Recipe: How to make vegan Japanese gyoza

They've been around for thousands of years, but how can you make these delicious dumplings vegan? Tim Anderson, author of Vegan JapanEasy, shares his recipe...

6 mins

I’m sure you’ve seen those pop-sci articles about how to spot a psychopath, like how they don’t yawn when other people yawn or how they watch Love Island. Well here’s another dead giveaway: only psychopaths don’t love gyoza. This is 100% true.

Or maybe not, I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist. But I am an experienced gyozologist and if there’s one thing my years of study has taught me, it’s that gyoza is beloved by all decent human beings.

What’s not to love about steamy little parcels of dough, supple on top and crispy on the bottom, stuffed with juicy and flavourful fillings?

Making gyoza takes a bit of practice, but it’s not hard - and once you find your groove, crimping and folding them becomes a pleasantly mindless repetitive task, like a kind of meditation.

A plate of Japanese gyoza dumplings sitting on a rustic wooden table (Shutterstock)

A plate of Japanese gyoza dumplings sitting on a rustic wooden table (Shutterstock)

Or, if you are making a lot of gyoza, you can get your friends and family involved and it becomes a really fun, chatty, social experience (gyoza is a great conduit for gossip).

Oh yes, and gyoza is even easier if you buy the pre-made frozen wrappers – not a cheat, at all, as this is how most people in Japan make them, but you will have to go to an Asian supermarket to find them.

Otherwise, here is the gyoza dough recipe. I’m notoriously bad at pastry but I still find this easy, and it’s made from really basic store-cupboard ingredients that you probably already have.

And remember: ugly gyoza are still delicious, so don’t worry if your pleats aren’t perfect. It’s all about that inner beauty...

How to make 40 gyoza dough wrappers

Gyoza - with vegan dough (Shutterstock)

Gyoza - with vegan dough (Shutterstock)

Method: Stir the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the boiled water to the flour little by little, incorporating it with a spoon or spatula as you go.

When all the water has been added, start working it with your hands; when it comes together, it should be soft and very dry; in fact, it will probably seem too dry. That’s fine, because it will hydrate more as it rests.

Tip the dough out onto the work surface and dust it with a little cornflour. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth. (If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, by all means use it – it should only take a few minutes for it to come together.)

Roll the dough out into two chubby logs, about two and a half cm (one in) in diameter. Wrap each log in cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes.

Unwrap the dough – it should be nice and firm but less dry at this point. Sprinkle a little more cornflour on your work surface, then cut each log into coins about five mm (¼ in) thick – you should get 20 pieces out of each log. Use your hands to roll each piece of dough into a little ball, then roll each ball out on the work surface into flat discs.

Try to make them very thin, but not so thin that they become difficult to work with – one mm thick is a good goal, but two mm will be fine.

Dust each wrapper with cornflour and stack them up as you go, covering the stack with a clean, slightly damp dish towel to keep them from drying out. If not using immediately, you can keep them in the refrigerator, wrapped in cling film, for about three days.

How to make kimchi and tofu gyoza filling (for 20 to 24 gyoza)

The finished product: vegan gyoza (Nassima Rothacker)

The finished product: vegan gyoza (Nassima Rothacker)

200g (seven oz) firm (cotton) tofu, cut into small dice

120g (four oz) kimchi, finely chopped

Two garlic cloves, minced (ground)

10g (½ oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and minced (ground)

One tablespoon oil

One tablespoon sesame oil

One tablespoon white sesame seeds

Two spring onions (scallions), finely sliced

One tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour

Salt and chilli powder, to taste

Method: Combine everything except the spring onions, flour, salt and chili powder in a bowl and mix well.

Transfer to a frying pan (skillet) and stir-fry over a medium high heat for about 10 minutes – this is mainly to dry out the ingredients but also to soften the garlic and ginger.

When the mixture is quite dry and starting to colour, remove from the heat and stir in the spring onions and flour.

Tip out into a bowl and leave to cool until you can handle it, then use your hands to mix it up and break the tofu into little crumbs (some big chunks are okay, but too many and the filling won’t stick together).

Taste and adjust the flavour with salt and chili powder, if you like. Assemble and cook the gyoza as per the instructions overleaf.

