Gyoza originated in China, and are often eaten around the New Year as a means to bring prosperity. Due to the fact that gyoza resembled gold ingots to the ancient Chinese, the Chinese word for gyoza ( jiǎozi 饺子) sounds similar to the Chinese word for the earliest paper money. During New Years celebrations, the cook will often insert a coin into one of the gyozas, bestowing good luck upon whoever receives it (or broken fillings!).
Gyoza have spread from China to much of Western Asia. Growing up in Nepal, gyoza (or “momo” in Nepali) was one of my favorite dishes. I remember returning to Nepal at the age of thirteen, and being treated to a Momo feast by a close family friend. I ate about 20 of them and became seriously ill, unable to move for a number of hours. This was not because of unclean or badly prepared food, I simply ate so many my body went into shutdown mode. Well I’m glad to say I stopped myself yesterday before that happened, but just barely!
This particular restaurant was near Akihabara Electric Town, which is the world’s most outrageous electronics and hobby mall (more on that in an upcoming post). In typical Japanese style, it had a mouthwatering display of all it’s dishes in a window out front.
Of course the display is 100% plastic! They really have gotten this art down to a science as many of the displays are absolutely indistinguishable from the genuine article.
The particular Gyoza I ordered had a pork, garlic and scallion filling flavored with Shoyu (light soy) and vinegar. They must have been delicious because I ate all twelve (!) of them and the sides which included fried chicken, rice, and a clear pork broth.
While gyoza are rather easy to make at home, they are best left to the professionals, as hand-forming the individual dumplings is labor intensive and time consuming (anyone who has tried will tell you that to correctly fold and seal them takes much practice and nimble fingers).