It appears to be that time of the year where I catch up on posts I didn’t get to from the end of the previous year. Whoops! In this installment, we go back to November 4th when the Mrs. and I went into Tokyo to partake in some of the nation’s best gyoza (dumplings) on a cool, cloudy morning.
The Gyoza Festival, or Gyoza Fes as it is known locally, is held from the end of October until early November in Nakano Shiki no Mori Park, a short walk from Nakano station just north-west of Shinjuku. There are two main areas of the park separated by a road: The south side, much larger and more spacious, is where you can find picnic tables, drink vendors, and a nice open space for relaxing. The much smaller northern section is home to all of the Gyoza vendors. Volunteers are on hand to pass out maps an informational brochures to help you select your perfect gyoza.
Most booths give you six gyoza for 500-800 yen ($4.60-$7.36 at time of publication). For a small pittance, you and your loved one can chow down on a nearly complete meal for about 1,000 yen, or less than $10. The best part is the auto-pay system.
If you have a transit pass, or IC Card as they are known, you have optimal maneuverability at the Gyoza Fes. If lines are long, most of the popular booths will have an express line for IC Card holders, allowing them to pay by tapping their pass, automatically deducting the amount off their commuting card and allowing them to get hot delicious gyoza more quickly than those wishing to pay with cash. It’s incredibly helpful, as the lines, even at 10:30 in the morning when we went, got pretty big!
Famous Japanese Gyoza
We researched our gyoza on their website, found the ones we thought were most interesting, and budgeted to try three varieties: Utsunomiya gyoza, Hokkaido Beef and Butter gyoza, and Yuzu Sauce gyoza.
Utsunomiya is in Tochigi prefecture, just a ways south of Nikko, and it’s pretty famous for having amazing gyoza, and this booth did not disappoint! This was easily the best gyoza of the day! Crisp outside, delicious inside, and incredible balanced flavors.
Hokkaido Beef and Butter Gyoza
Why so much pork? Where’s the beef? Well, these fine purveyors stepped up to challenge that question: Hokkaido beef inside, deep fried in liquid-hot Hokkaido butter. These were super thick and savory; I found them a bit overwhelming. Still, I applaud their willingness to challenge convention and try something new.
Yuzu Sauce Gyoza
Here we have normal gyoza with yuzu sauce. Yuzu are these delectable citrus fruits in Japan with a flavor in between and orange and a grapefruit. It’s difficult to explain but a joy to experience! The yuzu sauce was great, but the gyoza itself was… bland? We were split on our opinions on the gyoza, but we both agreed that anything with that yuzu sauce would be rocking.