Japan Eats

Japan Eats Podcast, Episode 20: “Indulgents”

This week we discuss what to eat the morning after the night before.

The Japan Eats Podcast is presented by Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt and Christopher Pellegrini. To listen, click play on the audio player below:

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NB: Due to unforeseen circumstances (specifically very loud background music during the recording) this episode’s audio quality isn’t ideal, particularly at the start of the show. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the conversation and hope you do too.

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Recipe: Gyoza (pan-fried dumplings)

This Chinese side dish is hugely popular in Japan, and often associated with another import: ramen noodles.

Fried dumplings (yaki gyoza) are one of Japan’s most beloved dishes. They’re most commonly found as a side order in Chinese restaurants, as a beer snack at izakaya or even as the main meal at so-called “gyoza parties” held at people’s homes.

There are a number of variations on the recipe given here. Suigyoza are boiled gyoza, often added to Japanese nabe (hotpots) during the winter months. And there’s no reason you can’t alter the recipe to make the dish vegetarian.  Experiment with different fillings and let us know your favorites!

The yield for this recipe is 50 gyoza. That may seem like a lot, but you can always freeze them for cooking at a later date.

Fried gyoza

Fried gyoza.

Ingredients (for 6 – 8 people; makes 50 gyoza)

  • 400 g of pork mince
  • 400 g of cabbage
  • 70 g of Chinese chives
  • 6 tablespoons of green onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger (finely chopped)

Sauce for the filling

  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 – 3 pinches of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sake (紹興酒)
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons of cold water
  • 50 gyoza skins (10 cm in diameter)

Dipping sauce

  • 100 ml vinegar
  • 100 ml soy sauce
  • A few drops of rayu (spicy sesame oil)

Method

First prepare the filling. Place a bowl (20 cm or larger in diameter) and place the finely chopped cabbage, add 1 teaspoon of salt (not included in the ingredients) and mix well and leave it for 10 minutes. Then squeeze the water out.

Slice the Chinese chives 5 mm thin.

Folding gyoza

Folding gyoza. Try to pleat each skin 5 times.

Place a large bowl (26 cm or larger in diameter) with 400 g of pork mince, add all of the sauce for the filling except for the 3 tablespoons of cold water and mix them well for a minute. Add the 3 table spoons of cold water at the end, then mix well.

Add the finely chopped squeezed cabbage, chopped Chinese chives, finely chopped green onion and ginger and mix roughly, then rest the mixture for 10 minutes.

Prepare a cup of 150 ml of cold water (not included in the ingredients), divide the filling into four. The basic idea is to shape 15 – 17 gyoza from 1/4 filling.

Place a sheet of gyoza skin on your palm place a heaped teaspoon of filling onto the center of the skin using a butter knife or teaspoon. Dip a finger into a cup of water, wet it and coat the whole edge of the skin with the water. Now fold the skin in half, shaping the gyoza by making 4 – 5 pleats on one side (refer to the photograph on the left). Don’t worry if you mess up the first few – after 50 gyoza you’ll be much better!

Gyoza, ready for cooking

Gyoza made with shop-bought skins. These are thin and best for frying. Homemade gyoza skins are usually thicker and better for making boiled gyoza (suigyoza).

Pinch the skin together securely, otherwise you will lose the juice when you cook them.

Once you have shaped the gyoza, line them up on a dry plate or cutting board. Repeat the procedure until you use up either the skins or the filling.

Now it’s time to cook the gyoza. You’ll need a frying pan which has the perfectly matched size for the number of gyoza as well as a transparent lid.

Place a frying pan (20 cm diameter) with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on a medium heat and move the pan so that it’s surface is coated in oil. Once the pan is warm, place the gyoza base-down in the pan. Usually 8 – 10 gyoza will fit inside a fry pan 20 cm in diameter, but if you have a larger pan, add more vegetable oil (perhaps 2 tablespoons) and cook 15 – 18 gyoza at once.

Fry the gyoza until the base of the gyoza tuns brown. Check the color by picking one up with your fingers.

When they have turned brown, turn the heat up high. Add 1/2 cup of water (not included in the ingredients) and close the lid immediately. The water-level should reach a third of the height of the gyoza.

While the gyoza cook, prepare the dipping sauce. Pour both the soy sauce and the vinegar into a small dish. Add a little rayu for spice.

Gyoza cooking

Before adding water, make sure the base of each gyoza is dark brown.

When almost all the water in the fry pan is gone, open the lid. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil (not included in the ingredients) and extend to add the aroma and make the base crispy again.

Turn off the heat and use a spatula to serve.

Recipe: Tarako butter spaghetti

A quick and easy pasta dish

Tarako (salted pollack roe) is often used as an ingredient in onigiri (Japanese rice balls). If you visit a Japanese supermarket, you’ll find a similar product called mentaiko. It’s also salted pollack roe, but is seasoned with tougarashi – red chili powder.

Tarako spaghetti is a dish that’s easy to make and is particularly popular with children. The saltiness of the tarako is a good match for the sweetness of the butter, together producing a wonderful flavor. I recommend a garnish such as shiso or radish sprouts to add a sharpness to the dish.

Tarako butter spaghetti

Tarako butter spaghetti

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 160 – 180 g of spaghettini (1.7  mm)
  • 160 – 180 g of tarako
  • 60 g of butter
  • 1 sheet of nori ( 20 cm x 20 cm dried sea weed)
  • 10 sheets of shiso (green perilla)

Method

Place a large pot with 2 liters of cold water on a high heat. Once it comes to boil, add 10 g of salt and cook the spaghettini based on the introductions on the package.

While you’re cooking the spaghettini, prepare the sauce and the garnish. Cut the butter into 1 cm square cubes and put these in a large bowl.

Next, place the tarako on the cutting board and cut the skin. Use the back of the knife to scrape the eggs into the bowl.

Cut the nori into pieces 3 – 5 cm wide, then place these in a stack and cut into 1 – 2 mm strips with scissors.

Slice the shiso leaves 1 mm thin.

Once the spaghettini is cooked, drain and quickly add them to the bowl, mixing well so that the butter melts with the heat of the spaghettini. Make sure that you keep a little hot water when you drain the noodles – it can be used to adjust the sauce. If you think it needs to be more smooth or still has lumps of butter, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of hot water to the bowl.

Plate the pasta, garnish and serve.