September 28, 2011

Gyoza - Japanese Dumplings

As an ABC (Australian Born Chinese), as many like to call it, I have fond memories of helping mum out in the kitchen whenever it was dumpling night at home. She would have the minced filling and wrappers ready on the kitchen bench and we would bond over endless pleating and folding. Mum would then pan-fry the dumplings to make them all crunchy and golden at the base, then finish off with steaming by pouring in a cup of water.

I was always so excited because it was a change from the usual rice/meat/vegie combinations that we were used to eating for dinner every night. My brothers and I would have competitions, trying to out-dumpling each other by seeing who could eat the most. Being double my size, they always won, but it goes to say that I did not give up without a tough fight!

So, I have a soft spot in me for dumplings (but to come to think of it, who doesn't?). Learning to pleat one properly with even folds is much like riding a bike. Once you've mastered the basic skills, you will always be able to gain back the momentum no matter how long it is between each occasion. The trick is to get yourself into a rhythm, setting up a small bowl with plain water, to dampen the skins, next to the one with the filling, then a large plate to hold all the wrapped morsels. I also find using a blunt knife to transfer the teaspoon of filling onto the dumpling skin works better than with a spoon.

Here's a recipe, based on the basics of making Gyoza, which are Japanese dumplings that are traditionally filled with just pork mince, cabbage, chives, garlic and sesame oil. For a twist, add or substitute in other ingredients like fresh chopped prawns, beef mince, chicken, mushrooms, corn, garlic, ginger, leek or garlic chives - just don't forget to increase the seasoning to balance out the flavours!

Serves 4 (as main) or 10 (as starter):
- 300g good-quality minced pork
- 2 tbs light soy sauce
- 1 tbs sake
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- ½ coriander stems and leaves, finely chopped
- 325g Chinese cabbage (about 6½ cups, ¼ of a medium sized), finely chopped
- 50 gyoza wrappers
- Vegetable oil
- 1 cup water or stock, for steaming

Using your hands, combine the pork, soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, sugar, white pepper, egg, spring onion, coriander and cabbage in a large bowl. Really get your fingers into it to ensure an even distribution of ingredients throughout the filling. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Set up a small bowl with plain water in it. Dip your finger into the water, take a Gyoza wrapper from the stack and wet the edge of one side with your finger. Then place a teaspoon of pork mixture in the centre of the wrapper.

Fold the wrapper over, encasing the filling, so that the edges meet to seal the dumpling together.

Use your thumbs and forefingers to press around the filling to ensure that all of the air has been removed from the dumpling and that nothing will seep out when you cook it.

Then proceed to crimp the edges of the dumpling to ensure a tight seal, working your way from one end to the other. Use one thumb to pleat, and the other to press down on each pleat to hold it in place.

If you are preparing a large batch of dumplings, cover the wrapped ones with a wet tea towel to prevent the skins from drying out while you are making more.

At this stage, you can freeze any extra dumplings to be consumed another day. Simply place them in a single layer, without touching each other, on a tray into the freezer. Once frozen, gather the dumplings together into a plastic bag or container. This method prevents the delicate skins from sticking together and tearing when trying to pull apart to cook.

Once frozen, the dumplings are best cooked straight from the freezer. This way, the base crisps up more and the ice particles that have formed on the skin help to moisten it and tenderise the dumpling while cooking!

To cook the dumplings, heat a dash of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the dumplings down in a single layer and allow to cook without touching for 2-3 minutes. Then shuffle them around a little to ensure they aren't sticking to the pan.

When the bases are crusty and browned, pour in enough water or stock to come up about 5 millimetres from the bottom of the pan.

Cover with a tight lid, reduce the heat to a low-medium and cook for 5 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated and cooked the raw meat filling inside. Carefully remove the dumplings from the pan, and repeat the same process with the remaining dumplings.

It is best to serve the dumplings while they are still hot! Make a dipping sauce out of soy sauce, ChinKiang black vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, chopped fresh coriander (optional) and sliced fresh red chilli (optional)

Extra Crispy Gyoza

Check out this super old photo of my first ever batch of dumplings!


