During a trip to Japan, Mr. Chau and I took a home cooking class and learned how to make pork and cabbage gyoza or Japanese dumplings. When I looked up comparisons between the pan-fried Chinese dumplings (鍋貼 or guoti) and the pan-fried Japanese dumplings (餃子 or gyoza), the difference seems to be in the dumpling skin and the filling. While both types of dumplings usually contain meat and veggies, I find the ratio of veggies to meat is higher for the Japanese gyoza. I’m not sure if that’s true but both types of dumplings are super yummy. Plus dumplings are so freezer friendly that I’d always make a batch to keep in my freezer for a quick meal or snack.
Tips for Making Pork and Cabbage Gyoza
When I learned this basic recipe in Japan, the instructor told us the following tips for making delicious pork and cabbage gyoza at home:
- Always release the water in the napa cabbage – This step is important as it will prevent your filling from getting too soggy or mushy. I find that it also intensive the flavour of the napa cabbage. To do this, add a bit of salt to the finely chopped cabbage. Let it sit for about 15 minutes then transfer the mixture to a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the cabbage tightly and squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Grate the ginger and garlic instead of mincing them – Grating the ginger and garlic allows them to be thoroughly incorporated into the filling. It also guarantees that you won’t get bits of ginger or garlic when you bite into the dumpling. While you could just mince them, I find grating is the fastest and easiest way to add ginger and garlic to the filling.
- Mix the filling mixture by hand – Similar to making meatballs, it’s best to mix the filling mixture by hand so you can feel when everything is fully incorporated. The mixture should feel a bit tacky/sticky. The instructor told us to use a kneading motion and squeeze the mixture between our fingers for best results.
Storing The Gyoza
Wrapped gyoza can be stored in the fridge if you plan to eat them on the same day. If not, then it’s best to freeze them.
To freeze the gyoza: Line them individually, with spaces between each dumpling, on a plate or wax/parchment paper lined baking tray. Place the tray of gyoza in the freezer for about 2 hours. Once they are frozen, transfer the dumplings into a resealable plastic bag and store them in the freezer for 1-2 months.
How to Cook Pork and Cabbage Gyoza
- To cooking freshly wrapped gyoza: Simply add some oil to a frying pan, and once hot, place the gyoza flat side down. When the bottom is crispy and brown, add some water to the pan and cover it with a lid. Let the dumplings steam until most of the water has evaporated. Uncover and give the pan a shake while the remaining water dries up. Usually, it’ll take about 3 minutes of steaming time to cook freshly wrapped dumplings. Adjust the steaming time based on the size of your dumplings.
- To cook frozen gyoza: Do not thaw the dumplings! Follow the same cooking procedure as the fresh ones. However, for frozen dumplings, you need to add more water so you can steam them longer. The steaming time should be about 5 – 7 minutes depending on the size of your dumplings. Since they are frozen, they need to be cooked longer to ensure that the fillings are cooked through. If you’re unsure of how much water to add, simply add more as the water evaporates to prolong the steaming time.
Jan the Dumpling Monster – Side Story
Before we get to the recipe, I’d like to share with you my “dumpling story”. Once upon a time, when I was about five years old, my mom decided to make fresh dumplings to serve for lunch as our relatives were over for a visit. I was tasked with wrapping the dumplings while my mom cooked them. Whenever a batch was cooked, maybe 15-20 or so dumplings, I would eat a few without my mom noticing. She was curious why people were still hungry after she had cooked like 80 or so dumplings. That’s when she realized that I’ve been eating some of the dumplings before I served them to my relatives! I ate about 30 dumplings that time and that seemed like a lot as I can barely eat 10 for a meal now. So to this day, my mom still makes fun of me for eating so many dumplings! And this is how I got the nickname “dumpling monster”.
Pork & Cabbage Gyoza (Dumplings) Recipe
- 1 lb napa cabbage (use more if you want more veggies)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 200 g ground pork
- 2 bunches chives (can also use green onion)
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tsp grated garlic
- 40 pcs dumpling skin/wrapper (see note)
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1.5 tbsp sake
- 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp sesame oil
- pinch of pepper
Simple Dipping Sauce:
- 2.5 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- Chop the napa cabbage finely (almost mincing it). Add it to a bowl with 1 tsp kosher salt and mix well. Transfer it to a mesh strainer and let sit for 15 minutes. This help releases the water from the cabbage. After 15 minutes, wrap the cabbage with a kitchen towel and squeeze out as much water as you can. Do not skip this step!
- In a bowl, combine the cabbage, pork, green onion or chives, grated ginger and garlic. Mix it a little then add the seasoning (oyster sauce, sake, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper). Mix with your hands, squeezing the mixture between your fingers/kneading it, for approximately 5 minutes. The mixture should feel a bit tacky/sticky. Let it rest for 3-5 minutes.
- Prepare your wrapping station with a small bowl of water and set out your filling mixture, wrapper and a small damp towel (this helps keep your fingers clean when pleating). For each dumpling, fill it with a spoon full of the filling (I usually eyeball it) then dip your index finger in the water to moisten the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half and pleat from left to right just the front of the wrapper. Usually, 5-6 pleats are enough to get the gyoza shape.
- Completed dumplings can be frozen or keep refrigerated until ready for cooking (same day).
Cooking the Gyoza:
- To cook the gyoza, heat about 1 tbsp of oil over high heat in a non-stick pan (or cast iron) until hot. Add the dumplings and sear until the bottom is well browned. Wiggle the dumplings as they cook (you can use your fingers) so they brown evenly.
- Once they are at the desired crispiness or colour (I usually go for golden brown), add about 4 - 8 tablespoons of water and quickly cover the pan with a lid. Let the dumpling steam for 3-5 minutes or until water fully evaporates. Remove lid and jiggle the pan to make sure the dumplings did not stick and let it fry for another minute or two then it's ready to be served with dipping sauce. Be sure to plate the dumplings with the bottom size up so it stays crispy.