Dumplings can be considered as a universal dish (sort of like the pancake) where almost every culture on Earth has their own unique dumpling recipe.
If you’re thinking about Japanese dumpling and are wondering what their called, you’re talking about Gyoza. The dough is usually made from either flour, bread, or potatoes; while the fillings may vary from meat, fish, cheese, vegetables, fruits or sweets.
This dish usually consists of dough pieces that are made from a variety of starch sources (depending on the region where it’s made) flattened to thin sheets in order to wrap it around a filling (some recipes have no filling).
Dumplings are cooked in various ways including baking, boiling, frying, simmering or steaming and share a common trait with many similar dishes in various cultures worldwide.
This (very weird) video from Cooking with Dog shows how the Gyoza are made:
Gyozas are small Japanese dumpling filled with ingredients such as minced pork and vegetables.
You can eat them in different ways – most typical are boiled or steamed – however, they are often fried in vegetable oil or butter and dipped in a dipping sauce before consuming them.
Gyoza has been around Japan since the Edo Period in the 15th century, but they were not as popular back then.
It was the Japanese soldiers during World War II who popularized them after returning home from their missions overseas, particularly in Manchuria, China where they first tasted the crispy fried Chinese dumplings and a multitude of other Asian recipes.
The appearance and cooking methods of gyoza haven’t changed much in over 400 years; however, the flavors have evolved since then as chefs followed traditional Japanese cooking and try to come up with new flavors to please Japanese customers.
Soon after, the demand for gyoza in Japan skyrocketed and the cuisine was even exported to other Asian and Western countries due to its popularity.
What Sets the Japanese Dumplings Apart from Other Dumplings
The Japanes dumpling is very similar to the Chinese jiaozi (potstickers) and the reason behind this is because the goyza is derived from the Chinese dumpling.
As a matter of fact, the word “gyoza” is the exact Japanese translation of the Chinese term “jiaozi.”
No matter their similarities the two most famous Asian dumplings do have visible differences.
Chinese potstickers tend to have more dough in them and also have a thicker wrapper when compared to the gyoza.
On the other hand, the gyoza was made to have a thin wrapper in order for it to be easily fried over teppanyaki griddles.
There is a dumpling from Poland called “pierogi” which is a traditional peasant food that also looks very similar to the gyoza in terms of shape and size, except that it tastes differently.
The fillings associated with it are potato, cheese, fruit, and even pickled sauerkraut.
The dumplings are cooked in a unique way where they are boiled first, and then fried afterward, or baked in butter until the dumpling wrapper turns golden yellow – brown.
Another type of dumpling dish from Turkey is called the manti or mantu, which looks similar to the shumai Chinese dumplings, is over 700 years old and is believed to have originated from the Ottoman Empire around the 13th – 15th century AD.
The manti is made by rolling out pasta dough and its fillings are comprised of minced lamb or beef, onions, and spices.
The Turks cook them by steaming, boiling, baking, or frying them and then they are garnished with a specially made yogurt sauce which is very delicious.
The typical meat used for gyoza fillings is beef as it enhances the overall taste of the dumpling and blends well with the other ingredients for the fillings like vegetables, fruits, cheese, seafood, etc.
However, in some regions such as Hokkaido, where lamb is more widely consumed, you may find lamb gyoza as a popular dumpling.
It is kind of unusual that many people from Italy and around the world – even food experts – lump the Italian dish ravioli in with pasta, when in fact, it looks more like a dumpling even when compared to other dumplings from different regions of the Earth.
Ravioli can be filled with anything from meat to cheese, mushrooms, and other vegetables.
The ravioli’s wrapper is made from pasta dough and it cooked by boiling and then served with a tomato or cheese-based dipping sauce.
Different Kinds of Gyoza
The one thing you will appreciate about the Japanese is that they love variety, especially in their food and like the sushi; goyza too has many different varieties.
Food variety allows people to enjoy different experience in tastes and even relate to at least one dish variety as their favorite.
The dumpling on its own is already a broad classification of dish emanating from all corners of the globe prepared and cook in multiple ways.
The Japanese gyoza further extends this broadness and compliments the dish as a whole.
