The annual World Gyoza Eating Championship descends upon Little Tokyo this Saturday, August 20th, an event in which tiny 100-pound Sonya Thomas, a.k.a. the Black Widow, and others will attempt to eat as many gyoza as inhumanely possible in 10 minutes. As the eaters are no doubt too intimately aware, gyoza are Japanese-style dumplings, usually stuffed with a mixture of pork and vegetables. The competition record is 231 of these delicate purses eaten within a sixth of an hour; tellingly, the competition gyoza are boiled, not pan-fried, for reasons we imagine have to do with slipperiness and ease of eating. For our non-eating competition situations - that is to say, for all of our eating situations - we're partial to the pan-fried gyoza, even if, or maybe because, the crispiness of the skin forces you to pause for a moment to appreciate such a simple food for which most every Japanese household has its own unique recipe.
In honor of the World Gyoza Eating Championship, we set out to see whether Daikokuya's gyoza - which we named the Best of 2010 - match up with those at nearby mom and pop shop Tokyo Cafe.
The original Daikokuya in Little Tokyo is perpetually crowded (for the introverted and crowd-adverse, the locations outside of Los Angeles proper are far less crowded). It's crushingly busy in part because it is quite small (think homey post-war Japanese diner bathed in Post-It yellow lights) and, as you probably already know, in larger part because everyone in the city, plus the tourists, is here for the ramen. Based on a glance at the dishes on the tables, however, there are a good number of people who also are here for the gyoza.
There are five gyoza to an order, and they come out quickly, alongside a sweet dipping sauce. The most striking thing is the shape of the dumpling: where most look like overstuffed hobo bags, Daikokuya's version channels the clutch bag. These are rectangular, flat packets, neatly stuffed with a slightly salty, very meaty, very delicious mix of pork and vegetables. The skin is thick, crispy, chewy; a generous shower of green onions provide excellent added texture. If we didn't have our entrees coming, we would have asked for another five. And maybe five more after that. Two hundred thirty-one suddenly didn't look so hard.
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