Aug 14
2009

Washoku Warriors Challenge #2: Gyoza, Edamame, and Rice

in Washoku Warriors

This has been a great month for the Washoku Warriors. We continue to gain new members—the more the merrier! I find myself learning and thinking about the recipes a lot more when I see what struggles/triumphs/insights the other participants have. This month we took on 3 recipes from Washoku:
– Cooked White Rice (Gohan)
– Green Soybeans Served in the Pod (Edamame)
– Pork and Wakame Dumplings (Wafu Gyoza)
– I also threw out the optional challenge of making gyoza wrappers from scratch for those of us who had made gyoza before.

Thank you to Sarah, Petra of Foodfreak, Foodhoe, Andreas of Delta Kitchen, Veronica of Kitchen Musings, Jeanie of ROWR!!!, Nolwenn of ABC-Cooking, Cora, Shelley, Tinasquirrel of Squirrel Acorns, Fuji Nana, and Amber of The Sassy Chronicles for your hard work on this month’s challenge!

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Fuji Mama
Rice and edamame have a constant presence in the Fuji household as they are both items that Squirrel inhales. Gyoza make a periodic appearance as well, though not as often, as they take a bit more time to prepare. I have to say that the Wafu Gyoza were definitely my favorite part of this challenge. I loved the addition of the wakame and grated carrot to the filling–they added so much flavor (and wakame is on my personal list of all-time favorite foods). One of my favorite moments of cooking gyoza is the moment you pour in water after the dumplings have been cooking in a bit of oil for a few minutes–the sizzle is so gratifying! I also made my own wrappers, so our gyoza were extra yummy.

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Sarah
I have fond memories of making Chinese dumplings with my stepmother and her family as a teenager, so this month’s challenge was an exciting one. Since for me making dumplings is a group affair, and because gyoza must be eaten with beer and beer is best drunk with company, I enlisted the help of a dumpling-loving good friend. We were surprised that making the actual dough was easy. As we had expected, however, the hard part was forming it into circles that were even thickness and actually somewhat close to what is normally accepted to be a “circle.” Things did not start out well, but after the first few ragged triangles and other random shapes we got better at rolling the rolling pin in an arc and creating a somewhat concave circle that made it easier to fold (and that could hold more filling!) We had both folded gyoza before so had no major problems (except for attempting to fold over-filled dumplings, of course!) We found, however, that since we had chosen to make our skins fairly thick (the way we both like them), we had to add extra water and steam them for longer to make sure they were cooked through. Since we are both accustomed to the gyoza’s more strongly flavoured Chinese sibling, after eating our first batch we decided to add salt and pepper and chopped garlic to the dumpling filling mixture. We found this gave the dumplings just a bit more zip. I prepared Andoh’s dipping sauce as well as the garlic-soy sauce that my Chinese step-relatives used to make – pungent, deadly to vampires, and very very yummy! As for the other two challenges – rice and edamame are both regulars in my kitchen. I read Andoh’s directions for both – discovering that I’ve been making rice pretty much the way she describes, but that my way of cooking edamame is quite different. (I tried Andoh’s method, but since the frozen kind are much more readily available in my local supermarket, I will likely return to my usual method of thawing the frozen pods in a bowl with hot water.) All in all this challenge was the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer on a hot summer’s evening!

Read Sarah’s full report here!

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Petra of Foodfreak
I already had set my eyes on the recipe for the pork and wakame dumplings, and was planning on making them soon – Fuji Mama must have read my mind when she chose the recipes for the second Washoku Warriors challenge! I knew I was in for a hard time, though – cooking rice and edamame isn’t that hard. Wrapping gyoza, on the other hand… I am kind of decorationally challenged, and I was sure they could never ever look as professional as those Fuji Mama wraps. (I am kind of glad I cannot eat Nutella, btw). Still, I wanted to make these with my hands (or rather a standing mixer), and after preparing jiao zi from scratch last year, I opted for the homemade wrappers – not that different from the jiao zi dough. Cooking rice by going through the process of washing /rinsing and then boiling without opening the lid was nothing new to learn, but I could use a class on perfectly pinching and pleating dumplings. I love the sesame oil taste on my gyoza, but next time I’ll try to find round frozen wrappers to be able to see the difference between both versions. I loved the filling, but next time I’ll have to choose another type of dark miso (a saltier one) or use more of it, the filling was a bit bland, alas the dipping sauce made all the difference. Overall, aside from the pains of pleating the gyoza, this was fairly easy and I enjoyed the process. I wasn’t too sure about the edamame – I do have some food sensitivity issues with unfermented soy, and if this hadn’t worked I would have had to substitute fava beans or the like, to achieve the same colorful effect. The flash-frozen green soybeans (the only kind available in my part of the world) are ready to be served in a few minutes. I didn’t care much for the taste, though. At least they didn’t give me an itch, but I guess the bag of edamame will live a long time in my freezer.

