Gyoza, gyo-gyo-gyo-gyo gyoza...

There are two types of gyoza that are simply better than anything you can get in the US. The first are the meatball-sized plump ones served at the Tiger Gyoza chain in Japan, which are stuffed with deliciousness that leaves you deliciously stuffed. Honestly, it took about three trips before we tried anything else on the menu.

The second are the tiny, flat Osaka-style hitokuchi (lit: one-bite) gyoza, which I’ve mentioned before, with Tenpei being the best place to go since Tenka closed down. I’ve never seen them outside Osaka, but out of nowhere, my mother discovered a reasonable approximation on, of all places, QVC: The Perfect Gourmet Mini Potstickers. Properly steamed and pan-fried, they have decent flavor and capture the “just one more little bite” experience.

After earning my sister’s seal of approval last weekend, I went to Kroger and discovered something in the same form factor, with a slightly different flavor profile: Bibigo Mini Wontons. Don’t ask me why they’re labeled wontons when the same company also sells potstickers, mandu, and crispy dumpling bites, and they’re all pretty much the same thing in two sizes.

Both brands go well dipped in either Dumpling Daughter Spicy Sweet Soy Secret Sauce or Trader Joe’s Gyoza Sauce (not on their web site for whatever reason). Or roll your own with two parts vinegar, one part soy, and a dash of chili oil.

But what they have in common with other domestic gyoza is instructions that will not produce an acceptable balance of crispy and soft. For that, we turn to Hey There, Dumpling, an excellent cookbook that offers the following simple method:

  • put 1 tablespoon of oil and 3 tablespoons of water into a large non-stick skillet.
  • pack it as full as you can with a single layer of dumplings (fresh or frozen), and cover tightly.
  • set it on medium heat, and listen for the moment when the water is gone and they switch from steaming to frying.
  • give it a minute or so, then remove the lid and check to see how they’re crisping up.

When they’re nice and browned, you have two choices:

  • (HTD) put a large plate over the skillet and flip them all out.
  • (J/Nellie) flip them all over and crisp the other side for a minute or two, then flip them onto a plate.

If you want service with your service, you’re on your own…

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