Gyoza(餃子) is the Japanese version of the Chinese dumpling Jiaozi(饺子). Better known as "potstickers" in the US, they're delightful little dumplings made with garlicky meat and vegetables, wrapped in a thin noodle-like wrapper with pleated edges. I created this meatless version for a vegan client, but they turned out so well, I may never use pork in my gyoza again!
That's because these Japanese potstickers are perfectly suited to going meatless, thanks to a filling that is brimming with the pungent flavors of garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. Add in some umami enhancers like powdered shiitake mushroom and soy sauce, and these dumplings couldn't possibly be accused of being bland, even by the most ardent carnivore. In this dish, the challenge wasn't in the flavor department, but in the texture. For this, I enlisted the help of my recent go to for vegetarian ground meat, paired with some quinoa.
By freezing the tofu and defrosting it, it takes on a crumbly spongy texture that's close to ground meat. While it lacks the firmness of cooked ground meat, the quinoa fills in with its toothsome texture. The quinoa not only lends a meaty firmness, it adds a ton of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and if you use red quinoa it even has the color of meat.
I know a lot of people are intimidated by the thought of folding these dumplings, but it's not hard, and after you've done a few dozen, you'll get pretty fast. In case you're wondering if you can skip the pleating and just fold them in half, the pleats actually serve a purpose beyond their decorative value. When you cook the gyoza, they need to sit in the pan with the folded edge facing up. If you merely fold the dumpling in half, they won't have a flat side. By pleating the seam, you create a convex side and concave side, with a crescent shaped flat surface on the bottom. This allows the gyoza to sit neatly in the pan without falling over.
Steaming the gyoza results in an al dente noodle-like wrapper, while deep-frying creates a crisp wrapper. But why settle for one when you can have both by steaming AND frying. The process is simple, just start off frying them until they take on a bit of color, add some water and steam then till the top is done, then let the remaining water evaporate until the bottoms crisp up golden brown. With a crisp base and tender top, you get the best of both worlds in every bite.
- Freeze the tofu overnight. Defrost, thoroughly wash and squeeze as much water out of the tofu as you can. See my post on "vegetarian ground meat" for more detailed instructions.
- Wash the quinoa and cook it in 1 cup of water. Add it to the bowl with the tofu when cooked.
- Boil the cabbage until it's not crisp anymore, but not until it's fully soft (about 1-2 minutes). Drain it and run under cold water so it's cool enough to handle. Shake out of the excess water but do not squeeze. Mince the cabbage and add it to the bowl with the tofu and quinoa.
- Add the scallions, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, sake, potato starch, salt and white pepper to the bowl. Use a Microplane to grate the dried shiitake into a powder and add it to the bowl.
- Put on a food-safe glove and mix the filling with your hand, using a kneading action to coax the crumbly mixture to come together. It will never stick together like a meat-based filling, but it should hold its shape when scooped together with a spoon.
- If you're right handed, place 1 wrapper in the palm of your left hand, then place a spoonful of filling into the center of the wrapper.
- Dip the fingers of your right hand in a bowl of water, and wet the entire rim of the wrapper. This is what seals the pleats into place.
- Continue holding the dumpling in your left hand and fold the wrapper in half but don't seal the edges yet.
- Pinch the left edge shut and hold it shut with your left thumb and forefinger.
- Fold a pleat with your right thumb and forefinger.
- Pinch the pleat shut with your left thumb and forefinger. While using the fingers on your right hand to keep the filling from squeezing out.
- Continue pleating and pinching until you've reached the right edge. Repeat until you run out of filling or wrappers. If you're not going to fry them right away, put the dumplings on parchment paper and leave some space between each one to keep them from sticking. You can freeze them like this and transfer them to a freezer bag after they're frozen.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil to non-stick frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the gyoza in rows.
- Fry until the gyoza are just starting to turn tan on the bottom. With a lid at the ready, add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and immediately cover with a lid. The oil is going to spatter quite a bit so be careful and use the lid as a shield to protect yourself.
- Let the gyoza steam for 2 minutes. If the water runs out before the 2 minutes are up, crack open the lid and add a little bit more.
- After steaming, remove the lid and let the remaining water burn off. Let the gyoza fry in the remaining oil until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy. Plate with the crispy side up so they don't get soggy.
- To make the sauce for the gyoza, combine equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar and add chili oil to taste.