Gyoza dumplings or pot stickers are becoming more and more well known in the U.S. as Asian cuisines grow in popularity. This Asian comfort food has various versions depending on the regions and countries, and in Japan they have a thin wrapper and are usually pan-fried. Japanese gyoza are enjoyed nationwide as a sidekick of ramen, as an izakaya staple, and as an appetizer at home.
“Ever since I tasted a plate of gyoza dumplings at a ramen house more than 40 years ago, I have been addicted to them,” says Mr. Hideyuki Okayama, owner of Ramen & Gyoza House Zen 6 and 33-year veteran restaurateur. He has tasted countless gyoza for decades in search of the ultimate Japanese gyoza, and he finally developed one for his restaurant a few years ago. His ideal gyoza has generous amounts of beef and pork with vegetables and garlic, is wrapped in thin skin and then pan-fried for a perfectly “crispy bottom and soft top.” The Okayama version of the ultimate Japanese gyoza sells nearly 1,000 pieces per day at Zen 6 and his other restaurant which specializes in nabe hot pot.
Although Mr. Okayama serves handmade gyoza in his restaurants, he actually stocks up on Ajinomoto gyoza at home and enjoys them whenever he has a gyoza craving. “Making gyoza from scratch at home is a hassle. It takes time and requires a certain skill to pan fry. In my restaurants, I use special pans developed particularly for frying gyoza. But I don’t have that at home, where my choice is Ajinomoto gyoza. I usually buy it at Japanese or Asian grocery stores near my home, like Sunrise Mart in East Village or any other Asian Supermarket. They’re easy to cook even with a regular home-use pan. No mess, no burn, no failure. You’ll have perfect gyoza in five minutes,” he explains.
Then he demonstrates for us how easy it is to make Ajinomoto gyoza. He puts a pan on medium heat, places pieces of Ajinomoto gyoza inside, pours one ounce of water and covers it with a lid. After waiting 4-5 minutes, he has sizzling gyoza with a golden crispy bottom. “As you can see, they cook through quicker than the homemade gyoza in my restaurants, which require at least 6 minutes to cook through. Also, Ajinomoto gyoza doesn’t stick to the pan even without oil,” he brags. Ajinomoto gyoza are precooked before frozen and glazed with oil at the bottom, so anyone can make perfect gyoza.
Ajinomoto gyoza comes in five flavors, Chicken, Pork and Chicken, Beef, Seafood and Vegetable. Mr. Okayama reveals, “I think all the flavors are quite well-thought out in order to fit everyone’s palate. I personally like Chicken because it is light and savory.” He uses two Ajinomoto sauces, Spicy Shoyu and Gyoza Sauce, for dipping the gyoza. The former is closer to the one that Japanese are familiar with, and the latter is milder yet full-bodied enough to kick up the gyoza’s flavor. “Nothing can go wrong with the combination of gyoza and the right dipping sauce. This makes me want to eat one after another,” says Mr. Okayama. “During this season, digging into gyoza and drinking beer is a typical way to enjoy this food among Japanese so I highly recommend it.” You can go to Japanese restaurants to try this, but as long as you have Ajinomoto gyoza at home, you can replicate this blissful experience whenever you want just like Mr. Okayama.
Mr. Okayama defines Japanese gyoza as, “Having a thin wrapper, browned and crispy on the bottom and steamed soft on top.” That definition is perfectly met in his homemade gyoza (left) and in Ajinomoto gyoza (right).
Everyone can make restaurant-quality gyoza in 5 minutes at home thanks to Ajinomoto gyoza. “See the bottom. That’s exactly what I want!” says Mr. Okayama.
Ajinomoto gyoza are tasty as is, but the Spicy Shoyu and Gyoza dipping sauces add a kick and open up a whole new world of taste.
For over four decades Mr. Okayama has constantly pursued the ultimate gyoza—this is his life’s work.
Ramen & Gyoza House Zen 6
328 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003 | TEL: 646-429-8471
Hakata Hot Pot & Sushi Lounge
31 St. Marks Pl., New York, NY 10003 | TEL: 212-598-1188 | www.hakatahotpot.nyc
Ajinomoto windsor, Inc. www.ajifrozenusa.com