Below are some of the variations of the gyoza Japanese dumpling:
The yaki-gyoza dumpling is the most popular gyoza variety in Japan.
This gyoza variety is made in a similar manner with the Chinese potstickers, where the yaki-gyoza (yaki meaning “to fry” in Japanese) are first fried in a saucepan, then water is added to the pan and covered with a lid which will cause the mix to boil and steam the dumplings.
When the chef is satisfied with how much the yaki-gyoza has been steamed, then he will uncover the lid and allow it to get fried once more.
This gives the dumpling wrapper a tender texture with a crunchy finish.
In some regions in Japan, the way gyoza is prepared is quite different from the traditional ones, and bite-sized gyozas are fried together in a skillet until they form into a lump of combined huge crispy dumplings that’s even better to munch on than eating them individually, plus you’ll be filled instantaneously.
The age-gyoza is similar to the yaki-gyoza, except that it’s even crispier than the yaki-gyoza because it’s deep fried (age in Japanese means “deep fried”).
Age-gyoza (fried dumplings) are crispy, deep fried gyoza mainly found at Chinese and gyoza specialty restaurants.
Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, but rarely encountered elsewhere. The age-gyoza are served hot off the grill, so you may want to be cautious before taking a bite!
This Japanese dumpling is another variant of gyoza that isn’t fried, but boiled in water or soup broth (dashi), which makes the dumpling wrapper tender and chewable that eases your every bite.
The dashi broth also enhances the gryoza’s taste making it savory and flavorful!
A similar variant is the mushi-gyoza (also called steamed gyoza), where the dish is prepared and served in a bamboo steamer basket which is very similar to the Chinese dim sum dumplings.
Also read: how many calories are there in sushi?
The traditional gyoza fillings that the Japanes use includes finely minced pork, chopped cabbage, and shiitake mushrooms (the shitake mushrooms are used for its umami properties and to help make a contrast in the textures of the fillings).
Some regions in Japan prefer the unconventional fillings which include usually minced prawn (or sometimes other seafood options which may include semi-decayed sea urchin or uni), shiso herb, cheese, and fermented soybeans called “natto.”
If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, then you may want to opt for the meatless gyoza, which has crumbled momen (soft tofu) and vegetables instead of meat.
It’s tasty and healthy, but will not make you feel guilty as you have made a sacred vow to abstain from eating meat.
The fillings for the gyoza can also be seasoned with various flavors to further elevate its overall taste.
The gyoza seasoning usually comes in the form of a dipping sauce which is a mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and sesame seeds (garlic chives or nira is often used in the dipping sauce but it can be made without it also).
The Proper Way to Eat the Gyoza
The gyoza dumpling is already delicious on its own; however, it tastes better when paired with a dipping sauce.
It is normal for food establishments to offer customers ready-made sauce packed in small sachets when they’ll order the gyoza as a takeaway meal, but if you decide to dine in their restaurant or fast food place, then you are given ingredients like soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, and garlic and let you calibrate the sauce to your own liking.
The sui-gyoza, in particular, is not served with a dipping sauce, but instead, it is served with a bit of soup or drizzled in ponzu (a citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine).
Places Where You Can Eat Gyoza in Japan
Like most dishes in Japan, you can find gyoza dumplings in Japanese and Chinese restaurants.
The reason why it is also found in Chinese food establishments is because the dumpling originated in China and was merely adopted in Japan more than 70 years ago.
Here are the top 3 places in Japan where you’ll likely find the gyoza dumplings:
It’s not that hard to cook the Japanese gyoza, in fact, with ton loads of gyoza recipes on the web anyone can make it at home!
But you can also enjoy it in dining establishments in Japan as well as other parts of the world, although it may have a different name that’s unique to that region.
There are 2 ways you can enjoy eating gyoza at home:
- Purchase pre-cooked gyoza from the deli section of any supermarket or convenience store
- Make it from scratch by following the instructions of a gyoza recipe.
Some people even throw mini “gyoza parties” at home to make gyoza recipes with a variety of fillings and eat them together with family and friends.
If you want to enjoy eating gyoza while dining out, then you go to a Chinese restaurant, ramen shops, izakayas, or gyoza specialty stores.
