t use right away can be frozen for up to a month or longer in an airtight bag.
As for the sauce to serve with your gyoza, you have a couple of choices. There is a packaged gyoza sauce that you can buy. I personally like to serve gyoza with Ponzu sauce, because it has a good mix of salty soy and bright acidity. But you can use any type of sauce you like. Less sodium soy sauce mixed with a bit of rice wine vinegar is a good alternative, as is sweet chili sauce. You can also play around with a combination of these ingredients to form your perfect gyoza dipping sauce.
Pairing Gyoza with Beer
When looking for a perfect drink pairing for gyoza, do as the Japanese do and drink a cold beer! In any gyoza restaurant in Japan, you can order a Japanese beer, like Sapporo or Asahi. It’s a great pairing for gyoza because it’s light and refreshing. Often gyoza are served as an appetizer. If you’re serving it at a dinner party as an appetizer, a small glass of beer will go very nicely. To stay authentic, stick with a Japanese beer, which are readily available at most grocery stores, or specialty beer stores, in the United States.
Japanese Gyoza Recipe
- 1 package gyoza wrappers
- 1 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/2 head of cabbage finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
- 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 cup water
For the dipping sauce
- 1/4 cup Ponzu sauce
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce mixed with 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
- Finely chop the cabbage and put it in microwave safe bowl. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Drain the cabbage in a colander and let sit for 5 minutes while preparing the rest of the filling. After 5 minutes, put the cabbage in a cheesecloth or thin dishtowel and ring the water out of cabbage.
- Put the ground pork in a medium mixing bowl. Add the garlic, ginger, remaining salt, and pepper. Mix well to combine. After draining the cabbage, add it to the pork mixture and stir it all together.
- Place a single dumpling wrapper in the palm of your hand. Spoon about 1 tsp of the mixture into the wrapper. Dip a finger in a bowl of water and lightly wet the outer edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half and pinch it together in the middle.
- Set the filled dumpling on the counter with the seam facing you. Pinch the top layer of the wrapper to the left and right of the center and fold in toward the center. Repeat this action one more time, so you have two folds on each side, aiming into the center. Firmly press the layers together to seal them.
- Heat a frying pan to medium heat. Add the cooking oil and allow to heat. Place the gyoza, flat side down, into the frying pan and cook for 3 minutes, or until a nice golden crust begins to form on the bottom.
- Add 1/4 cup water to the pan around the gyoza and place the lid immediately on the pan. Allow to cook an additional 3 minutes.
- Remove the lid to allow the water to cook off. Once the water is gone from the pan, allow the gyoza to cook for an additional 2 minutes, to recrisp the bottom.
- Remove the gyoza to a plate and serve with dipping sauce.
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.