Read Petra’s full report here!

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Foodhoe
Whew, this challenge brought me right back to school, where I would always study the wrong chapter for the test… I made Edamame Rice, not the separate recipes for plain white rice and steamed edamame in the pods! Well, I hope my version is close enough. I made a disappointing attempt at making handmade wrappers, after rolling and rolling for several hours, I took a break and wrapped everything in plastic wrap. When I returned, I was quite chagrined to find them congealed back together in a love fest. Hmmph! My brother in law watched my progress with amusement, commenting that these were made with love. It occurred to me that the food must be responding to my feelings of irritation, not love and that is why the wrappers clung to each other. They were afraid of me… I ended up buying the ready made wrappers, which were so much easier to work with. I loved cooking the gyoza in sesame oil and with the extra drizzle at the end, the cloud of tantalizing aromas were irresistible when I lifted up the lid. You can read the full report here.

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Andreas of Delta Kitchen

As I joined just this week Rachael extended the option of just cooking one or two elements of the challenge. So I went for rice and edamame but the latter turned out to be impossible to find (but I found a small asian food store a short distance from where I live in the process :) ). In the spirit of using fresh, in-season ingredients I substituted them with some browned young onions (inspired by this post <http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/burn-those-onions/> by Mark Bittman). This made for a tasty, if somewhat frugal dish. The rice had a bit to much of a bite but I guess as this project progresses, there will be plenty of opportunity to hone my rice cooking skills. I’m looking forward to the next challenge.

Read Andreas’s full report here!

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Veronica of Kitchen Musings
I was looking forward to this challenge as I’ve always wanted to make gyoza before. Never thought I would make my own wrappers, but I did! This part was challenging because I did not know what to expect specially after kneading it a while it became too tough to roll into a log and would have taken two people to pull it on either end to get it to 12 inches. Definitely did something wrong here but since it was my first attempt I wasn’t overly concerned. So on to the main part of the gyoza filling. It looked relatively easy, right? But working with wakame seaweed was a new thing for me and I realized it wouldn’t get ground in the food processor. My cabbage also made the mix watery so when I threw the ball of ground meat on the surface of the chopping board to tenderize the filling it gave an audible splat and I was surprised none of the mixture backfired into my face. Pleating was also challenging, but I did manage to make relatively decent gyoza-looking dumplings in the end. Cooking them wasn’t as scary as I thought (adding water to a hot pan with oil). So the verdict: the filling tasted a bit bland, but I think it was because my cabbage was watery and I overcooked the potsticker because the pork was dry. But overall it was a learning experience and am encouraged me to make more gyozas in the future!

Read Veronica’s full report here!

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Jeanie of ROWR!!!
The gyoza turned out quite tasty. I did substitute the pork with ground turkey as 1) the Mr. is trying to keep his cholesterol down and I try not to cook with pork too much and 2) turkey was half off at the regular grocery store, which also did not offer ground pork (I would have had to make an extra trip). I think if I cooked them again or for myself I would go ahead and use pork if I can find it, because the gyoza turned out a little less juicy than I would have liked. Also I think I wouldn’t mind adding a little bit more carrot (just personal preference, I like carrots!). The Mr. actually declared that he liked the flavor of these gyoza better than my regular recipe. I liked the flavor that the wakame added, I think I might have to alter my recipe in the future to be more like this one. Forming the dumplings themselves was only an issue on the first one, then I had an ‘aha!’ moment and after that it was easy-peasy.

Read Jeanie’s full report here!

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Nolwenn of ABC-Cooking
At home, we all LOVE gyoza. But I don’t often make them myself because it’s a long process. But it is definitely worth it. We are not fond of pork in general, so I decided to substitute the pork meat with chicken: what a good idea. It was perfectly balanced with the other flavors. Usually I don’t like sesame oil because I think that its taste is just too strong and overpowers the others; but I wanted to try the recipe as Elizabeth Andoh wrote it. I was not disappointed at all. I also make the simply dipping sauce she suggests: fabulous. I never use wakame otherwise than in salad with cucumber or in miso soup; and I have to confess: I wasn’t so sure that the seaweed I bought in the asian store really was wakame (it’s not written on it, I recognized it visually but you know, mistakes happen !); but finally it really was wakame, yeaaah ! So the wafu gyoza were a real hit at home. We love edamame, and always have a bag in the freezer. It’s a perfect snack and adds some colors and nutritive values to a meal, so I’m glad my daughters love edamame (the thing they prefer ? Pulling the beans out, of course). The coarse salt adds something more, and next time I’ll try to mix it with togarashi to punch it a little more.
I often make maki or inarizushi, so the process of gohan rice is something I begin to really know; and finally I like the washing process (even if in winter, it freezes my fingers to the bones). It’s a must-known in Japanese cooking, in my opinion. I didn’t know about the water that has to be a little bit more than the amount of rice. Now, I’ll use my usual us cup to measure rice and water, and not the cup given with my rice cooker. So: I am always learning something, and I love the fact that this book helps me to improve my Japanese cooking skills, and knowledge. I didn’t make my own gyoza wrappers, but I’ll do next time.

