If you follow my Instagram, (@fortheloveofexperience), I’m sure your annoyed by my excessive foodie posts lately. Sorry, not sorry. Food is absolutely, hands-down, 247% my favorite aspect of culture.
Why? It’s food.
Well, I’m sure glad you asked, because it’s food is exactly why. At its most bare assessment, food is merely nourishment, sustenance for our hard-working bodies that we thrust out into the world each day.
At its most meaningful, it is a collection of the finest ingredients combined in a manner that reflects the depths of our memories, our experiences… our histories. I can assure you that the way I prepare my taco meat is much different than the way you prepare yours; we all have our staples, and they are staples for a reason, no?
****Waaaaaarning: This a long post, so feel free to scroll on down for the recipe and directions!****
When it comes time for us to roll on back to ‘Ole Lady Liberty, I am certainly going to miss the cuisine on this darling island. Noodles, and dumplings, and yakiniku, oh my!
Upon our arrival in Okinawa, a good friend of mine snatched us up for our first Japanese-style dinner. Don’t get me wrong, now; I’ve had sushi, sashimi, hibachi, etc. But all that fancy stuff is Americanized when you’re hangin’ out in the Lower 48. Eating the same cuisine, in its homeland? Not something Miss-Small-Town-Illinois ever thought she’d experience. (Sure, I had every intention to leave, but every trip comes with a hefty $, and small-town-Illinois doesn’t make that too easy.)
Anyway…. (is there a point to this, Chessa?)
We sat down at a nice little ramen shop in the heart of American Village (an arcade-stacked, eatery-stuffed, souvenir-hawking parcel located on the Chatan seawall). The kitchen couldn’t have been more than 20 feet long, with a thin sheet of two-foot high plexiglass serving as a splatter-shield between the barstool customer and the cook. The air was dank with grease, and the walls were covered in sun-faded kanji signs marketing spectacular dinner specials. I ordered the first bowl of ramen I could point to on the menu, with a side of gyoza, and a tall water.
It was small. It was cheap. It was new (to me), fresh cuisine. It was perfect.
I just couldn’t stop thinking about that gyoza. It was such a different, yet familiar taste. So with that, I drove first to the commissary, then to off-base grocery, in search of the materials to make my own. At its essence, gyoza is a Japanese dumpling. It is a wonton wrapper with pork (or chicken, or beef, or fish) that is seasoned and mixed with cabbage, chopped bean sprouts, carrot shavings, or any other bits and shabs. Its pan-fried on one side, and the top is steamed for a soft, smooth appearance before submerging it in a bowl of soy sauce. Yum!
‘Member how I mentioned that my tacos probably taste different than yours? Same applies to gyoza (among gazillions of other things). Seasonings, toppings, mixings, all were relevant to the area, whatever was in season, and whatever main course would be headlining this side. (Though to be completely honest, I totally eat these as the main with a side of noodles. They’re like little wrapped meatballs!)
Gyoza – Six Servings (30 pcs., 5 pcs./each)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: about 15 minutes
Total time: about 35 minutes
- 1 lb. ground pork (or ground chicken, ground turkey, ground beef)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
- 30 wonton wrappers (round shape, 1 package should have 30 in it, if you find a different kind, adjust accordingly)
- 2-3 Tbspns sesame oil
- ½ cup (or so) water
- Grab a medium-sized mixing bowl, and empty your ground pork from its package. Use a fork to mash up the strings and smooth the pork out a bit, and then add in each seasoning (garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and parsley flakes—or whatever you’re into!).
- Use a fork to mix the ingredients in, stir it up well, and then set it off to the side.
- Fill a small bowl (will just be for dipping your fingers, so nothing huge or fancy!) with about an inch of water. Open your wonton wrappers and set them next to the bowl. I prefer this setup:
- Lay out your first wonton wrapper, and scoop about a tablespoon, or just a bit less, or the pork mixture into the center of the wrapper (you can squish it into a ball if it will be easier). Note: Depending on which wrappers you buy, you may need to increase or decrease the amount per wrapper. You should be able to close the wrapped and have about ½ -inch of the wrapper touch without being affected by the mixture!
- Dip the tip of your finger in the water; you are going to draw a line with your finger along the rim of HALF of the wrapper. ONLY HALF; like here in the first photo below Step 6, you should only wet from the tip of my middle finger to the tip of my pinky finger. Just half the rim! Or the wrapper will be saturated and won’t stick!
- Fold the wrapper in half (with the meat in it), and pinch it at the top, in the center. Take the dry side and cinch it up a bit, then press it to the wet side. Slide your finger to the right a bit, cinch it up, and press it to the wet side. Repeat until the right side of the wrapper is cinched closed. (When the wonton gets wet, it’s powdery top acts like an adhesive to the dry side of the wrapper.)
- Repeat on the left side of the wrapper, and set it down when finished. Repeat until your wrappers or gone or if your mixture runs out.
- Heat a skillet on just-less-than-medium heat (legitimate measurement) with 1 to 1 ½ Tbspns of sesame oil. You don’t need much at all—you don’t want the pan bottom to be covered, or it will completely fry the wonton wrappers and they will be thick and crunchy (bad). Also get out a lid to cover the skillet for later.
- Lay about half of the gyoza in the skillet. (I pick the skillet up and shimmy the gyoza around, to make sure each one touches a bit of oil.) Do not cover!
- Let them cook for about a minute before you pick them up to check. When you do check them, they should have light golden-brown char lines on the bottom. DO.NOT.FLIP.
- Take that ½ cup of water we were talking about earlier, and add just enough to the skillet (careful not to slosh or pour too quickly—grease fire!!) to cover the bottom and cause bubbling. Immediately cover with the lid, as this will steam the top of the gyoza and complete the cooking.
- Allow to steam for about 3-5 minutes. They will be shiny and appear almost gummy-like in texture. This means they are done.
- Pull them off, allow to cool, and serve with any dipping sauce, but soy sauce is best! (In my humble opinon…. *cackles*)
Have any opinions? Comments? Concerns? Suggestions? Just plain freakin’ loved it? Tell me below!
What are some of your favorite dishes? I’d love to hear!
I know I won’t always be here, but I’ll never forget my first meal in Oki, and for the love of experience, I just had to learn to make it so I could have it whenever I wanted it.