In Japan, they call Chinese restaurants “chuka ryori” which means “a Japanized Chinese restaurant” and people come to dine here for delicacies like fried rice, stir-fries, and especially gyoza.
Ramen restaurants are historically based on Chinese cuisine and it’s no surprise that they offer individual sized portions of fried gyoza alongside their ramen as a compliment.
It is a little known fact that some ramen restaurants in Japan are more famous for their gyoza dumplings than their ramen dishes.
You will find gyoza dumplings in the menu of many izakaya informal Japanese pubs offered as a comfort dish that is meant to be shared among a group of diners, but for people who dine by themselves can order gyoza in smaller amounts also.
On the other hand, gyoza specialty shops offer them to both solo diners and group diners, and it’s perfectly normal to eat gyoza with a set of meals that includes a bowl of rice.
Asian Dumplings and Gyoza Around the World
But it’s the gyoza is not exclusive to Japan; in fact, there are a lot of restaurants all over the world where you can find gyoza Japanese dumplings also.
Most of these dining establishments have a Japanese chef or a local who has had a formal education in Japanese culinary arts and is well-versed in Japanese cuisines.
Below are some of the best places where you can eat authentic gyoza:
Gyoza Bar – Japanese Comfort Food
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
This restaurant offers Japanese and Asian food with a Western twist and is one of the finest restaurants in Canada.
They serve their gyoza in traditional Japanese imono cast iron pans to achieve a perfectly seared and crunchy texture on the outside while locking in the juices of the filling on the inside.
This cooking technique makes for the remarkable texture and deep flavor in their signature dish.
Try out their Hamachi Kama Lunch Set, or the Tamari-Shoyu Tonkotsu Pork with a large batch of gyoza as a side dish!
Qing Xiang Yuan Dumpling
Location: Chicago, Illinois (USA)
This place is actually a food court that has excellent Filipino, Japanese and Chinese vendors among its yummy offerings.
There are plenty of different kinds of dumplings and the gyoza is offered in both the Japanese and Chinese vendor stalls in the food court.
Their dumplings are also on par with other famous Asian restaurants in North America that offers top notched gyoza Japanese dumplings.
Din Tai Fung
Location: Los Angeles, California, and Seattle, Washington (USA)
Many Asians migrated to the East Coast United States back in WWI and WWII, because it was located in the Pacific and ships could easily transport people there from Asian countries.
This is the reason why there are a lot of Asians in the East Coast USA and when they migrated they also brought with them their culture including their favorite dishes.
Din Tai Fung is the place to go if you want to eat the best tasting Asian dumplings and the Japanese gyoza.
People practically do word-of-mouth marketing for this restaurant, because the food here is that good!
Chao Chao Gyoza
Location: BGC Taguig City, Philippines
It is said that the owners of Chao Chao Gyoza are from Osaka, Japan and traveled to the Philippines to set up their gyoza restaurant there.
Although some Filipinos do not accept Japanese folks due to the Japanese Imperial Army’s misdeeds in the island nation back in WWII, they do like Japanese food, especially the gyoza.
Chao Chao Gyoza is among the best and most recommended Japanese restaurants in the Philippines.
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This restaurant is ranked #373 out of 14,950 restaurants in Rio de Janeiro by TripAdvisor truly deserves its reputation, because they serve great Japanese food!
As I’ve stated in my previous article, not all specialty restaurant are known for the food specialty they serve, but sometimes it is their side dishes that people love and remember.
People are saying the same thing about Sushi Leblon, but they both praise their sushi recipe as well as their gyoza, so this place is a sure winner.
Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The Nozomi Riyadh has garnered over 608 reviews and ranks at the 9th place out of the 957 restaurants in Riyad by TripAdvisor, it’s no wonder guests often visit and talk about this Japanese restaurant in Saudi Arabia.
Instead of pork, the restaurant serves beef gyoza (as pork is prohibited in Islamic countries) but travelers say that the beef gyoza is so well made that it rivals the pork-based filling in the regular gyoza in Asia.
Anyone can dispute the reviews and the customer ratings, but there are 2 things I know that are often true and those are 1) the Japanese always excel in the culinary arts, and 2) customers don’t lie.
I might visit these restaurants someday to know for sure whether or not the gyozas tastes as good as people say they are.