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

Advertisements

I Must Be A Rice Addict …

Breakfast (10:30 a.m.): I ate kimbap, Korean-style sushi, that Kevin brought over last night for breakfast. I had a side of kimchi.

Lunch (1:30 p.m.): Made a rice bowl with the leftover broth from last night’s chicken hot pot. I had a second serving because it was so good (but half the portion of the pictured one).

Snack (3:30 p.m.): Special K with almond milk.

Pre-Dinner, not pictured (5:30 p.m.): I don’t know what came over me but I had another rice bowl. It was a small portion but I feel like I really didn’t need to eat this.

Dinner (8:30 p.m.): Leftover gyoza that my mother packed for me a few weeks ago, with some leftover pork cutlet, with shredded cabbage and a side of white rice. Yes, that’s a dollop of mayonnaise you see on the vegetable.

What’s going on?  I’m eating WAY too much food lately! mad

Gyoza from Scratch: Making the Wrapper Dough

I like spending time to prepare dinner. Although the idea of preparing supper in 30 minutes or only using five ingredients is nice and practical, it seems like rushing through the process just takes away the true enjoyment behind cooking. In this incredibly fast-paced environment, the kitchen is the only place where I can take my sweet ass time and not feel rushed.

Admittedly, I cannot spend a long time every night to make something to eat, especially if I have a hungry stomach waiting to be fed, including my own, but I try to spend at least one weekend night preparing a meal that’s meaningful, thoughtful, and handled with care.

Now that the weekend is finally here, I decided to make gyoza from scratch. I usually use the pre-made wrappers that I pick up at a local supermarket (available in the refrigerated Asian food section next to tofu), but I thought it would be therapeutic to knead and roll the dough with my hands this time, giving myself the much-needed relaxation after a week of travel (I like to decompress by submerging in mindless repetitive activities).

Whenever I have searched for a good gyoza recipe online in the past, I would receive results for the fillings but hardly for the dough, until I found this one from Kuidaore, one of my favorite reads in the blogosphere. I finally dusted off the recipe for the night’s gyoza endeavors and got to work, using Jocelyn’s beautifully written words as guidance (the below instruction has been rewritten to my version but definitely check out Kuidaore’s instruction for more intricate detail).

Gyoza Wrapper Dough, courtesy of Kuidaore
(makes 32 dumplings, approx. 4 servings)

250 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 oz. boiling water

Mix the salt and flour in a bowl. Make a well and pour the hot water in the center. Mix quickly with a fork.

Move the dough onto a non-stick working surface (I put a Silpat on a cutting board to create a surface). Don’t worry if the little bits of dough are all over the place. Simply gather them together and make them into a ball.

Knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes. The dough should not be sticky and should be pretty easy to handle. Once the dough is well kneaded and bouncy, cut it into four equal pieces.

Roll each piece into a thick rope and cut it into eight equal pieces. It’s easier to cut it in half first, and cut that in half again, and again, to make eight pieces. I put the little pieces in that bowl that I used to mix the flour and water to set them aside. You can put a wet paper towel on top to stop them from drying but you should be okay if you work fairly quickly.

Put a piece of dough on your palm and roll it to make a small ball. Put the ball down on the non-stick surface and roll the dough into a thin piece using a rolling pin.  I used a small Tabasco bottle to roll the dough since the rolling pin was just too big and heavy. I like my dumplings big with lots of filling, so I rolled each dough pretty thin.

Take a teaspoon-full of the filling (I made mine with pork, beef, napa cabbage, carrots, green onions, grated garlic and ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper) and place it in the middle of the dough. Close the top by creating several creases, and pinch the opening shut.

Line up the completed dumplings on a non-stick surface. If you want to save some for later, put the dumplings in the plastic bag and freeze immediately (don’t cook before freezing). They should last for about a month in the freezer.

If you want to boil the gyoza (this method is called “Sui Gyoza,” which translates to “water dumpling”), boil a pot-full of water and drop in the dumplings. Once they float to the top, they are ready to eat. If you like pan-fried version, check this post for instruction.

As for the taste, the bouncy texture of the homemade dough is quite delicious and satisfying. I cannot say, however, that I prefer this one over the thinner cousin from a grocery store because they are very different. These are definitely more dim sum-like than the ones I’m used to eating at home or at a ramen joint. What I know for sure if that these little dumplings are a meal in its own and after a several of them, you’ll be asking, “a bowl of rice who?”

I love the weekend. 🙂

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.