I never said I was perfect
Posted March 25, 2010on:
I thought it would be appropriate to begin with a sense of humility.
I love to cook, and many people tell me I’m pretty good at it. But I do mess up. All the time. I can’t stop over-cooking sausages, I almost always let the pan boil dry when I’m cooking potatoes, and I still burn rice sometimes, even though it’s probably my favourite food in the world.
I recently attempted homemade gyoza (it was a little late, I can admit that now) and I fell at the first hurdle.
I am usually fairly calm when making dough. In fact, I would go so far as to say that doughmaking requires a certain mindset. You have to be casual, like, yeah, it’s only dough, I know it’s gonna be fine. As soon as you start to think that it’s not going to work, you will start to think too much and this will prevent the dough from doing its thing, coming together into a “silky mass” or whatever the recipe has told you it would become. Search for signs of failure in a dough, and behold! Cracks! Dryness! Is it too thin? Yes, it’s too thin! Squash squash, re-roll, grey horrible mess, fine, I’ll just make brownies again.
I thought I was in the mindset. I had done my reading, the Kenwood was armed and ready, and the dough only required flour, water and mixing. Whizz, whizz, check, more water, whizz again, check, this feels about right, let’s roll!
I quickly discovered that I had not given the texture of the dough due consideration. Somewhere during my search for info on handmade gyoza, I had read the words “soft as an earlobe”. My first attempt never came close.
The end result is the sad, grey, Jabba-the-Hut-esque pile on the left. The pretty one is Batch 2.
So, I can pass on some useful tips:
- The proportions are not really 1/2 cup water to 2 cups flour, but more like 2/3 cup water to 2 cups flour. Keep adding the water till the mixture is not dry and crumbly, but is beginning to come together in soft little balls.
- To check the texture of the dough, press a little of the mixture together in your fingertips. It should stick together right away, and feel soft. If in doubt, add a touch more water.
The gyoza themselves were great fun to make. I didn’t get any shots of the rolling and crimping process, but Jenyu over at Use Real Butter is all over that. Most important was working in small batches and keeping everything covered so it didn’t dry out. I also went a bit leftfield (but still in the field, mind) and used some fine semolina to stop the dough from sticking.
My filling was a classic prawn and pork, but I added quite a bit of cabbage and a little grated carrot to the mix because I like my vegetables. The cabbage also helps to keep the filling moist (did you know you can add cabbage to meatballs to keep them moist? Yes, really! Thanks to Chowhound for that tip). My only error was adding a splash of soy – next time I will just season with salt. It’s important to keep the flavour of the filling quite clean so that the dipping sauce can do its thang, ie. make the gyoza sing in your mouth.
Here they are sizzling away:
Normally, the cooking method is to begin frying the dumplings and then dump in some water and STAND WELL BACK before putting on the lid. I decided to go the less hazardous route and added a drizzle of oil to a warm (not hot) pan, arranged the gyoza and added enough water to come about 1/3 of the way up the gyoza, then clamped on the lid and turned up the heat. I waited until the frothy sizzling had turned into a quieter frying sound and then removed the lid to let them finish browning.
Damn they were good. We ate them greedily with a classic dipping sauce of soy, vinegar and chilli oil.
For more info and some recipes please try these links:
An exhaustive post on gyoza (here called potstickers), including rolling and pleating images, and 2 filling recipes
A recipe and an excellent video on how to pleat