I often cook in bulk and pack leftovers for lunch, maximizing the payoff for the time I actually spend cooking. But eating the same thing day after day gets tiresome, as anyone who’s eaten turkey for a week after Thanksgiving knows. Japanese bento cookbooks are full of ways to give new life to dinner leftovers, for example using leftover potato salad to make little Scotch eggs or faux latkes with tuna.
One fast dinner option at our house is Japanese curry, made with little blocks of shelf-stable Japanese curry roux (cooking notes here). I’ve previously made curry pasta with frozen unsauced pasta, and stirred leftover curry into macaroni and cheese. This time I decided to try my hand at using the leftover curry to fill gyoza potstickers (jiaozi in Chinese, mandu in Korean). These can be frozen in bulk and cooked up quickly on time-pressed mornings.
The trick to making these is to use premade gyoza wrappers from the market, and to pick out the chunks of meat and vegetables from the curry and mash them up with only enough curry liquid to flavor it. An overly liquid filling yields soggy, flat dumplings. (Read on for step-by-step directions.)
First, pick out some chunks of meat and vegetables from your leftover curry, and add just enough curry liquid to add flavor. You can use any flavorful stew or curry, there’s nothing terribly magical about Japanese curry. Here I’ve got a mild Japanese curry with carrots, purple potatoes, onions, cauliflower and hot dogs leftover from testing for my “octodog” tutorial. Use a fork to lightly mash up the large chunks in a bowl, or a knife to dice harder pieces.
I used premade gyoza wrappers from the supermarket (made with spinach, giving them the green color). These are getting easier to find in large markets; check the refrigerated section. You can use round ones for the traditional gyoza shape, or square ones for wonton shapes. You can even take this in a Western direction by sandwiching mounds of filling between two sheets of ravioli pasta or gyoza wrappers — your call.
Put a wrapper in the palm of your hand, and place about two teaspoons of the mashed curry filling in the middle. Overfilling will make it hard to fold the dumpling, so err on the side of caution. Dip your finger in a little dish of water and lightly wet one half of the outer edge of the wrapper (not all the way around, as too much water will keep the dough from sealing).
Fold in half, in the shape of a half moon, and crimp the very top with your fingers. If you’re looking for a shortcut, go ahead and crimp the rest of the gyoza without pleating. It won’t be the traditional shape, but it’ll taste just fine.
To give your gyoza the traditional look, you’ll want to pleat the dough to make it resemble an off-center crescent. I make them with three pleats on each side, with the pleats facing in. You’ll also see them with all of the pleats facing one direction — choose your favorite style.
To pleat, fold the edge of the wrapper over your thumb, then press with your fingers to seal. In the photo below, you can see that I’m on the second pleat, with the first pleat squeezed between my left thumb and forefinger. Continue until the gyoza is fully sealed. If you have trouble sealing the dumpling without filling coming out, remove a little of the filling and try again. Don’t worry about your mistakes — they’ll still be delicious!
Once you’ve assembled the gyoza, you can either make them right away or freeze them. If you’re going to freeze the gyoza, be sure you’ve thoroughly mashed any potatoes in the filling as freezing large chunks of potato produces an odd texture. To freeze, put them on a flat surface like a metal pan or shallow plastic freezer container, and press down slightly so the bottoms are flat enough that the dumplings don’t fall over. Freeze solid without the dumplings touching, then transfer to a freezer bag for longer-term storage. Cook frozen dumplings straight from the freezer, without thawing, just a little longer than fresh dumplings.
To cook, you can either steam, lightly boil or pan-fry. I like pan-frying, which gives a crunch to the bottom that contrasts nicely with the soft filling. To pan-fry, heat a heavy pan (I used non-stick) over medium heat and coat the bottom with a tablespoon of oil. Arrange the dumplings flat side down with space between each.
Fry until the bottoms are light brown, and pour in 3 Tb to 1/2 cup hot tap water, depending upon how many gyoza are in the pan. Cover immediately and cook for about 4 minutes until the water has pretty much evaporated and the wrappers are soft (add more water if necessary). Remove the lid and continue to fry until the bottoms of the gyoza are crisp and brown. I serve them as is without dipping sauce as the curry filling provides enough flavor.
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