For the last week I have been fighting a cold; nothing major but enough to make my head ache a bit and my throat feel dry and sore. I am desperate not to get ill-I think, for some reason, that a summer cold is much worse than one in the winter. In the winter you feel like it’s almost a necessity of the season, but summer should be about wandering through country fields through the dappled sunshine-something like that anyway. The reason I’m bothering to tell you this is that I have a theory about feeling you are on the edge of something nasty. Eat. Just eat and eat and eat. I give myself permission to eat whatever I want in the battle against the potential bug! My main target is carbohydrates; pasta, rice, bread and crumpets. Lots of crumpets. I reason that it’s all giving me so much energy to fight this thing. Anyway-I thought I should try and get some vegetables down my throat; vitamins and all that. I really didn’t want juices or salads, but then I remembered gyoza.
As recently as 15 years ago, the vast majority of people would not have heard of gyoza, even today they are not as widely known as they should be. These tiny, moreish parcels of deliciousness can be found in any Japanese restaurant, dim sum shop or in Wagamama restaurants. They are amazingly addictive and really not that hard to make. A proper gyoza should have a light skin with a slight crispiness and a deeply savoury and soft filling with a slight bite. The dipping sauce on the side should be slightly sweet, slightly bitter, salty and as spicy as you want. A good dipping sauce is so wonderful, I often have to stop myself from spooning it straight into my mouth! In my almost-ill state, it is just what I need. In fact, in any state they are a joy to eat.
Gyoza are a little fiddly to put together, but only to start with. After putting a few together, it will become a breeze. Gyoza skins are pretty robust compared to fresh pasta dough and can cope with a bit of rough handling, so don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of making dumplings from scratch. The skins are available in the frozen section of every oriental supermarket or online.
Yasai is Japanese for vegetables, so this particular recipe is vegetarian, but you can add 200g of chicken thigh or 150g of cooked and peeled prawns to the mix before you process it if you want to.
This recipe makes about 30 gyoza and about 250ml of dipping sauce; I know this is a lot but the quantities don’t seem to work if they are cut down. The gyoza freeze incredibly well-you can cook them from frozen and the dipping sauce lasts for weeks in the fridge. I have eaten a whole batch in the last few days. Don’t judge me-I’m nearly very ill.
makes about 30
For the gyoza
1 small carrot, peeled
1/2 medium onion
50g white cabbage
30g Chinese leaf cabbage
1 celery stick
250g water chestnuts
1 tbs sesame oil
2 tbs light soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tbs chopped chives
1 packet of gyoza skins
For the dipping sauce
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
100ml malt vinegar
250ml light soy sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
Make sure your gyoza skins are defrosted.
Put the carrot, celery, water chestnuts, onion, cabbage and Chinese leaf in a food processor or the mini processor attachment of a stick blender. Process until finely chopped but not a pulp. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Put the mixture in the middle of a clean tea towel, wrap up the mixture and squeeze out the excess moisture.
Put a teaspoon of the mixture in the centre of each gyoza skin.
Moisten half of the gyoza skin round the edge with a little water and fold the skin over to form a half moon shape. Press the edges together to seal them.
Heat some oil in a large frying pan until it starts to shimmer. Put the gyoza in the pan-do not put more than 5 in at a time-cook for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side until the skins start to brown. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and clamp on a lid; this will let the dumplings steam and heat all the way through. Leave for a minute.
If you are cooking the gyoza from frozen, cook on a lower heat for about 5 minutes before turning up the heat to let the skins brown.
Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.