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I’m a sucker for anything wrapped in pastry. Pies, croquettes, parcels, crostatas or galettes – stuff any old thing in puff, filo or shortcrust and I’m up for it. Meat filling using leftover roast; seafood filling with frozen prawns; vegetables or cheese, you just need to mash it up, season heavily and tuck into pastry casing. Easy, and - except the shortcrust – you go out and buy ready-made pastry because life is too short.
I’m also a fan of things wrapped in dough, for want of a better word to encompass pasta, noodles, dumplings and all the rest. The principle is the same: the filling can basically be mashed potatoes as long as they are seasoned nicely. The difference is in the cooking method – not baking but boiling, steaming, steam-frying and braising. I’m not suggesting these are a completely different kettle of fish because when we consider pasta al forno, my defining lines blur. Basically – crispy-crusty vs. slimey-wet, in the nicest meaning of both words.
And then we have the wonderfully non-binary parcels, slimy and thin and crisp at the same time: gyoza, potstickers or steam-fried dumplings. It’s a fantastic invention: thin pasta-like skin wrapping meaty, fishy or veggie filling next subjected to the genius process of fry-steam-fry. Crispen the gyoza bottoms in hot oil; let all hell lose by throwing water into the pan to steam the gyoza tops under a lid, then gently cook off the moisture while you whip up super-simple dipping sauce. And of course, being a Japanese dish, they are dainty, luscious and elegant.
I like the shrimp gyoza because they let you indulge without a huge calorie burden. As a Japanese blogging authority assures, anything can be wrapped in gyoza skin and steam-fried (yay! cheese next!). I made these with cooked prawns because they are boring and have to be used imaginatively, but raw ones will make a more cohesive filling which some might like better.
prawn gyozaServings: 24-30 gyozaTime: about an hour
- 130g (4oz.) spring or Napa cabbage, shredded very finely
- 1 tsp fine salt plus more for seasoning
- 150g (5oz.) cooked and peeled prawns, fresh or thawed
- 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- ½ mild red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 spring onion, trimmed and chopped very finely
- 1 tsp corn flour
- 1 tsp sesame oil plus more for frying
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sake
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 30 gyoza wrappers
- 4 tbsp. groundnut oil, for frying
- For the dipping sauce:
- ¼ cup light soy sauce
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- ½ tsp chili oil
- For the cabbage salad:
- remaining spring or Napa cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 1½ tbsp. rice vinegar
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 garlic clove, sliced very thinly
- chili or red bell pepper flakes, to taste
If your gyoza wrappers are frozen, leave them out to thaw.
First prepare the filling: shred the cabbage and weigh out the amount for the filling (if you’re using the rest for the salad). Toss it with salt and leave for 10 minutes to wilt.
Chop the prawns roughly; place them in a large bowl with the ginger, garlic, chili and spring onion. Squeeze as much moisture from the cabbage as you can using your hands or a muslin cloth, add it to the bowl. Sprinkle over the corn flour, sesame oil, sugar, sake and soy sauce and mix it all together with your hands.
You can make the filling ahead and keep it in the fridge, but once wrapped, gyoza need to be fried straight away or the wrappers will go soggy. You can freeze them when wrapped though and next time fry without thawing.
To wrap the gyoza, lay out the skins, a few at a time, on a wooden board. Have a bowl with water at hand. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each skin, then working with one at a time brush the edge with water, fold the skin over the filling in half and pinch together, pleating the front half of the skin towards the middle three or four times. Place on a tray and continue wrapping.
To fry the gyoza, heat up 2 tbsp. of oil for each batch in a non-stick pan or wok with a fitting lid. Place the gyoza flat side down in the pan without crowding. Fry them for 3-4 minutes until the bottoms are browned and crisp. Brace yourself for the spit and sizzle and pour in about ¼ cup cold water. Put the lid on and wait for the sizzle to calm down. Trickle a couple of spoonfuls of the sesame oil around the sides of the pan and put the lid back on. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the liquid has almost all cooked off and the skins are translucent.
Uncover the pan and cook for another minute to get rid of any remaining water. Prod the gyoza gently with chopsticks or a palette knife if they stuck to the pan. Remove them onto a serving plate.
Mix the dipping sauce in a small bowl; place the shredded cabbage in a large one and toss with the other salad ingredients.