Asian Awakening

Gyoza (Japanese Potstickers) from New School of Cooking

Asian cuisine is probably my least favorite, so why has this Pro-Chef class turned out to be my favorite so far?

It isn’t the taste or texture of Asian food; it’s because the MSG gives me headaches. Therefore, I thought… Asian food = headache. But today we experienced some great recipes that really turned my uneducated opinion around. I can cook Asian cuisine and avoid MSG.

You can’t discuss Chinese and Japanese cuisine without talking about rice. It is the focal point of every meal, and the blank canvas on which all other foods are created.

Rice Rudiments:

  • Asia alone produces and consumes 90% of the world’s rice.
  • Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop.
  • For millions of people, rice is 3/4 their total diet.
  • There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice that grow on every continent except Antarctica.
  • In several Asian languages the words for ‘food’ and ‘rice’ are identical.

Asian ingredients for class at New School of CookingChinese Soy sauces for class at New School of Cooking

The other main staple in Asian cooking is soybeans. Some of the products made from these beans are; soy sauce, miso, tofu, bean curd and tempeh.

Chef May Parish, our teacher from the Pro 1 Chef Course, taught this week’s class.  She began the class by showing us how to dry stir-fry.  She demonstrated by making Dry Fried Chinese Longbeans. This dish is from the Szechuan region in China and is spicy. I was won over with this fabulous tasting dish.

Dry Fried Long Beans - Gan Bian Si Ji DouDry Fried Long Beans - Gan Bian Si Ji Dou

Dry Fried Long Beans – Gan Bian Si Ji Dou 

My assignment was to partner with fellow student, Susy to make Gyoza – Japanese Potstickers. I was relieved to find out she has made them before; until she confessed she had never folded and sealed them by hand. Susi cheats by using a potsticker maker. After making these by hand, I am with her on that one.

filling for Gyoza at New School of Cookingfilling potstickers at New School of Cooking

We started by mincing all of our ingredients. Then we place a scant teaspoon of mixture into a Gyoza skin.
Note: Most chain grocery stores carry the “Dynasty Gyoza/Potsticker Wrappers”.  Wonton wrapper can be used as a substitute.

making gyoza - Japanese Potstickers

Then came the hard part, making our folds look as good as Chef May’s. We all gave it a go and tried our best. It got easier with each one we made. Click here for a video demo on how to fold the potsticker.

gyoza (Japanese Potstickers) from New School of CookingGyoza (Japanese Potstickers) from New School of Cooking, Culver City, CA

This is what it should look like. After browning the bottoms, we added water and a lid, and let them steam for 5 minutes.

Rona was assigned to make Tonkatsu (a deep fried breaded pork cutlet).  I couldn’t help but laugh. (Sorry Rona) It isn’t exactly what this health & fitness guru/low fat cookbook author/all around good Jewish girl is looking to add to her repertoire.  She can put this with her recipe for Weiner Schnitzel that she learned to make in Pro 1. I know she will be re-engineering it with chicken and baking it in the oven. Funny thing, we both thought it was very good.

Rona making Pork TonkatsuClick here to get the recipe from Rona.

Cathy Nelson Arkle photographycathy Nelson Arkle photography

We also got to try our hand at making Steamed Pork Buns and Sushi.

Cathy Nelson Arkle photographyCathy Nelson Arkle photography

I put fresh tuna, avocado and cucumber in mine…. Yum!

Here are some of the other dishes we made.

Cathy Nelson Arkle photography Cathy Nelson Arkle Photography

 Assorted Sushi & Ma Po Tofu – a Szechuan dish of tofu in a spicy
chili and bean-based sauce

Cathy Nelson Arkle photography Cathy Nelson Arkle Photography

Beef Chow Fun – a Cantonese dish of beef, noodles and Chinese broccoli in a black bean-garlic sauce; & Dan Dan Mien – Beijing Noodles with Pork and Bean Sauce

Today’s Recipe

Potstickers are easier to make that I had originally thought. You can vary the ingredients to your taste.

Cathy Nelson Arkle photography

Gyoza - Japanese Potstickers
Recipe type: appetizer
Cuisine: Japanese
This recipe is a wonderful appetizer for a family meal or party.
  • ¼ head Napa cabbage, chopped
  • ½ pound ground pork or turkey
  • 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Mirin
  • 4 green onions, minced
  • 1 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
Dipping Sauce:
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek Chili Sauce (optional)
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 package Gyoza skins
  1. Cook cabbage in a small amount of boiling salted water until tender. Squeeze out liquid and mince fine. Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, Mirin, pork, green onion, ginger, mushroom, and cabbage. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more.
  2. Place a scant teaspoon of mixture on each gyoza skin. Moisten edges with cornstarch and water, fold over and seal. Crimp edges with a fork or fingers.
  3. Cover bottom of a large non-stick skillet with oil. Brown the gyoza over medium heat turning frequently. Add ⅛ c water to skillet- let, cover and steam on low heat about 5 minutes. Keep pan moving to prevent sticking. Remove cover, raise heat and cook for 2 minutes until crisp.
  4. Place sauce on table in small individual bowls.
Cook time:13 mins - Serves 6

 Tip of the Week

Cathy Nelson Arkle photography

Chef May showed us how to take a box grater and wrap it in plastic wrap on the small grate. Grate your ginger over the plastic wrap.

The results are a wonderful paste with no fibers or plastic bits.

I love that I can make my own Asian food to cut down use of MSG. I need to read the label of any processed product.  MSG (monosodium glutamate) can come under many names and sources. Here are only a few to watch out for: monopotassium glutamate, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate, bouillon, broth stock or malt extract. Click here for a comprehensive list.

I am so glad I was able re-experience Asian cuisine in a positive light, and despite my uneducated opinion.

Confucius say, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

Cathy say, “If you don’t know the extent of your ignorance, ask anyone around you.”
…and then she paused for thought.

Rona Lewis and Cathy ArkleHope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills. Next week is Indian food.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.




12 thoughts on “Asian Awakening

  1. Nan

    Another wonderful post! Thanks. I would love to know more about making the sushi. Another post? Where did you shop for the fish and other ingredients? Is there a way to painlessly make your own sushi?
    Can you share the recipe for the green beans?
    Keep up the great work.

  2. Rustic Garden Bistro

    What fun! I’m completely envious of you. The gyoza recipe looks great. My version usually has minced shrimp in it, so I’ll try it your way sometime just to see how it turns out. 🙂

    And great tips, too – especially about the grated ginger. I’ll have to try that.


  3. tinakferris

    Thanks Cathy! This sounds like a hangout on a Friday night with a glass of wine (sake?) kind of a meal. Hands on! Also, I appreciate the info on MSG…always useful to know how to avoid those icky preservatives/flavor “enhancers”.

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