Cooking on the fly can yield satisfying results
  • Thursday, January 17, 2019
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Crave| The Little Foodie

Cooking on the fly can yield satisfying results


    Keep gyoza covered as you work to keep them from drying out.


I’ve had friends tell me they immediately feel intimidated when they open my fridge. I’ll take it as a compliment. But when I turn on a competitive cooking show, I am green-eyed with jealousy over the pantry and the fridge. Every ingredient that a chef would want is in those walk-in-size fridges.


Keep gyoza wrappers covered with a moist paper towel as you work. This keeps them from drying out and tearing.

Rather than plan ahead and make a shopping list, I lean toward the “whatever I am in the mood for” philosophy when it comes to deciding what to have for dinner.

I’ve attempted the plan-ahead approach with recipes and calendars, but it sucks out the joy to have tacos scheduled when I really want an Indian stew. So I buy food that is attractive, in season, well priced and intriguing. Many people have staples they always keep in stock, like eggs and milk, whereas I have shrimp paste at all times for that surprise curry craving.

There are clearly many cons to my style. For one, I have a hard time pinpointing what I’m in the mood for when under pressure. There have been plenty of occasions when I’ve had dinner guests arriving in an hour and I still hadn’t figured out what to make. Maybe I really am trying to re-create a competitive cooking show scene by suddenly trying to make sense of a package of thin-sliced beef, a jar of olives and a bag of panko.

When my mother was visiting, I realized where I picked up this habit. She was opening all of my spice rack drawers and looking carefully through each one.

Finally, I asked her what she was looking for. White pepper. I don’t usually stock it.

She sighed as if I’d disappointed her and asked, “Why not?” Then she proceeded to hem and haw over possible substitutes now that I’d ruined her first choice. Things went south from there when she couldn’t find ground pork in my freezer or napa cabbage in my fridge.

I made a mental note to pick up white pepper next time I was at the store. Just in case.

As it turned out, what we ended up making was exactly what I had been craving — I just didn’t know it yet.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 papaya, small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package gyoza wrappers
  • Oil for cooking

In mixing bowl, place all ingredients except gyoza wrappers and oil. Stir with your hands, quickly kneading and incorporating everything until all items seem to be evenly distributed.

Open gyoza wrappers and cover with moist paper towel. Have a small bowl of water ready for sealing gyoza. Prepare a plate or sheet pan with plastic wrap to place over the filled gyoza as you work. This prevents them from drying out.

Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling onto a gyoza wrapper and wet top half edge of wrapper. Fold up bottom half to meet top edge, crimping together to seal. Place prepared gyoza on plate or pan and cover with plastic wrap.

Heat pan on medium-high. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable or other saute oil. When pan is hot, add about 10 gyoza, flat side down. Cook until evenly browned on one side. Do not crowd.

Next, pour 1/3 cup water along sides of pan and quickly cover. Let gyoza steam a few minutes or until water is almost gone and gyoza are cooked through. Remove and serve immediately.

Repeat with remaining gyoza, though you shouldn’t need to add as much oil for remaining batches. Makes 50.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per piece: 60 calories, 3 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 1 g sugar, 3 g protein

Mariko Jackson blogs about family and food at Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.

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