Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hello Gyoza, Goodbye Gyoza



This is going to be a boast post. Not a helpful article, with tips on how to cook this or bake that, but a pure, boastful, "look at what I made post."

I made gyoza, from scratch. Inspired by the exquisitely illustrated and detailed post on Kuidaore, I felt compelled to try my hand at making something I enjoy eating so much. I hoped this might give me a gentle transition from sweets to savory dishes, the attraction being the intricate wrapping in home-made dough, with its similarity to elegant pastries.

I was a bit frightened by some of the ingredients, and to this day don't know if I bought the right items in my local luxury imported goods store. I made the dough myself, and worried it was too dry, but after much kneading it became quite elastic. I anxiously did the math to know what impact on quantities it would have if I used my available 7.5 cm cookie cutter rather than the specified 6 cm. Finally I read and re-read the instructions on pinching little individual pleats on one side only of the dumplings.

Then I made my first gyoza. They were a delight to make. It felt therapeutic to handle the dough and sensuous to pinch the folds lovingly one by one. And such a joy to see the little moon shape form itself quite naturally.

I made a batch for two. I cooked them. I had some sticking problems, and I'm not sure I ever got a "clinking" sound when I tapped the gyoza to test their doneness. Then I served them with the appropriate sauce.

They were absolutely delicious. Very flavorful, delicate, pretty to look at... and gone in five minutes.

Which is fine. I like delicate morsels that don't sit on your stomach all evening.

But then after dinner I had to make the rest of the dumplings, as the filling and dough wouldn't keep. So while my husband watched France-Croatia, I sat in the kitchen crafting the darn little pockets. Dough round by dough round, pleat by pleat, I rolled and folded and pinched. I thought I was going to scream it took so long. And I didn't seem to be getting any faster. No economies of scale, no increase in production speed.

Finally I stuck them all in the freezer and said to my husband, "You liked the home-made gyoza? Well I hope you had a good look at them. I'm never making them again." He's used to my emotional outbursts.

Maybe I would have had more patience with sweets. But it drove me nuts to think I spent about 3 minutes per mouthful (rough estimate). I guess different people find patience for different things. While some don't see the purpose of baking a cake from scratch when you can use a mix, others would be horrified to buy ready-made puff pastry dough. I've never made puff pastry myself, but I don't think it would make me so impatient. Strange, because I probably like the taste of gyoza better than puff pastry.

Still, when friends came for an impromptu dinner the other night I was pretty pleased with myself when I popped the homemade gyoza out of the freezer and into a pan to serve them.

Indeed I probably won't ever make them again. Unless I can turn it into a sociable activity to do with somebody else. Maybe in the context of something like a quilting bee it would become quite enjoyable (gyoza bee anyone?). But till then, I'll just look at this boast post and say to myself, "Ha! I could make these if I wanted to."

11 comments:

Kai Carver said...

Nice article.

3 minutes per mouthful? It would be quite interesting to have a "minutes per mouthful" (or mpm) rating for all recipes.

About the name of the dish:

Japanese gyōza are known in Chinese as jiǎozi 餃子, and the pan-fried/steamed kind you made are called guōtiē 鍋貼 or "potstickers".

I've often called them "Peking ravioli". Turns out it's a Boston-area appellation, coined by Joyce Chen, "the Chinese Julia Child". She opened her landmark restaurant near Fresh Pond, Cambridge, in the 1950s and popularized Chinese cuisine in the US. Her specialty was food from her native Shanghai. "Peking" acknowledges the dish as a northern Chinese specialty, and "ravioli" may be a nod to Boston's large Italian community.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumpling

Astrid said...

Thanks for the research! Maybe you also call them Peking ravioli because they're called "ravioli pékinois" in every "traiteur chinois" in Paris...

Anonymous said...

Raviolis pékinois, ha ha, elle est bonne !

Kai Carver said...

Haha, good point! Etymology is a tricky thing, especially on the Internet...

Anonymous said...

Va falloir acheter de la nouvelle vaisselle pour varier tes photos, et mettre en valeur tes plats délicieux !

JED

tanya d said...

They look beautiful. If I made these, it would be more like 5 min/mouthful and much uglier. I wish I had your attention to detail. I'm intrigued and would like the recipe. Also, what is "my local luxury imported goods store"? Jemoli?

Astrid said...

JED - Sure, would love to buy new dishes...
Tanya - Thanks! Somehow it's the intricate recipes that interest me most, and then I'm surprised they take so long! The recipe is from the Kuidaore web site, here.
Hey Tanya, you want to join my gyoza bee?!

J said...

hi astrid, i'm so happy the recipe turned out well for you - your gyoza look utterly divine! yes they are indeed a rather laborious process -definitely a project for when you've a long weekend ahead...although it does get a little bit faster with practice ;)

Astrid said...

Hi Jocelyn! Thanks for checking in. This way you know that when you give detailed instructions in your posts there's people out there happy to follow them. Oh darn, I had hoped you would tell me that after a few rounds of gyoza making, you get really quick and can whip them up for dinner in an hour. Anyway, with the passage of time I'm feeling I might want to give these a try again one day.

Jen said...

A gyoza bee! Now that sounds like fun - I would come and fill some dumplings so long as it was followed by something chocolate!

Astrid said...

Hi Jen! I realized as I linked to this post that I never answered your comment, but you are on for a gyoza bee any time (provided we get committed babysitters in the meantime).