If you’re trying Japanese cuisine for the first time, the country’s signature Gyoza (餃子, gyōza) is a famous and popular dish. It is widely found in Japanese restaurants, izakayas, sold in grocery stores, and street food vendors, and you can try different, mouthwatering varieties of this delicacy.
Here is all you need to know about these delicious dumplings with the special taste and flavor of Japan.
What is Gyoza?
Essentially, Gyoza is a dumpling with a filling of ground pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and a vegetable mix. It is wrapped up in a thin sheet of dough and then cooked. Different varieties of Gyoza are made with different fillings and flavors.
These dumplings originally hailed from China, where they are known as ‘Jiaozi’, also known as ‘potstickers’. Now, they have been adapted to Japanese cuisine and are an important part of Japanese culture.
These fresh, flavorful, crispy bite-sized dumplings are comfort food in Japan that everyone loves and craves.
The main difference between Gyoza and Jiaozi lies in the thinness of its wrapper, with the Japanese version being thinner. Plus, the fillings in Gyoza are cut more finely. Another main difference is that Gyoza usually refers to pan-fried dumplings, whereas Chinese Jiaozi is mostly boiled or steamed.
Gyoza can also be cooked in different ways and has four main types, Yaki Gyoza, Sui Gyoza, Mushi Gyoza, and Age Gyoza.
Yaki Gyoza (Pan fried)
This is the most common and popular type of Gyoza and it is pan-fried. The word ‘Yaki’ means “cooked over direct heat”. While preparing the dumplings, they are fried in a hot skillet with a mixture of cornstarch and water.
The Gyoza is covered in the cornstarch mix for a few minutes which makes them softer and juicier.
Yaki Gyoza is traditionally served with its bottom side up. They are tender yet crispy at the same time. You also get vinegar and soy sauce to dip into as you eat.
Sometimes, all the gyoza pieces are joined together at the bottom, which is referred to as ‘Hanetsuki Gyoza’ or “gyoza with wings”.
Age Gyoza (Deep fried)
Another Japanese variety is the Age Gyoza which is cooked by deep-frying. The dumpling is filled with different ingredients like kimchi, mushroom, shrimp, pork, and other vegetables. Then, they are deep-fried in piping hot oil till they are nice and crunchy.
Age Gyoza are typically served hot so it is important to be careful while you eat. They also come with a side of soy sauce as a dip.
This crispy version of Gyoza is not very common and can be found in restaurants that specialize in Gyoza.
The Sui Gyoza is an interesting variation of the dish. Here, the dumplings are boiled in a broth or water which gives them a unique, chewy texture. The experience of trying Sui Gyoza is much different than the other types. It is tender, soft, and not at all crispy.
These dumplings are then served in a light and tasty broth. This type of Gyoza is slightly less popular but still eaten in Japan. However, you can expect to find them at Chinese restaurants or at Gyoza specialty restaurants.
Finally, there is Mushi Gyoza, a healthier version of the same dumplings. These are cooked in a bamboo steamer without frying. If you prefer less oily foods, you would surely enjoy Mushi Gyoza.
Fillings for Gyoza
The traditional fillings for Gyoza are mainly ground pork and cabbage. However, there is no limit to the varieties of fillings you can find.
Let’s look at the most popular Gyoza fillings you can try:
Perfect for vegetarians, these Gyoza are filled with a tasty mix of mushrooms, cabbage, tofu, carrot, and seitan, or other vegetables. To add flavor, sesame oil and soy sauce are also incorporated into the filling.
Pork and Scallion Gyoza:
Filled with lots and lots of fatty pork, this filling has a pleasant, smoky taste to it and is a must-try for meat lovers. Scallions are also added for more flavor. These Gyoza are usually steamed.
For those who love seafood, the shrimp-filled Gyoza would be an impeccable choice. These have tender, plump, and juicy pieces of shrimp wrapped in a thin, translucent dough. Shrimp Gyoza is simply a treat to have.
Another popular Gyoza filling is made from minced lamb, zucchini, peppercorn, and carrots. This is a savory and flavorful version which is very filling too.
Dipping sauces for Gyoza
To enjoy Gyoza in their full flavor, never eat them on their own. A tasty dipping sauce can elevate the taste and experience to another level, so it’s a must.
You can always go for a simple soy sauce to boost the flavor. If you’re in the mood to experiment, you can opt for Ponzu sauce for a citrusy, tangy flavor.
Other interesting sauces include ginger and vinegar dipping sauce, chili oil sauce, spring onion oil sauce, spicy tomato dip, and Sichuan dumpling sauce.
How thin should Gyoza wrappers be?
The perfect Gyoza should have a very thin layer of wrapping and the right texture. The most crispy yet soft Gyoza has a wrapper of around 0.04 inches (1mm).
Gyoza serving size and prices
It would be helpful to know what to expect when you are having Gyoza at a restaurant in Japan. Most restaurants serve multiple Gyoza on a large plate. You can get a per-person serving, referred to as “ichininmae” or two people serving, “nininmae”. Family servings are usually also available.
The portion size will vary depending on the restaurant you visit. The prices of Gyoza can also vary a lot depending on where you eat and what fillings you choose. It can mainly range anywhere from 180 yen to 700 yen.
How to eat Gyoza
Along with your plate of Gyoza, you will most likely get vinegar, soy sauce, and sometimes chili oil on the side. You can pour these into a small bowl before you start eating. Of course, you can set their ratio according to your taste.
Now, grab your chopsticks and take one Gyoza and dip it into the sauce. To enjoy the tasty and crispy part, only dip the soft side in the sauce. It is best if you eat the dumpling in one or two bites. We don’t recommend you break it up into pieces as the filling can drop out and spoil the experience.
Gyoza is usually served scorching hot so you have to be a little careful. Just remember to let them cool down for a few minutes before you bite into them.
Where to eat Gyoza
Street food in Japan is full of variety and you can always find fresh Gyoza on one of the street vendor stalls. If you’re planning to dine out, some top-rated Gyoza restaurants include Pairon, Okei, Azumatei, and Gyouza no mise Ranshuu.
Gyoza may be found at ramen shops, Chinese restaurants, izakaya (pubs), and many gyoza specialty retail stores throughout Japan. A standard gyoza meal contains around six gyoza and costs between 300 and 600 yen depending on the establishment.
Gyoza is frequently served with a dipping sauce mixed with mixed soy sauce and vinegar. chili oil is also a popular addition to add a bit of spice to them.
We hope you enjoyed reading about this delicious Japanese delicacy and that you will enjoy eating it too.
When visiting Japan, there are many food options and culinary experiences you can try, and Gyoza surely deserves a spot on your dining bucket list.
Best Gyoza In Tokyo