As is often his wont, my boyfriend decided to make stir fry for game night dinner this past Sunday. Since I don't do pork or beef easily, he made chicken stir fry and asked other people to bring complimentary items. My roommate brought rice, and I decided to swing by Trader Joe's and pick up some of their frozen chicken gyoza.
Trader Joe's gyoza and I have a rocky history. My first roommates in California raved about how delicious it was, so I naturally gave it a try. I was disappointed. Granted, the gyoza I was used to from Japan was not chicken, but I had since bought gyoza from the Chinese markets in Kalamazoo that were chicken and just as tasty. (Incidentally, if you would like to read about the difference between the original Chinese jiaozi and Japan's variation gyoza, click here.)
I generally love Trader Joe's. They're cheap, avoid the added chemical crap that has infested our daily food, and have offerings that I just can't find anywhere else. I am far more adventurous with food now than I was before Trader Joe's. All true. However, I dislike most of their Asian cuisine offerings (though their mandarin chicken really is the bomb), and can't help feeling they consistently fall short of authentic Japanese food.
So while living in Mountain View, I was more content to walk the ten minutes to the nearby Chinese market on Castro St to buy my beloved gyoza. I moved away from Mountain View, though, and have often had little alternative to buying gyoza from Trader Joe's. I don't know if my tastes changed or the recipe did, but I am now decently fond of the chicken gyoza from Trader Joe's and can usually get it to cook the way that I want it.
Except for Sunday. I wasn't using a stove that I am used to, nor was I using my usual cooking oil or pan, any of which could have been contributing factors to the gyoza not browning no matter how hard I tried. I still have a bag and a half of the dear little dumplings in my freezer, so obviously I will get a chance to cook them again. Next time, I think I will take Wikipedia's advice and boil the gyoza first, then put them in a fry pan with oil. I think I can get them crispier that way.
Another thing that I don't particularly like that Trader Joe's sells is their gyoza sauce. It's too spicy for me and just doesn't, in my opinion, go well with the gyoza (though would probably pair well with jiaozi). So I made my own! Most of the recipes I found had the same ingredients as Trader Joe's, so they wouldn't do. I decided to be simple and mix together soy sauce and rice vinegar. In the past I have sweetened soy sauce with sugar, but it was fine without sugar this time, and tasted pretty authentic to me. (It was closest to what I remember having with my gyoza in Japan.)
Despite its non-crispiness, everyone at game night ate the gyoza and said it was good (though roomie was sad at the lack of crisp, as was I), so at least it performed its function.