Japan is a land of many things, but one piece of food completely surprised me, gyoza. Dumplings, mini bags of deliciousness, whatever you want to call them are officially, “Gyoza” in Japan. Gyozas in the states are half-moon shaped dumplings, 2-3 inches long, filled with meat and vegetables, but in Japan, there are many varieties and shapes. I went to Harajuku Gyoza, Chao Chao Gyoza, and Anzukko and had very different gyozas at each. Another restaurant that specializes in gyozas that I visited was Tiger Gyoza Hall in Asakusa (Locations throughout Tokyo). On a trip to Sensō-ji, I stopped for a bowl of ramen and gyozas.
First off, Tiger Gyoza Hall has many types of gyozas, around 14 in fact. The gyozas I wanted to try here were the giant ones, shaped like bananas. When they come out, they’re bigger than the plate and probably for ever 2-3 normal sized gyoza you’ll have a giant one. It seems like an American thing to super size food, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that is why it’s on the menu, but they’re awesome!
So why are these giant gyozas so great? For starters, they’re bursting with flavor. The pork and tender vegetables make for a moist meaty bite each time. What separates a good dumpling or gyoza is the salt and moisture in the mixture. If you’ve ever made gyozas you know exactly what I’m talking about. Flavorful, but dry. Or you go the over way, and can barely taste the meat and pretty much there is no flavor. These gyozas had a green onion, ginger, and salty pork flavor. I’m guessing the mixture is cabbage, pork, ginger, green onion, and a bit more. Like most gyozas in Japan, they were cooked in a custom fry and steamer machine.
With the giant banana gyozas, I got a ramen with a chicken broth. I haven’t had too much chicken flavored ramen even though that was the shit I grew up on. I was guessing I’d get something that tasted like canned chicken noodle soup, but was pleasantly surprised.
The broth looked to be made from chicken bones and had a nice oiliness, which gave off subtle roasted chicken flavor, and was backed up by ginger and the white parts of green onions. The noodles were much thinner than some of the other bowls of ramen I’ve had.
A bowl of chicken ramen and giant gyozas ran about $10, which is standard for most lunch/dinner restaurants. The one thing that I fucking hate about Japan, is that there are no smoking laws in restaurants. While this is a welcome relief for some people, I just don’t get it. In public areas there are quartered off smoking areas, so why are restaurants fair game? Not that this takes anything away from this restaurant, but as I was midway into my meal, a few locals lighted up, which sucked.
For those not satisfied with tiny gyozas, the Tiger Gyoza Hall has gyozas for giants, and they’re damn good.