Gyoza -Ramen’s Essential Side Dish-

Apr 18, 2022 - 8 min read

When at a ramen restaurant, oftentimes, you will spot gyoza listed on the menu, along with other popular side dishes like fried rice and fried chicken. To stand apart, many restaurants offer uncommon options such as pork buns and rice bowls with a twist. For most Japanese people, however, gyoza is what first comes to mind when discussing ramen’s perfect match. According to a survey conducted in Japan, gyoza is the most popular side dish to be served with ramen, ahead of many other side dishes. This is how inseparable ramen and gyoza are to the average Japanese person. Today, we would like to take a closer look at this unique menu item.

  • Index

 

■Where did Gyoza come from?

As many of you already know, Japanese gyoza, like ramen, originated in China. What is believed to be the remains of gyoza have been discovered in regions of China, dating back to as early as 600 B.C. On the other hand, gyoza’s history may extend further than these findings. Remnants of food wrapped with flour skin like that of gyoza wrappers have been found in ancient Mesopotamian ruins, dating back to around 3000 B.C. In any case, there is no doubt that Japanese gyoza was directly influenced by Chinese gyoza. Incidentally, Jiaozi (餃子), the Chinese name for gyoza (餃子) used in Japan, dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368~). Until then, it was called jiaozi (角子) or Bian Shi (扁食).

■When was Gyoza introduced to Japan?

When did the Japanese gyoza that we know today first make its way from China? One theory is that it was introduced to Mitsukuni Mito, who was mentioned in the previous article: What is Ramen? Mito is also said to have been the first person to eat ramen in Japan, so there is a possibility that this is when the marriage between ramen and gyoza began.

On the contrary, at that time, gyoza was not yet a dish that was easily available to the general public, and its widespread popularity did not occur until after World War II. Around then, Japanese people returning from China reproduced the dish themselves, making various changes to better appeal to the Japanese cuisine. Utsunomiya, a city in Japan that is now famous for its gyoza, is known to be one of the first cities that experienced gyoza in this way.

Its inexpensive price, excellent nutritional balance, and ease of preparation have made gyoza a staple of the Japanese diet, establishing it as a national home-style dish. In modern Japanese households, the filling is prepared first and then wrapped in a store-bought gyoza wrapper. Other popular options are frozen gyoza which can be reheated or pre-cooked gyoza that is readily available at local convenience stores and supermarkets. This is further proof that enjoying gyoza has become ingrained within Japanese food culture.

■Characteristics of Japanese Gyoza

Grilled gyoza is the most common type of gyoza that is offered at ramen restaurants; however, there are many popular ways to prepare the dish, including boiling it, steaming it, and deep-frying it. Boiled gyoza is the most popular type in China, while grilled gyoza reigns supreme in Japan. There are many theories as to why this is, but the most convincing is that grilled gyoza is more suitable as a side dish for rice. Rice is a staple in Japan and Japanese people are passionate about finding the perfect pairing for their rice.

Some other differences between Japanese gyoza and Chinese gyoza are in the ingredients of the filling, as well as the variety of sauces served with the dish. First off, ground pork better suits the Japanese taste buds, while meats such as beef, mutton, or even donkey, in addition to ground pork, are more authentically Chinese. Another key difference is that Chinese gyoza lacks garlic whereas Japanese gyoza favors it. As for the sauces, Japanese people like to combine soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil for maximum flavor, while Chinese people prefer black vinegar.

■Let’s make some Gyoza!

As you enjoy an order of gyoza at your local ramen restaurant, you may be wondering, “Can I make this at home?” Yes, you can and below are the steps to help with that. As mentioned earlier, preparing the ingredients, wrapping them in the gyoza wrapper, and grilling them at home is a familiar scene in Japanese households. It is safe and easy for those with limited cooking experience. Once the gyoza is prepared, you need only a frying pan to whip up some tasty gyoza for a party of friends or for family. Please take this opportunity to try making gyoza at home.

a. How to make gyoza filling

First, let’s make the filling of the gyoza, this goes inside the wrapper. This article will introduce the standard Japanese grilled gyoza filling. Once you become familiar with the recipe, you can try your own variations of flavor to meet your liking.

Ingredients (for 24 pieces)

  • Ground pork (150g)
  • Cabbage (150g), finely chopped
  • Characteristics of Japanese Gyoza
  • Green onion (1/2), finely chopped
  • Chives (5~6), cut into 2~3mm pieces
  • Grated garlic (1 clove)
  • Grated ginger (1 clove)
  • Soy sauce (1 tablespoon)
  • Sake (1 tablespoon)
  • Sesame oil (1 tablespoon)
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of pepper

Method
Mix ground pork, green onion, grated garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl until sticky. Then add the cabbage and chives and mix evenly. The secret is to mix the meat and seasonings well at the beginning to give the gyoza a juicy flavor.

b. Tips for wrapping the filling

Many people are concerned about whether they can make beautiful folds like the gyoza served in restaurants. At first glance, it may look difficult, but you will get the hang of it after making a few.

The following tips will help make your gyoza look restaurant quality.

  • Use a small amount (about 1 teaspoon) to fill the wrapper so as to ensure a clean presentation.
  • Trade your spoon for a spatula-shaped tool, like a butter knife, to place the filling in the wrapper as it allows for more accuracy.
  • The number of folds should be five. This is the best number to achieve a balanced and beautiful appearance.
  • After wrapping, press down firmly on the edge of each fold to prevent them from opening during the grilling process.

