Several years ago, I used to wait tables at a sushi bar. Every once in a while, the chef would allow me into the kitchen when he needed an extra hand with prep work, which usually involved holding a fine mesh screen over a bowl while he extruded something through it, or locating an item for him in the freezer. Although these tasks were mundane, I still loved being in the kitchen during that time of day when it was still quiet and serene, and before that atmosphere was transformed into a symphony of clanging pots, endless puffs of steam and hands moving quickly to produce plate after plate of Japanese dishes.One day, during prep in the early afternoon, the chef was assembling gyozas, and asked if I wanted to try to make one. As I picked up one of the dumplings, he showed me how to fold it, and how to make the crimping along the edges, pinching them at exact intervals on each side so they looked perfect. Assembling these gyozas this past weekend brought back that nice memory of sitting with him briefly in the kitchen that day while it was still quiet, making pretty things together for others to taste and enjoy.
for the gyoza
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and peeled
2 TB peanut oil
3-4 lemongrass hearts, chopped
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
1/2 fresh cilantro, chopped
1/8 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
vegan dumpling wrappers (I used square, but round is fine too)
1 tsp ground flax seeds (I used a coffee grinder), mixed with 5 TB flax milk
for the sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 TB soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp to 1 TB sriracha
red pepper flakes
Chop the sweet potato into small, dice-sized pieces. Bring plenty of water to boil in a medium-sized pot, add the potatoes, salt and a bit of oil and boil, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes. Drain, mash and set aside.
In a small saucepan, saute the lemongrass hearts and shallots in the peanut oil for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Transfer to the sweet potato mash and combine well. Add in the peanuts and chopped cilantro and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
To assemble the gyozas, lay one wonton skin on a flat surface. Dip your finger into the flax seed/milk mixture and run it along both ends of the wrapper to help create a seal. Then place 1 tsp of the sweet potato mixture into the center of the wrapper. Fold the wonton into a triangle shape and run your finger along both edges to seal it. Then, pinch the edges together to create a crimped shape along the edges. Lay the assembled gyoza on a slightly oiled cookie sheet while you prepare the rest of the gyozas.
Once they are all assembled, heat some oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat. Let the pan heat up very well, about 4-5 minutes. Gently place the gyoza in a single layer in the pan, taking care to watch for any oil splashes. Let them sit in the pan for 3-4 minutes, or until well-browned on one side. Take 1/4 cup water and slowly pour it into the pan. It will violently sizzle. Cover immediately, and reduce the heat to low. Allow it to steam for an additional 5-7 minutes. Transfer back onto the cookie sheet to cool, and repeat the process until all of the gyozas have been cooked through.
To make the sauce, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. These can be served warm, room temperature or cold.