[Photograph: Todd Coleman]

Japanese gyoza dumplings are the perfect nibble: great on their own, but made even better with a cold beer. The classic pork gyoza recipe in Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat's new cookbook, Japanese Soul Cooking, is a fine example of the form. They fill the wrappers with a piquant mixture of ground pork, garlic chives, ginger, cabbage, and minced garlic. To cook the gyoza, they start the dumplings in a ripping hot sesame oil-slicked skillet, add water, and let them steam until cooked through. Once the water evaporates, they leave the dumplings in the pan to form a crisp, brown bottom.

Why I picked this recipe: Gyoza are one of my favorite drinking snacks, and I'm guessing I'm not alone in that sentiment.

What worked: Follow the cooking directions to the letter and you won't be disappointed. Yes, you'll probably make a huge mess when you start to pan-fry, but all that oil clean-up will be worth it for the juicy, garlicky filling and beautifully seared wrapper.

What didn't: If your cast iron skillet isn't well-seasoned, you'll want to cook the gyoza in a non-stick skillet to prevent sticking.

Suggested tweaks: You could substitute ground chicken, minced shrimp, or crumbled tofu for the pork if you'd prefer. If you can't find garlic chives, you can substitute regular chives. Cornstarch will also likely work in place of the potato starch if you've got that handy.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Japanese Soul Cooking to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.


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