Read Nolwenn’s full report here!

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Cora
This meal was a hit with both my partner and myself. The gyoza filling was simple to make and very tasty; I liked the flavor the wakame brought to it, and the subtle sweetness of the carrot. Filling the gyozas were a bit more tricky — I think I need some practice pleating, as mine held together but were kind of homely. Nonetheless they still tasted good, and the bottoms got nice and brown and crispy. (In fact, I was afraid I’d overbrowned them, but they didn’t taste burnt and they didn’t stick at all.) The edamame and rice were a great accompaniment, and especially easy now that I’ve gotten in the habit of making rice in big batches. My partner *really* loved this one — I’ll definitely be repeating it. (And as a side note, I used the extra ground pork from the recipe to make a pork version of gingered chicken, which made an excellent repeat/variation of the three-colored domburi from last month.)

Read Cora’s full report here!

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Shelley
Gyoza, where have you been all my life?!? Not only have I never cooked gyoza, but I’ve never even tasted it, not even in frozen potsticker form from Costco. I loved it. It was easy but fun to make, and tasted delicious. I pretty much followed the recipe except for leaving the sake out (without any substitution) and used square wrappers that I cut into circles. Just to be sure that I had the folding technique right, I checked out a couple of videos on YouTube, and only had problems when I filled them too full. I popped them in the fridge for a couple of hours until dinner and then continued with the recipe. The rice went well, although we are used to brown rice, so the kids were quite impressed with the whiteness of it! The edamame was nutty and yummy, and we launched a few beans across the table. This may not jive with the Washoku philosophy, but then neither did my very American presentation. Next challenge I’m hoping to focus more on the principles that Andoh discusses in the beginning of the book. Until then, I’m just going to practice using chopsticks!

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Tinasquirrel of Squirrel Acorns
I only made the Gyoza, and not the rice or edamame. I was making the Gyoza as a dinner appetizer and didn’t really need the edamame. I made the Cooked White Rice during the 1st Challenge Roundup, and it was quite tasty. I’ve never rinsed rice before, and it did turn out a lot better than how my sushi rice usually tastes. For the Gyoza, I had to do some substitutions since I live in small town Maine. I did get to use leek and cabbage from my CSA farm box though! I could only find white miso, not dark miso. I was happy to have found miso at all! Also, I had to use a wakame substitute called Alaria by the Maine Coast Sea Vegetable company. I think both substitutions worked fine. The Alaria didn’t break up very easily in my mini-processor, so I processed it for about 30 seconds to mince the vegetables, then let it sit a few minutes and processed it again, and that worked fine. Also, I could not find dumpling wrappers, so I bought rectangle egg roll wrappers, and cut them into circles with a 3.5” cutter. I found the directions for how to seal and pleat the wrapper very confusing. I think mine turned out fine, but I just looked at the link you posted last week, and I didn’t do it correctly. I wish there had been a drawing in the book demonstrating what the Gyoza pleats were supposed to look like. I was also disappointed that about 1/3 of my Gyoza stuck to my stainless steel pan. I’m not sure why since I feel like I followed the directions closely. Maybe it was the egg roll wrappers. All that said, however, the Gyoza was extremely tasty. Dip was perfect, and I was surprised to be able to find brown rice vinegar in my local health food store. However, my overall impression is that I’m not sure the amount of work was worth it. Maybe if I had made them on a weekend when I wasn’t feeling rushed on a weekday, I would have felt differently. I really liked the meat filling (and the “pitching” practice on the meat was nice and satisfying, LOL!), so I think I will have to try it again with homemade wrappers and the correct pleating, and see how that changes my opinion of things.

