Episode 3: One Minute Gourmet: Benitora

Once in a while, I get hit with an intense craving for some nice, juicy gyoza. I like dim sums too but there’s a special place in my stomach for the Japanese-style dumplings.

Today was one of those days so we drove to Benitora in Sawtelle Japantown to satisfy my raging urges.  I was tempted to veer off from the original plan and go with the white sesame dan dan tsuke men (ramen with dipping sauce) when I saw the mouth-watering photo on the menu, but I stayed strong and stuck to my initial instinct and devoured Benitoro Big Gyzoa … I was happy with the decision.

Benitora
2002 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

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Dim Sum and Then Some

26 weeks

It feels a bit narcissistic to post a picture of myself posing with my belly bump, but here it is, at 26 weeks. This is my first picture of my growing belly!

Speaking of pregnancy, I found out recently that seven of my friends / family are expecting a little bundle of joy in 2013 – SEVEN! That’s a lot of mommies-to-be, and I’m so happy about it. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with them, and partake in play dates when the little ones arrive next year.

Anyone else out there with a little bun in the oven?

dim sum 1

Since we’re on the topic of buns, we had a great breakfast / lunch on Sunday. It was my mother-in-law’s birthday so we went out to a nearby Chinese joint for some dim sum fun! I’m trying to reduce the seafood and sodium consumptions so some dumplings tasted slightly bland (without the hot sauce), but they definitely hit the spot.

dim sum 2

My favorites were the garlic chive dumplings (right) and steamed cake (not pictured).

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and ready to take on another great week!

Delicious Present: Pan-Fried Gyozas

a-gyozaI still can’t believe Christmas is over. I mean, we spend many months preparing for the big day – shopping for gifts, writing cards, and arranging travel – and bam! it’s over. Just like that. And why is it that even though Christmas falls on the exact same day, every single year, and we still manage to get blindsided by how quickly the day arrives, especially when you’re not prepared? It makes me feel like the end result, although festive and heart warming, doesn’t match up to all the headaches and hard work you had to endure to get there.

There are some things, however, that are worth all the effort because the end result is so wonderful. To me, gyoza-making is one of those special exceptions where every ounce of effort is rewarded in every bite you take afterward.

These Japanese gyozas are so delicious that I willingly mix the cold ground beef with chopped napa cabbage and scallions with my own hands in the freezing kitchen and patiently wrap gazillions of these little dumplings (and make pretty creases). I even welcome the mindless, repetitious work (I actually find it enjoyable, which explains my knitting addiction) so making gyozas serve as somewhat of a therapy for me.

aaa

Traditional gyozas call for nira (chives) for filling but I usually substitute it by adding napa cabbage and scallions because they’re readily available. I personally like nira so much better and the cabbage and the scallions could not adequately replace the deep flavor of nira, but they still provide great texture to the gyoza.

Unlike the recipe that calls for dashi (fish stock), seaweed bits, flour or cornstarch, and any other special ingredients, our family recipe is quite simple. We just add finely chopped vegetables (water squeezed out) and ground beef together, and flavor the mixture with salt and pepper (preferably white), sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. I sometime omit garlic because I like packing leftovers for lunch the following day and I don’t want to be socially unacceptable with the garlic breath.  I just add it to my dipping sauce made by combining soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili oil.

gyoza-in-pan

When all the gyozas are filled and wrapped, move them to a hot skillet and pan fry them with oil first. When the meat mixture is cooked (about 7 minutes on medium heat), crank up the heat to high and pour about two tablespoons of water and close the lid until the water completely vaporizes. This allows dumplings to steam, giving them the perfectly crunchy and moist texture. Just be careful not to put too much water, or you’ll end up with soggy gyozas.

pan-fried-gyoza

What you get at the end of your patience and hard work are lovely presents wrapped beautifully in gyoza wrapper. These, for me, are so much better than gifts I find under the Christmas tree.