Date visited: July 27th 2009

187 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9639 6811
Food: Modern Australian with Asian influences

White and whole grain sourdough was served with a parmesan, garlic and rosemary infused olive oil and a trio of condiment dishes: seaweed and dashi salt (with sesame seeds and toasted fish flakes); dried chilli and yellow sugar mixture; and prickly ash (flavoured with sichuan pepper)

Amuse bouche - closer detail below

Japanese inspired oyster shooter with a soba noodle nori roll

Cube of daikon with lotus root and seafood broth

Seared scallops with spiced corn puree, chorizo and black vinegar dressing, topped with a hot and sour salad

Wild mushroom tortelli with wagyu salami, crispy lotus root and a soft herb salad

Fried polenta with sauteed mushrooms, crispy parmesan wafer, peas and a poached quail egg - finished off with a mellow veal jus, chervil and and dill

Pan-fried sea bream with a seared scallop, creamed jerusalem artichoke, caviar and chive oil

Seven score Wagyu beef with spinach and crispy taro chips

From left, going clockwise and into the centre: Caramel parfait with confit apple, salted popcorn and a rice paper tuile; creme brulee with jerusalem artichoke crisps; *cannot recall the next two items :(* ; cherry ripple ice-cream with rosewater turkish delight; bittersweet dark chocolate torte with strawberry sorbet

Petit four - chocolate truffles

Brisbane - New Farm Deli and Cafe

Date visited: July 15th 2009

900 Brunswick Street
New Farm, QLD 4005
(07) 3358 2634
Food: Cafe, Delicatessan

On a trip to visit my brother and his family in Brisbane, I was taken to this fantastic cafe, adjacent to the beautiful New Farm park - the perfect spot for my niece, who was one years old at the time, to totter around happily watching the birds fly around.

Eggs benedict - poached eggs, smoked salmon, fresh rocket and "The Deli" hollandaise on toasted ciabatta

Seafood salad - char-grilled baby octopus, green prawns and mussels with marinated feta

Fettuccine with Deli marinara - green prawns, mussels and baby octopus with garlic and chilli

Crab lasagna - decadent layers of shredded sandcrab, zucchini, cream and cheese

Nobu Melbourne

Date Visited: June 19th 2009

Riverside at Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank, VIC 3006
(03) 9292 7879
Food: New Style Japanese

 Sashimi of (from left) gurnard, scallop and sea urchin

 Sushi of Soft shell crab karaage (back) and crispy salmon skin (front) - I loved the thin layer of radish around the seaweed, very clever indeed.

 "Nobu Style" tempura battered fish and sweet potato chips with a creamy aioli and wasabi sauce

 My favourite prawn and lobster with a spicy lemon sauce

 From the wood oven - whole roasted poussin with moro miso

 Baby cabbage with sake, butter and truffle oil

Green tea trifle mousse - vanilla, almond and coconut meringue, pistachios, milk chocolate ice-cream and a vanilla and lime foam

Bistro Guillaume

8 Whiteman Street
Southbank, VIC 3006
(03) 9693 3888
Food: French
Date visited: 19th March 2009

Hunter Valley snails with beurre persillé - slippery little morsels complemented in punchy garlic butter and parsley

Seared scallops with a satiny cauliflower puree, spinach, jerusalem artichoke crisps and finished off with a delicate veal jus

This has been bugging me for a while now, but I must admit that I cannot recall exactly what this entree dish of consisted of. It appears to be sweetbreads or liver, served with a crispy fried soft-centred egg and chervil

Leg of duck confit with speck and baby carrots, fennel, leek and spring onion - served on a super smooth smear of potato mash ("puree de pommes")

Half a roasted Barossa Valley chicken with potatoes on a bed of corn puree and a rich, chasseur sauce

Sides of ratatouille and a watercress salad

Creme cassonade - rich and smooth custard with a crunchy topping of sugared nuts and a crisp, paper thin chocolate tuile

Soufflé au chocolat - quite an indulgence with a soft ganache centre and an orange glaze