The basis of the filling
Whatever filling you choose, it should be one that can fully cook – and not be overcooked – in a just a few minutes on the stove.
Slightly sweet, rich and very juicy, ground pork is the traditional meat for gyoza. I also like ground turkey. For a vegetarian gyoza, you can use very firm tofu – mash it or push it through a ricer or pulsed until the consistency of ground meat. For 60 to 70 dumplings, I start with about one pound of ground meat or tofu.
Rice noodles, nuts, and eggs can also build a good foundation for your filling.
Add finely minced or grated vegetables
Vegetables and aromatics should be cut or grated very fine so they cook quickly and are distributed evenly within the stuffing. In culinary school, I was taught to salt the shredded cabbage and squeeze out the excess water after about 10 minutes. I don’t usually do this at home if I have tender Napa cabbage leaves and cut out the thick ribs.
Traditional gyoza usually includes at least a cup of shredded cabbage, plus chives or scallions, garlic, and ginger. You could also include carrots, celery, cilantro, red pepper, chives, sautéed mushrooms, steamed spinach, and daikon.
Bind and season
Though you’ll have some dipping sauce when you eat the gyoza, the gyoza should be flavorful already without it. I add soy sauce, sesame oil, and a little mirin to this mixture.
I use one egg to lightly bind a batch of this size. My mother also adds a tablespoon or so of cornstarch. Using your hands, mix it all together until it is well blended.
It’s never a bad idea to cook a small amount of the mixture to check the seasoning.
Of course, you could make your own gyoza wrappers, but I grew up using Nanka Seimen gyoza skins and that’s what I use now. I prefer them because they’re smaller and thinner than some other brands, but any round-shaped dumpling wrapper is great. If you can only find the square wonton skins, they work, too, though obviously the resulting shape will be a little different.
If the gyoza skins are frozen, let them sit on the counter while you prepare the filling.
Fill the wrapper
Place a well-rounded teaspoon of filling in the middle of a wrapper. Determining just the right amount of filling may take a little practice; I’ve found it’s always less than I think it should be. Like a well-packed suitcase, you should be able to close it without splitting or tearing it.
Have a small bowl of water on the side. Dip your finger in the water and paint the lower edge of the circle with it.
Pick your fold
There are several ways to fold the wrapper. Choose one that suits your wrapper shape, patience, and ability. If you go with the flat fold, there is some risk of the seal opening up during steaming – take extra care to squeeze the seal shut and consider using an egg wash instead of water.
Pick up the wrapper with the filling in it and bring the lower half of it up to meet the upper half. For a flat seal: simply press the two edges together tightly.
For the crimped seal: (and really, I’m building this up to be harder than it actually is), start with a small fold at the top. For a somewhat easier version, make the first fold at one end and work your way over to the other, making additional folds as you go.
Completing the crimp
Holding the first fold in place, work your way out from the middle toward one end with additional folds.
When you have one side sealed up, start back in the middle and work your way out to the other end.
Arrange the gyoza in a very hot pan
When all the gyoza skins are filled, heat a pan over medium-high heat and have some water and a tight-fitting lid ready. When the skillet is hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is very hot, arrange the filled dumplings on the pan.
After about 2 to 3 minutes, when they are browned on the bottom, drizzle in a small amount of water to cover the bottom of the pan (I use about 1/4 cup for this large skillet) and quickly cover the pan. Lower the heat and let the gyoza steam for another 4 minutes, until the skins look shiny and moist and the filling is cooked through.
They taste best served right away. Have a dipping sauce ready or let each diner mix their own. I like soy sauce, a little rice vinegar, and a few drops each of toasted sesame oil and hot chili oil.