(Yes, I know – it’s a terrible headline. I had to stretch — the word “gyoza” just doesn’t seem to turn up in popular songs and clever sayings.)
But hey! It’s Week 4 already. Time does indeed fly when you’re having fun.
This week’s life hack is about making gyoza at home. If you’re not familiar with them, gyoza are light little dumplings, Japanese in origin, and usually stuffed with a mixture of ground pork, cabbage, onion and ginger. I love them, but find them a little expensive at the grocery store. Plus, they’re an easy snack that’s healthy for you. In my perfect world, I would have a bunch of little ziplock bags in my freezer, each containing three gyozas that could be whipped out, microwaved and chomped down immediately.
Could I find an inexpensive DIY solution at the library? I figured I could. I located an easy-to-follow recipe for gyoza in “My Japanese Table”. Written by Debra Samuels, this cookbook is packed full of recipes for everything from sushi to black sesame ice cream, and gorgeously illustrated.
Running from Store to Store …
I tried to be an equal-opportunity shopper when I went looking for the ingredients, realizing that not everyone has access to ethnic markets. Some of the ingredients I could find in Wal-Mart, and some in Safeway, but I had to go to a Chinese grocer to find the dough wrappers and Chinese cabbage (also called suey choy). And generally speaking, you will find the best prices for gyoza components at a Chinese grocery store.
The most expensive ingredient was rice wine. I couldn’t find anything readily identifiable as rice wine in grocery stores, so I went to a liquor store and bought a small bottle of sake. (Which is rice wine, but perhaps fancier than what Debra Samuels had in mind.) I also substituted ground turkey for the ground pork.
Putting it All Together
With everything bought, it took about 30 minutes to prep the gyoza filling. Assembling them took longer — about 2 hours for 45 of the little beggars. (It’s a bit tricky to figure out and I highly recommend the photo tutorial found at Cooking Cute.) I produced 15 lumpy, dishevelled-looking gyozas before I had one that actually resembled the pictures.
(If you try this life hack out, here’s a hint: although they look deceptively large in photos, the pleats are actually quite tiny, only a little bit more than 1/8”.)
Boil or Fry?
Gyozas can be boiled, or pan-fried and steamed. Boiling is certainly healthier, but my taste-tester and I by far preferred the texture of the pan-fried and steamed version. We pan-fried some in butter and some in oil, and the final vote is for pan-frying in a light oil, followed by a quick steaming.
Better Than Store-Bought?
I have to admit that this is the first library life hack where I haven’t been 100% enthusiastic about the results. My homemade gyozas are as good as the ones I can buy at a grocery store, and they actually taste fresher. But to qualify as a full-on life hack, I think they should be spectacular — and they’re not quite there yet. My feeling is that, with some more experimentation, I could kick this recipe up into the “really, really great” bracket. So … you may well be seeing a new and improved gyoza hack sometime in the future.
Playing with the Math
I had an ethical debate on pricing out the groceries that went into this week’s hack. The raw ingredients for 45 gyozas added up to $33.69, or 74.9 cents each. Grocery store gyozas are $3.79 for 10, or 37.9 cents each.
I blame it on the fancy rice wine, which was $12.69. But here’s the dilemma. I only used a small portion of some ingredients. So … do I only count the price of what I actually used? In that case, the total cost for 45 gyozas is $10.42, or 23.1 cents each. That’s a lot better, but it seconds the motion that this life hack needs a little more polishing.
Here’s the rest of the story on the numbers. The book is $19.75 at amazon.ca and $20.79 at chapters.indigo.ca. That’s an average of $20.27 saved by taking it out of the library. Based on my somewhat weaselly number-crunching, you could save $6.64 by making gyozas at home instead of buying them.
And finally, here’s the information on the book:
My Japanese Table: A Lifetime of Cooking with Friends and Family
Written by Debra Samuels
Published by Tuttle Publishing
Released Sept 10, 2011
That’s it for this week. Thank you – always – for reading all the way down to the bottom. Please feel free to leave a comment (especially if you have a hot gyoza tip!) And if you have a life hack you want to see me try out, drop me a line at LibraryLifeHack [at] gmail.com. Have a great week and tune in seven days from now for Week 5, where I’ll be learning yoga with the help of a library DVD. Namaste!