Gyoza dumplings have their roots in China, but Japanese prefer yakigyoza (fried dumplings). This dish was brought back to Japan in the 1930s and 40s by Japanese who had been living in Manchuria (in northeastern China). In China gyoza is a staple food, but in Japan they’re grilled with a thinner wrapping and served as a side dish to rice. Cheap and nutritious, they soon became a popular dish in Japanese households. Many in Manchuria came back to Kobe, which lead to the birth of unique gyoza style: here, they’re eaten with a miso sauce, which is different to other areas of Japan. The first generation owner of the restaurant Ganso-Gyozaen (located in Kobe’s Chinatown) apparently started eating them with miso when he was in Manchuria because he missed Japanese flavours so much. Many of the shops in this area only list gyoza on their menu. The number of stores scattered throughout the central of Kobe is testament to the fact that gyoza and miso sauce has become a regular dish for city residents, either as a snack on the way home or take-out for dinner. Even the great Hanshin earthquake couldn’t erase this food culture; it’s still at the heart of the city today.
A different flavour in every store
Made locally, with pride
Not only was the recipe changed after being brought back to Japan, the Japanese took pride in creating a completely different food. You’ll find gyoza shops all over the city, and each has its own specialty. Hyotan, which has its main store in the bustling shopping district of Motomachi, seems to have made time halt since its establishment in 1957. It’s cramped inside with only one counter seating eight, and their sole dish is gyoza. Their slightly sticky gyoza wrappers are made by blending two types of flour, and their homemade miso sauce uses hachomiso (traditionally made with 100% soy), mixed with chilli oil, vinegar and garlic sauce for added flavour.
A new modern style of gyoza
Ganso-Gyozaen is located in Chinatown, an area full of tourists; here the third-generation owner, a gyoza fanatic, works his magic. He follows the traditional way of making Manchuria gyoza without garlic or chilli oil, as was the last wish of his grandfather. The wrappers, made with a manually operated machine, are made just before frying so they retain their elastic texture. Their miso sauce is a closely guarded secret. After a sample of their standard gyoza, visitors are often surprised at the two new types offered. The menu features a luxurious gyoza made with the finest grade of Kobe beef, and a vegetarian gyoza as well. Enjoy the food being prepared in front of you in the open kitchen; the spectacle only makes you hungrier.