Here’s a recipe that doubles as a communal activity: Gyoza are labor-intensive little packets of flavor that you can make together with your friends and family.
You’ve probably already run into Gyoza: they’re commonly available as an appetizer in sushi places these days. Turns out you can make those at home! While they’re certainly a bit of work, you can also save a lot of money if you skip the restaurant bit.
Kids love Gyoza, and as a kid I used to love making Gyoza as well. So consider pressing your little ones into service here: their gyoza may not be the most symmetrical but they’ll love it, and gyoza-making is a skill they’ll be glad to have for the rest of their lives.
This is another dish of slightly questionable Japaneseness: Gyoza are strongly rooted in Chinese cooking. But that’s a historical footnote: Gyoza are so firmly established in the Japanese Kitchen these days, it’s absurd to think of them as “foreign” anymore.
You can find ready-made Gyoza pastry shells in most Asian stores. Buy a packet and then all you have to do is mix the filling and start folding…it’s fun!
Wait, what on earth is Chijimi doing in a Japanese food blog!? Everybody knows chijimi are Korean pancakes! True enough, though it turns out, they don’t even call them “chijimi” in (most of) Korea. At least the name is ours.
I would argue that, while Chijimi is admittedly not from Japan, it is Japanese by now. It’s so popular, so common, so often made, it’s impossible for me to think of it as “foreign” – in the same way that nobody having a taco in California feels he’s eating “foreign” food.
Don’t let the word “pancake” throw you, by the way: Chijimi is a savory dish you can eat for lunch or dinner, not at all breakfast or desert food. Chijimi are glossed as “pancakes” simply because they are flat, more or less round and made with batter, even though you only really use the batter to hold the vegetables together.
You may want to print out the characters for when you go shopping, as this vegetable can be confusing to locate in the west. It’s sold under a wide variety of names, including “Chinese leek”, “garlic chives” and “Chinese chives”. Nira is basically a type of grass. It looks like chives, but it has a very distinctive, deep, slightly spicy flavor that makes chijimi taste like chijimi.
In Montreal, you can always find the Nira in Épicerie Coréene et Japonaise on Ste. Catherine. Elsewhere, look for for places where Koreans shop – or go poke around Chinatown. And note that, while chijimi isn’t hard to make, it does take a little planning because you need to make the batter a few hours ahead of time.