By Sylvia Tan
Mind Your Body, The Straits Times
Thursday, Sep 26, 2013
I love gyoza - the Japanese version of those northern Chinese dumplings called guotie.
That literally means pot-stickers in English, which is how the Americans refer to them.
Strictly speaking, the Japanese version is called yaki-gyoza (fried dumplings) because it is fried till crisp on one side.
The guotie is also a meat-filled pastry, which is eaten with a vinegar dip.
The guotie is cooked in a nifty way - steamed first in a little water and oil, then one side ends up being pan-fried when the water is boiled off.
If the same dumpling is cooked in soup, it is called jiaozi.
Whatever the name, this dumpling is delicious and I order it whenever I have the chance.
But I have never known a fish version until I found it in a Japanese restaurant, served in soup.
It was delicious, surprisingly as fulsome as a parcel with its rich mackerel flavour.
Later when I tested it out, I found that using an oily fish such as the mackerel rather than a white fish makes all the difference to the taste.
The soup in which the fish dumplings floated was warm and wholesome, making it a true comfort dish.
As I sat back in deep satisfaction, it struck me that this was a healthy dish.
The dumpling is filled with fish, then boiled gently in fat-free dashi.
If you can be bothered, you can make this Japanese stock from scratch with dried bonito (fish) flakes and kelp.
Alternatively, you can just use fish, chicken or even vegetable stock, if you have some languishing in the freezer.
I simply use a stock cube (no monosodium glutamate and organic, please) when I do not feel up to making the stock from scratch.
I know friends who have jiaozi parties where people are invited over to make their own dumpling skin. They then fill these pieces of skin, and shape and cook the dumplings before they sit down to eat.
But you do not even have to make the dumpling skin these days.
It is available in the supermarket freezer. But do not mix it up with wanton skin, which is thinner and contains alkaline water, giving a different taste.
You want a simple wrap made from just flour and water.
The ingredients for this delicious dumpling are easily available, so there is little excuse for us not to cook and eat it often.
Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous recipes for Eat To Live can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.
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- 1 packet of frozen round dumpling skin, available at supermarkets
- 200g fish, either tenggiri or mackerel
- About three cabbage leaves, chopped finely
- 1 tsp shallot, chopped
- 1 tsp garlic, chopped
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped
- 1 tbs sake (Japanese rice wine)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp roasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp light soya sauce
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 4-6 cups of water
- 1/2 bowl of bonito (fish) flakes
- 1 piece of kelp, 20cm long
- 1 tbs dried wakame (seaweed)
- 2 tbs mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp light soya sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 stalk spring onion, chopped for garnishing
- Red vinegar with thin ginger strips (optional)
- 1) Soften the dumpling skin by leaving it in the chiller.
- 2) Remove the bones from the fish and chop it finely.
- 3) Place it in a bowl and add the cabbage, shallot, garlic and ginger. Add the sake, vegetable oil, sesame oil, light soya sauce, salt and pepper.
- 4) Peel off a piece of dumpling skin and place it on a plate. Place a spoonful of the filling on one side of the skin.
- 5) Wet the edge of the skin and fold it over to cover the filling. Pinch both edges together to form a wavy fringe.
- 6) Repeat this process with the remaining pieces of dumpling skin.
- 7) Bring a half-filled wok of water to the boil.
- 8) Oil a heatproof plate and place the completed dumplings on it.
- 9) Place the plate of dumplings on a steamer rack in the wok and steam for 15 minutes.
- 10) In the meantime, make five to six cups of Japanese stock by boiling water with the bonito flakes and kelp, and then straining the mixture.
- 11) Bring the strained dashi to the boil in a pot. Add the dried wakame. Season the dashi with mirin, salt, light soya sauce and sugar.
- 12) Place a couple of dumplings in a bowl and dish the hot dashi over them. Garnish with chopped spring onion.
- Offer red vinegar with thin ginger strips as a dip, if you wish.