After several trips to Japan I learnt good gyoza aren’t easy to find in Tokyo. Maybe I was unlucky or maybe it’s Tokyo, but I rarely had excellent versions. My homemade gyoza are clumsily shaped and I haven’t mastered yet the Japanese fry & steam cooking method, but since the filling is high quality and everything is freshly made, they always taste at least good. My usual filling contains crushed garlic cloves, but since wild garlic is in full season now, this time I’ve added it instead and the result was excellent: much lighter and fresher!
Ramsons, wild garlic, buckrams, bear’s garlic, bear paw garlic… (Allium Ursinum) is a wild plant – though recently it started being cultivated – with a very distinct garlic scent and apparently a favourite of bears, who would dig out its bulbs. Its leaves are very similar to those of the lily of the valley. Mixing them up is very dangerous, since the latter are toxic, but wild garlic’s aroma is so strong I cannot imagine anyone making a mistake. Apart from foraging you can look for it in farmers markets or grow it yourself.
Here wild garlic season is very short (April and May), so I try to use it as often as possible. It is extremely versatile and can be treated as a spinach or other leaf substitute but also as a condiment, a milder cousin of garlic. In many dishes you can replace it with garlic chives (in gyoza for example). Dried wild garlic can also be used, but in this form the plant loses all its spring freshness.
If you find yourself with a big bunch of wild garlic, here are some other ideas:
TIPS: If you want to prepare gyoza exactly the way it’s mostly done in Japan, there are many video or photo tutorials (such as this one), but if you don’t want to bother, fold and close the dumplings the way you like and then simply cook them in water or/and stir-fry in a pan. They will still be delicious, though slightly different.
If you don’t have wild garlic, use garlic chives instead (sold in most Asian shops).
My favourite sauce to serve gyoza is chilli oil (the best is taberu rayu, or chilli oil with sediments; see here the easiest & quickest recipe here) + soy sauce + rice vinegar
Preparation: about 1 hour
Ingredients (for 30 dumplings):
30 gyoza “skins”
350 g ground beef and pork or pork only
12 big wild garlic leaves (without stalks) or a big bunch of garlic chives
ground pepper, salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
oil (to fry)
First prepare the filling. Chop the wild garlic leaves and combine well with the meat, the egg, the sesame oil, the salt and the pepper.
Brush the dumpling skins’ edges with water.
Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling on each skin and seal them.
You can cook them in gently simmering water for about 5 minutes, dry them, sprinkle lightly with potato starch and then fry on both sides until golden.
You can also do this the Japanese way: sprinkle the dumplings lightly with potato starch, heat some oil in a pan, fry the dumplings at medium heat (3-4 min) until golden, then add about 1.5 cm water (about 2/3 in) to the pan, cover with a lid and steam for 3 more minutes at medium heat. Take off the lid, sprinkle 1 teaspoon sesame oil on the pan and cook the gyoza until all the water evaporates. (Click here to see the photo tutorial and detailed description of this method on Just One Cookbook).
I like gyoza most served with a sauce made with soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli oil.
These dumplings can be made in advance and frozen or refrigerated. If you want to refrigerate them, separate them with cling film. Otherwise they might stick to each other.