How to make garlicky mushroom and bamboo shot gyoza filling (for 20 to 24 gyoza)

Making homemade Gyoza (Shutterstock)

Making homemade Gyoza (Shutterstock)

250g (nine oz) mushrooms (just about any kind will do, but I think oyster are nice), finely chopped

120g (four oz) bamboo shoots, finely chopped (use a Japanese brand if you can)

One tablespoon sesame oil

One tablespoon nutritional yeast

A pinch of white pepper

15g (⅔ oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and minced (ground)

Two tablespoons oil

Eight garlic cloves, minced (ground) or finely chopped

One tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour

½ teaspoon brown sugar

Salt, to taste

Method: I don’t like it when vegan recipes attempt to mimic meat – vegetables are delicious enough in and of themselves, thank you – but when I tried this recipe I couldn’t help but think, damn, that is MEATY.

It’s not that you could trick people into thinking these were made of pork, it’s just that they have a similar juiciness and a flavour that’s just as deep and satisfying.

Combine the mushrooms, bamboo shoots, sesame oil, yeast flakes, white pepper and ginger in a bowl and mix well.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat, add the garlic and sauté until barely golden brown, then add the mushroom mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have lost most of their moisture and have cooked down to about a third of their original size.

Stir in the flour and brown sugar. Taste, and add salt as needed. Assemble and cook the gyoza as per the instructions overleaf.

How to assemble gyoza

Fried gyoza (Shutterstock)

Fried gyoza (Shutterstock)

To make gyoza, you’ll need six things at hand: the filling, the wrappers, a small bowl of water, a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or dusted with cornflour (cornstarch), a small spoon and a slightly damp dish towel or paper towel.

Lay out a few gyoza wrappers on your counter (I don’t know why, but I always do either four or six at a time). Wet your fingertips with the water, then dampen the edge of each wrapper (don’t use too much water or they will become unworkably soft).

Spoon a little filling into the middle of each wrapper (a generous tablespoonful is all you need), then fold the wrapper over the filling and seal.

There are two ways I advise doing this:

1. The not traditional but totally easy way that still makes very cute gyoza

Fold the wrappers over the filling and pinch them shut to make little half-moon shapes – no need to crimp or pleat them, but make sure the seal is very tight.

Then, simply curl the ends of the half-moons around to meet each other and pinch them together, so you end up with shapes like tortelloni.

2. The traditional and somewhat more difficult way that will impress your Japanese mother-in-law

Fold the wrappers over the filling, but don’t seal them. Instead, pinch the wrapper shut at one end.

Then, use the index finger of your dominant hand to keep the filling ‘tucked in’ as you crimp and pinch the wrapper to seal; use your thumb to pleat the side of the wrapper closest to you, and with each pleat, pinch it firmly onto the opposite side of the wrapper.

You should get about five pleats into each gyoza before you reach the other end, then simply pinch that corner shut to finish it off. This will result in lovely, traditionally crescent-shaped gyoza.

Whichever style you choose, line the gyoza up on your papered or floured baking sheet, seal-side up, so they have nice flat bottoms, and keep them covered with a damp cloth as you work so they don’t dry out.

When all the gyoza are done you can wrap them in cling film (plastic wrap) and keep them in the refrigerator until ready to cook, but I wouldn’t recommend keeping them for much more than a day, because they tend to go soggy.

(You can also freeze them at this point, on the tray, ensuring none of them are sticking together when you do. Once frozen solid, transfer them to a container or plastic bag and cook them from frozen using the same instructions as below.) 

How to cook the gyoza

Making homemade Gyoza (Shutterstock)

Making homemade Gyoza (Shutterstock)

To cook the gyoza, you will need three things: about one tablespoon of oil, a reliably non-stick pan with a snug-fitting lid, and about 100 ml (three ½ fl oz/scant ½ cup) water.

Heat the oil in the pan over a high heat and add the gyoza (cook as many as you can fit, or as few as you need – the rest can be frozen).

When the gyoza are sizzling, pour in the water and place the lid on the pan. Steam for five minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and let all the water evaporate away.

The gyoza should have nice crispy golden-brown bottoms – you can lift one up to check, and if they’re still quite pale when the water is gone, just keep cooking them for another couple of minutes.

Tip the gyoza out onto a plate, and serve with Ponzu or ‘gyoza sauce’: three parts soy sauce to one part vinegar with a little drizzle of chilli oil or sesame oil.

Like this recipe?

Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, £22) is available from 5 March 2020

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