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Fuji Nana

This was really a fun challenge for me. I almost didn’t do it, thinking it would be too hard to do and I was having a particularly busy week. However, I am SO glad I did, and I learned a few things that I will definitely do again. For starters, I have never cooked rice this way. I’ve previously been a fan of the 2-to-1 ratio and simmering for 20 minutes. My sticky rice comes out really sticky. Using this method of lots of rinsing and less cooking, the rice is chewier and has more texture. I liked it, although next time I think I’ll cook it just a few more minutes. The edamame, which I love in Japanese restaurants, was incredibly easy and came out just like what I pay two or three times more to eat in my favorite sushi place. The biggest surprise, however, was the gyoza. It was so easy and so good! Now that I’ve done it, I’d love to do it again (especially since I have such a big bag of miso), but try slightly different fillings. My husband and I both really liked the pork, but my husband thought it might be good with something tangy or sweet in it. Perhaps some freshly grated ginger or pickled ginger? I’d love to get some suggestions for other variations. One thing that stood out for me this time around was how nice it was to work the food with my hands. Food preparation, with its electric tools and plastic gloves, seems pretty sterile these days, and so it was really fun to put my hands in the rice and toss the raw meat around like a baseball. I felt like a little kid playing in the kitchen! How nice to come in such intimate contact with the food I’m going to eat! What’s next? I’m looking forward to something else!

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Amber of The Sassy Chronicles

I was really excited to try this months food challenge because the only exposure I have had to dumplings were from the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. I had no trouble finding wakame at my local market. I did have to buy a rather large bag though, I’m going to be on the lookout for other recipes to try with it. When I read this recipe I was wondering if there would be enough flavor in the dumplings, no garlic, no ginger? But of course after one taste my doubts were laid to rest, they were delicious! The miso and leek paired well with the subtle sesame oil flavor. I used a purple cabbage leaf, which I probably wouldn’t do again, it made the filling an unappetizing shade of grey/purple. Other than that, they were delicious! I will definitely make the recipe again. No more Trader Joe’s frozen dumplings for me!

Read Amber’s full report here!

Coming Sunday: I scream for ice cream cake!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }



Kristen August 14, 2009 at 6:43 am

Wow – I am quite impressed! Look at all the talent in these dishes. Yum!

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veron August 14, 2009 at 7:13 am

What a great round up, Rachael! Now off to read the other's indepth account.

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Rachel August 14, 2009 at 7:59 am

Wow that is literally my favorite lunch in the world!! Fabulous job ladies!!

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LollyChops August 14, 2009 at 8:11 am

That looks like such a great dish! I hope I get to make it one day! Thanks for sharing everyone!

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Frieda August 14, 2009 at 9:28 am

After this post, I just may run down to the library and get this book…all in the name of gyozas~

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Fuji Papa August 14, 2009 at 9:44 am

It is fun to see how different people approach the same recipe. I definitely think the gyoza would be good with a sweeter dipping sauce. Any suggestions?

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Nutmeg Nanny August 14, 2009 at 9:47 am

Everything looks delicious! Now I have a huge craving for gyoza:)

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Bob August 14, 2009 at 11:01 am

Awesome. I need to make some gyoza wrappers.

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Jenn August 14, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Lovely. That reminds me that I haven't had edamame in a long time!!

PS. I made a version of your nutella gyozas. ;-)
http://breadplusbutter.blogspot.com/2009/08/nutella-potstickers.html

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Jess August 14, 2009 at 7:02 pm

See, here is my issue: I don't know Asian food that well and I've never cooked it before so I'm hesitant to try something this adventurous. On the other hand, everything looks DELICIOUS. Maybe when we move into the house and I have a workable kitchen I'll bite the bullet and start experimenting more with my food.

Also – I have GOT to stop reading your blog when I'm hungry!

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Kathy August 14, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Speaking of edamame, I was watching a Japanese programme on tv (I get dvds of tv programmes sent over to scratch my itch!) and on one they made miso soup with edamame by throwing the whole thing in – pod and all – and I thought that was a great idea. The pod adds a little something extra to the flavour and you drink the soup and then just squeeze out the beans from the pods like you normally do. I thought it was a great idea.

Love your home-made wrappers btw!

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Fuji Mama August 14, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Kathy– Where do you get your dvds from? SO JEALOUS! Must know! Love the miso soup with edamame idea.

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Kirsty_girl August 14, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Mixing miso into the meat mixture adds a little something too.

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Foodfreak August 15, 2009 at 11:01 am

@Jess: you really need to try it

@LaFujiMama: Thanks for the great round up, very much appreciated. This was fun and I am looking forward to doing the next challenge.

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Andreas August 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Nice format for the roundup. Thanks for your effort.

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Lina August 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm

wonderful! Looks like a typical dinner at my house. HOw do i join your washoku warriors?

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Fuji Mama August 17, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Lina– Joining is easy! Just send me an email (rachael @ lafujimama.com) and I'll get you all set up!

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