Brown Crab Meat Gyoza
Updated: Dec 12, 2021
"THE DUMPLING is, indeed, an ancient institution and of foreign origin; but, alas! what were those dumplings?"
John Arbuthnot (1667-1735)
Brown crab meat is not to everybody's taste but there are those who love it. Enjoyed in moderate quantities I am one of them. I noticed, when working on the market stall, that the tubs of brown crab meat, though very well-priced, didn't shift themselves particularly hurriedly, but every now and then someone would come along and hoover up quite a quantity in one go.
It turns out my suspicion that brown crab meat might almost be considered a waste product was not completely unfounded. In fact, but not wishing to directly quote anyone, I'm reliably informed that in the process of satiating the demand for the very popular white crab meat, more brown meat is produced than can be sold, and that the excess fetches very little money as it heads into inferior-quality wholesale crab offerings.
Now, with a sprinkling of realism, I expect it's a hope too far to make significant impact on the consumption levels of brown crab meat through a hobbyist's blog, but at least having a go is well within the spirit of that (this) blog. And so I spent a bit of time thinking about what ideas could be put forward to spark a little enthusiasm. A couple of interesting ideas surfaced and may very well appear in future posts, but this particular one has now been put through its paces several times and, now with QA approval, I genuinely think it's rock(pool)star!
It was prompted by a post on Instagram from @thecornerplot, a popular contributor with a broad range of recipe ideas. That post was for Jiaozi, a Chinese dumpling, in this case filled with minced meat, of the kind perhaps more familiar under the Japanese equivalent's name, Gyoza. It seemed quite plausible to me that a dumpling filled with brown crab meat had every potential for success, such is the rapport between crab and Chinese flavourings. In fact, pretty much all that I set out to do was to find a tasty-looking recipe for a more conventional dumpling and try to adapt it for the crab. The one I found was for pork Jiaozi on Waitrose's website. But there was another little trick up my sleeve...
You see, my father (a very talented cook) had brought to my attention, many, many years ago, that brandy had a particular and curious affinity with brown crab meat - a pairing that, once experienced and confirmed, I have never forgotten. And I have challenged a number of foodies to try this pairing and all have responded in agreement. Of course a little brandy could be included in the filling, but the Gyoza eating experience is incomplete in the absence of the dipping sauce, so there were, in fact, two potential recipients for the brandy, especially so given there was Shiaoxing rice wine in both in my reference recipe. I have made the substitution in both.
The execution of this recipe is made quicker and easier by using bought Gyoza wrappers but I have so far always made my own according to the Waitrose recipe - it works a treat and is very straightforward. However, nothing will make forming the dumplings easier, that is other than practice. But I urge you to persevere because the end result is well worth the effort!
I normally steer well-clear of soggy bread, but from time to time one has to accept that a certain purpose is served, and I am satisfied that this is one of those times. Brown crab meat on its own is a little too liquid to achieve quite the required texture to fulfil the role of dumpling-filling. So some bulking-up has to be resorted to and white bread has a sufficiently neutral flavour to accomplish the task without making its presence overly-apparent. The quantity of filling in the recipe is about right for 25 dumplings, if anything a little more rather than a little less than necessary. If you do happen to have a fair bit of filling left over it is actually quite nice warmed up with some noodles stirred through it!
To make life easier, instead of hand-chopping all the ingredients for the filling, I simply put them all in a mini-blender and pulse them so that they retain some texture. But when it comes to forming the dumplings I'm not even going to try to advise. I can only offer you links to the blog post, "How To Fold Gyoza" and YouTube video, "How To Make Gyoza (Japanese Potstickers) (Recipe) 餃子の作り方 (レシピ)", that I found useful, which I have done below.
Although you can form the dumplings in advance and steam them conveniently just before it is time to serve, I would not do this too far ahead and I would cover them as air-tightly as possible to avoid the wrapper dough from drying out too much. I would say a traditional wok-style bamboo steamer is the most convenient way to cook these Gyoza, but there's always room for improvisation.
Brown Crab Meat Gyoza
Ingredients (Makes about 25 dumplings, a decent starter for 4)
For the dough:
200g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
110ml water from a just-boiled kettle
Sesame or groundnut oil for greasing
For the filling:
100g brown crab meat
50g crustless fresh white bread
1 tbsp brandy (or Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry)
1½ tsp light soy sauce
1½ tsp rice wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
4-6 (40-50g) little gem lettuce leaves, coarsely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and coarsely chopped (or to taste)
3 spring onions, coarsely chopped (optional: reserve some green part for garnish)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
15g ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
½ tsp caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp sesame oil
Ground white pepper, to taste
For the dipping sauce:
10g peeled and finely grated ginger
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1-2 tsp brandy (or Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry), to taste
1 tsp sesame oil
Thinly-sliced spring onion tops (see above)
Sesame oil, to drizzle
First make the dough for the wrappers. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl then add the water from the just-boiled kettle. Stir together with a spoon and when cool enough to handle tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes. Roll the dough into a ball, coat with a little oil and wrap in cling film. Leave to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
For the filling, first soak the bread in the brandy (or alternative), soy sauce and vinegar and place in a blender. Add all the remaining ingredients and blitz to a thick paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning then put in a bowl and transfer to the fridge to firm up a little.
Mix together all the dipping sauce ingredients and leave aside for the flavours to amalgamate.
On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough as thinly as you possibly can (do this in two batches because a half quantity of dough will roll out to a diameter of about 40cm) and cut circles from it using a 9cm pastry cutter. Pile them up on a floured plate dusting them with a little more flour to prevent them sticking to one another. You should be able to cut 25 wrappers from the total quantity of dough. If not using immediately cover tightly with cling film expelling as much air as possible so they don't dry out.
Get the water boiling in a steamer and meanwhile lightly oil a circle of crumpled grease-proof paper and perforate it in a few places, then place it in the steamer basket. Put as many dumplings as you can on the paper and steam for 12 minutes. Serve these while you steam any remaining dumplings.
For presentation, some finely-sliced spring onion tops decorate the dipping sauce quite elegantly, as do they sprinkled over the Gyoza themselves. A drizzle of sesame oil adds a hint of Oriental aroma and a pleasing sheen.
"Jiaozi", waitrose.com, accessed 25 May 2020: https://www.waitrose.com/home/recipes/recipe_directory/j/jiaozi.html
"How To Fold Gyoza", justonecookbook.com , accessed 26 May 2020
"How To Make Gyoza (Japanese Potstickers) (Recipe) 餃子の作り方 (レシピ)", Just One Cookbook, YouTube, accessed 26 May 2020