When I first sunk my teeth into an oyaki dumpling (one of Matsumoto’s local food specialties), I was instantly addicted. Oyaki are fat, round dumplings that are made by stuffing a flour-based dough with various fillings, and then steaming and briefly grilling or pan-frying them to give the outer skin a bit of nice crisp. They remind me a little bit of Chinese dumplings, except that oyaki are plumper, less oily, and their dough skins are usually thicker.
The fillings for oyaki are most commonly vegetable-based, being made with Nozawana greens (a local vegetable), eggplant, mushrooms, and daikon radish. There are also sweet versions made with kabocha squash/Japanese pumpkin and sweet bean paste.
If you’re in Matsumoto or other places in Nagano, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on some oyaki, as they’re sold in oyaki specialty shops, souvenir shops, supermarkets, and sometimes even convenience stores. But what to do when you go back home and you wish you could have just one more bite of a tasty oyaki dumpling? Well, we’re in luck because they are surprisingly easy to make at home!
After I had declared my love for the oyaki, my neighbor and a soba shop owner here in Matsumoto generously offered to teach me how to make them. So, I figured I should share with everyone else too!
The best thing about oyaki is that once you know how to make the simple dough, you can stuff them with any kind of filling your heart desires. I’ll go over the basics below.
DOUGH INGREDIENTS/EQUIPMENT (for 10 oyaki):
- 250 g (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 150 ml (just a bit less than 2/3 cup) warm water
- Steamer (Any kind will work. If it’s small you’ll just need to steam in batches)
- Working surface for working with the dough; e.g. wooden cutting board, clean counter, etc.
OYAKI FILLING IDEAS:
- Stir-fried vegetables and/or mushrooms
- Mashed kabocha squash/Japanese pumpkin sweetened with sugar
- Thickly sliced Japanese eggplant rounds, smeared with miso paste (also good if you mix in a little sugar into the miso paste). You could also chop the eggplant into cubes instead. Keep it raw, as it will cook when steaming.
- Sweet red bean paste
- Ground or chopped meats, seasoned how you like (e.g. salt, pepper, chopped onions, spices, etc. or think Chinese-style dumplings!)
- Any kind of cooked leftovers that you think might taste good stuffed into a dumpling 😉
- Japanese-style ingredients include kinpira gobo (spicy carrot & burdock root), unohana (okara & vegetables), hijiki seaweed cooked with vegetables, etc.
MAKING THE DOUGH:
- Measure out flour in a medium bowl and gradually mix in water until the dough comes together. It shouldn’t be very sticky and wet, but it also shouldn’t be crumbly-dry.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap to prevent if from drying out and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Place the dough on a working surface dusted with flour. Roll it into a long, thick tube shape and cut the dough into 10 equal sized pieces (around 20 g, if you’re measuring).
- Form each piece of dough into a round ball.
STUFFING THE DUMPLINGS:
- Flatten a ball of dough and stretch it into a thin, circular skin. Try to keep the middle slightly thicker than the outside. You want to be careful not to stretch it super thin or the skin could tear when stuffing, but if the dough is too thick, it may end up chewy.
- Place the skin in the palm of your hand and put a good dollop of your filling into the middle.
- Begin folding over the sides of the skin until it completely encloses the filling. Use your fingers to pinch or press the skin together so it creates a seal.
- Repeat for the remaining dough balls until all oyaki dumplings are finished.
- P.S. It may seem hard at first, but the more you do, the better you’ll get!
- Prepare a steamer so the water is boiling by the time your oyaki are ready to be put in. You can optionally line the bottom of the steamer with greens (lettuce, kale, etc.) or something like wax paper to help prevent sticking, but usually they are fine without.
- Without overcrowding, place the oyaki in the steamer. They get a little bigger as they cook, so leave some room in between each one or else they dumplings will stick together and the skin will tear when you try to take them out (do it batches if necessary/have a small steamer).
- Steam for 20 minutes and remove to a plate
- To get a nice crisp texture and color on the surface of the dumplings, grill or pan-fry each side on each side. This is optional.
- They are ready to eat! Oyaki also taste great after they have cooled down.
- Freezing: Cooked oyaki freeze very well. Just wrap each one in plastic wrap and freeze. When you’re ready to eat, you can simply microwave them until they are warm.
- Refrigerating: Cooked oyaki will stay good for a few days in fridge. Wrap in plastic or put in a container. You can eat them cool, microwave, or re-grill when you’re ready to eat.
I hope you enjoy!