It’s the 50th time I made Gyoza and I can now call myself a kick-ass Gyoza Ninja. Although tonight I made a vegetarian version it’s equally good and delicious as the meat version and it tastes soooo oishi…hmmmm Gyoza, you are my all-time favorite comfort food.

Over the last seven years, I’ve tweaked the gyoza recipe I learned from my friend Mariko Suzuki… adjusting the amounts of ingredients here and there and substituting meat to shitake mushrooms to suit my vegetariain lifestyle. The recipe I’m going to share with you today is that recipe in its latest form (though ask me again in a few months and it will probably already be slightly different).

Vegetarian Gyoza (japanese pan fried dumplings)

4 cups, loosely packed, minced Napa cabbage (use the frilly leafy half of the cabbage)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
9 ounces ground shitaki mushrooms
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (with a Microplane grater)
2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 small bunch of  Nira chopped (Japanese chives) – you can find this at Asian market
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
40 Gyoza /dumpling wrappers

For cooking the dumplings:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3/4 cup water

Dipping Sauce:
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar + 1 tsp agave syrup or brown sugar

chopped green onions

1 tsp grated ginger

Several drops of La-yu ( chili oil ) or sesame oil (optional)

Method:

1. Toss the minced cabbage with the salt in a large bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Using both hands, or a cheese cloth, squeeze the cabbage firmly to drain and discard the excess water (prevent your dumplings from becoming mushy) and then transfer the cabbage to a deep bowl.  Add the shitaki mushrooms, ginger, garlic, Nira and sesame oil.  Mix everything together with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Using your hands, scoop the mixture into a ball, lift it, and then throw it back into the bowl.  Repeat several times to help the mixture stick together.

2. Have a small bowl of cold water ready.  Lay a dumpling wrapper on a dry work surface, and place a heaping teaspoon of the  mixture in the center of the wrapper.  With a fingertip moistened with water, trace a line along half of the edge of the round wrapper.  Fold the wrapper over to enclose the filling, and pinch the wrapper in the center to seal the edges together at that spot.  Holding the filled half-circle in the left hand, pleat the top of the wrapper from the middle out, pressing it to the flat edge of the wrapper at the back.  Set aside the stuffed dumpling with the pleated-wrapper edge up. Repeat to make 40 dumplings in all.

3. In a large skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil over medium-high heat. Carefully place as many of the dumplings that can fit without touching in the skillet with the pleated-wrapper edge up.  Cook the dumplings for 3 minutes, or until nicely browned on the bottom.  Check the progress by lifting 1 or 2 dumplings by their pleated edge.

4. Once the bottoms are nicely browned, use the skillet lid to shield yourself and carefully pour in 1/4- to 3/4 cup of the water.  When the hissing and splattering die down, drizzle in 1/2 teaspoon of the sesame oil around the edge of the skillet.  Place the lid on the skillet to trap in the moisture and then quickly lower the heat to keep the liquid at a bare simmer.

5. Check the dumplings after 2 minutes.  When the wrappers appear slightly translucent and the meat feels firm when pressed lightly with a spoon, remove the lid and raise the heat slightly.  Continue to cook until all the water has evaporated and only the oil remains (about 2 minutes).  Once you hear a sizzling sound, shake the skillet.  The dumplings should slide about.  If they seem to stick to the skillet, move the skillet away from the stove and replace the lid for a moment.  Remove the dumplings from the skillet with a broad flexible spatula. If you’d like, flip them over so that the seared surface faces up.  Cook the remaining dumplings the same way.  Serve the dumplings hot accompanied by the dipping sauce.

4. While the dumplings are cooking, make the dipping sauce by mixing the soy sauce and rice vinegar and the rest of ingredients together in a small bowl.  Pour the sauce into a small serving pitcher or distribute among individual dipping dishes.

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