Although I spent a large part of my childhood in Japan, my knowledge and appreciation of Japanese cuisine is quite rudimentary, as being a vegetarian was a serious limitation in terms of trying Japanese foods. Luckily, my school would often offer vegetarian versions of classic Japanese dishes like Yaki-soba and Kare-rice. However, apart from these, my options for eating out were limited to American style pizza and celebratory dinners at the Old Spaghetti Factory (yes, they have those in Japan). Given the limited options and the prohibitive cost of eating out in Japan, my family simply ate in most of the time. This wasn’t really a problem for me since my mom is an adventurous and stellar cook. However, as I’ve gotten older and moved away from Japan, I’ve started to become more interested in adapting Japanese foods to my vegetarian platter.
So you can imagine my glee when one of my very best friends, who is Japanese, offered to teach me how to make vegetarian gyozas at home. Ever since I learned to make these gyozas, or pot-stickers, a couple of years ago, they have become a staple part of our cuisine, especially for potlucks and get-togethers. I have had many omnivores comment on how delicious these are and how they never thought that vegetarian potstickers could taste so good. So, with many thanks to my BFF, I present to you her recipe handed down to me, for meatless veggie gyozas. Don't be intimidated by the lengthy instructions on preparing these. They are actually fairly simple to make and turn out looking nice and fancy, so go ahead and give it a try.
1 regular bok choy (not baby-sized), chopped into small pieces
4 crimini mushrooms, diced finely
1 small zucchini, diced finely
1 red pepper, diced finely
½ box extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
6 pods garlic, finely minced
1 inch ginger root, peeled and finely minced
1 generous bunch of scallions, finely minced
4 T soy sauce
2 T Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
1 container of pot sticker wrappers, available at many grocery stores or at Asian markets
(these are round, not rectangular in shape)
Mix all veggies, tofu, and sauces together in a large bowl. The bok choy should be the most predominant veggie in this mix.
Allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour so the flavor meld together, or refrigerate for longer storage
Now this next part is tricky to explain.
Filling the gyozas
When ready to make gyozas, bring out veggies, a small cup with water in it, a towel to wipe your hands on, and the potsticker wrappers.
Hold a wrapper in the palm of your non-dominant hand and place a tablespoonful (approximately) of veggie filling in the center.
Wet your finger in the water bowl and rim the upper half of the wrapper with a little bit of water. This will help your gyozas remain closed once you wrap them.
Folding the gyozas
Fold the lower half over the veggies to meet the top half and press down to form a semi-circle filled with veggies. (This is the simple version for those who are unwilling to try making gyozas that actually look like gyozas. These will be just as delicious, but not nearly as pretty).
As you fold the lower half to meet the upper half, pinch small pleats in the wrapper with the thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand. This will form the classic potsticker shape that you are after.
Repeat for all your wrappers, stacking them side by side on a lightly floured platter as you go along.
Cooking the gyozas
You will need a large flat-bottomed skilled with a lid, preferably one that is see-through
Add 2 T of vegetable oil to the skillet (more if your pan is not non-stick)
Once the oil is hot, line up your gyozas in the pan, so that the flat side is on the bottom, and the pleats are on top.
Sear gyozas until the bottoms form an even brown color
Add ½ C water to the hot skillet and immediately close with lid
Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the gyoza wrappers become translucent
If the water you added has cooked off and your gyozas are still opaque, add more water and close lid
Once you start being able to see your veggie filling through the wrapper, transfer gyozas to a platter