For those who are still a bit intimidated by the folding method, we have an alternative to preparing gyoza that you may like. First, prepare the gyoza wrapper and place the filling at the center. Next, fold the sides inwards over the filling until one side overlaps the other by about an inch. A dab of water will act as an adhesive to keep the gyoza together. The end result should resemble an enchilada. Although this is a very simple wrapping method, this type of gyoza is called “stick-shaped gyoza (棒餃子)” and is also extremely popular in Japan. The nice thing about this type of gyoza is that it allows you to add extra filling for a heartier bite. The secret to this method is to grill the folded side first.

c. Tips for grilling gyoza

After successfully wrapping the filling, it is time to grill the gyoza. All you need is a frying pan with a lid. To enjoy the crispy and juicy texture, please try to follow the instructions below.

  • Spread oil evenly and generously throughout the pan. Ideally, spread about 1 to 2 mm of oil from the bottom of the pan.
  • Place the oiled pan over medium heat for about 30 seconds, then arrange the gyoza in the pan. This will allow the excess water in the gyoza filling to evaporate at once.
  • When the gyoza begins to cook and the surface changes color (approximately 30-60 seconds), pour boiling water around the gyoza and cover with a lid to steam it. The key point is to use boiling water instead of cold or room temperature.
  • Steaming should be done for about 5 minutes. During this time, gently shake the pan back and forth every minute. This will prevent the gyoza from burning.
  • When steaming is complete, remove the lid, turn the heat to high, and heat for 30 seconds to release the excess water. Finally, pour sesame oil from the edge of the pan and cook over high heat for 30-60 seconds.

 

■What is the best sauce for gyoza?

As mentioned in the previous section, it is common in Japan to make gyoza sauce by loosely mixing soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil. These three condiments are frequently found at tables in ramen restaurants for that purpose. However, there are more ways to maximize the gyoza’s flavor, and in Japan, many variations of sauces have been invented. We would like to introduce some of them to you so that you can try them the next time you eat gyoza.

  • Miso sauce: A mixture of miso, soy sauce, vinegar, and mirin. The rich flavor is perfect as a side dish for rice.
  • Vinegar + pepper: This refreshing taste enhances the flavor of gyoza and has been gaining attention among Japanese people in recent years. It may become a new standard to replace the combination of soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil.
  • Ponzu + sesame oil: The refreshing taste of ponzu and the richness of sesame oil bring a new flavor to gyoza.
  • Soy sauce + mayonnaise: Even if you are not a fan of mayonnaise, I encourage you to give this sauce a try. The rich taste is addictive, and by adding shichimi (七味: seven-spice chili pepper), the flavor will be even greater.
  • Soy sauce + wasabi: This combination is popular for sushi, but it does not have to stop there. This is a wonderful way to join the flavors of China with that of Japan.

 

■Arranged recipe using gyoza wrapper

When making gyoza at home in Japan, the first step is to buy the wrapper, and Myojo USA has the perfect gyoza wrapper for your delicious gyoza. By purchasing our gyoza wrappers, you are on your way to making the best gyoza that you have ever tasted.

GYOZA WRAPPER

Once sealed, the gyoza wrapper will inevitably dry out, so it is best to use them as soon as possible to savor their delicious flavor. In such cases, there are recipes that put those wrappers to good use. We have a variety of such recipes on the following pages, so please try the ones that interest you. For instance, did you know that you can actually make desserts with gyoza wrappers?

RECIPES: Gyoza/Wonton Wrapper

■Conclusion

In this issue, we took a closer look at gyoza, which is a favored side dish to the average Japanese ramen lover. The key reason as to why ramen is closely linked to gyoza is likely due to their similar origin from China; however, there was not a sufficient amount of evidence found that completely supports this theory. If anyone knows the truth, please feel free to share.

This research also revealed that if we broadly define gyoza as, “a food made by adding water to flour, stretching it thin, wrapping meat, seafood, vegetables, or other ingredients in a dough, and baking, steaming, boiling, or frying it,” this opens the door to many variations throughout the world of the same dish, like that of the Turkish Manti or the Polish pierogi. Likewise, the Italian ravioli can also be called a type of gyoza. Over time, the gyoza served at ramen restaurants may change to match the local area’s tastes. Perhaps the pierogi is a better match at a Polish ramen shop. It would be remarkably interesting if an Italian ramen restaurant ever decided to serve ravioli! Well, that is enough fantasizing, and that is all for this article. In the next article, I will continue to dig deeper into all things about ramen.
Reference links:

餃子 – Wikipedia
餃子のルーツは知れば知るほど美味しく感じる?!餃子の歴史を解説 | 日本一の餃子情報専門サイト
餃子のすべてが知りたい!歴史~豆知識まで調べてみた! | オリジナル餃子の餡作っちゃいます。
餃子の歴史~餃子は水戸黄門と深い関係が!? | 料理の由来
「餃子の基本の包み方」簡単テク!かわいくアレンジするコツは? – macaroni
餃子のタレは手作りで!定番&変わり種アレンジレシピ完全ガイド – macaroni
ラーメンに関するリサーチ結果 | バルクのマーケティングリサーチ・市場調査
パーフェクトな「餃子の焼き方」、守るべきポイントは5つだけ! – dressing(ドレッシング)
塚田編集長の餃子のコト | 餃子情報館 | モランボン 手作り餃子サイト
話題の【酢胡椒】の魅力を徹底解説!酢醤油よりも大人気? | 食・料理 | オリーブオイルをひとまわし