HAMAMATSU, Shizuoka-This city of 800,000 people-which exceeded the population of Shizuoka city, the prefectural capital, thanks to the what became known as Great Merger of the Heisei Era-continues to vie with Ustunomiya for the top spot in consumption of gyoza.
Hamamatsu gyoza is one of the top brands of so-called B-class gourmet cuisine, local dishes popular as everyday fare. A circle of gyoza is fused together in the shape of the pan it was cooked in and garnished with moyashi bean sprouts in the middle.
"Gyoza were sold by street vendors in Hamamatsu after World War II. It seems the round shape developed when chefs wanted to fry as many gyoza as possible in a pan," said Kimitaka Saito, chairman of the Hamamatsu Gyoza Society, which has promoted local gyoza since 2005. However, that method of cooking led to a space in the middle.
"So boiled moyashi was put there. Later it was found that moyashi removes the greasy aftertaste of pork. I've heard that's why this style became established," he said.
Gyoza became a daily staple for Hamamatsu residents, apparently because the city was home to intensive pig farming and cabbage cultivation.
To take a photo of the beautifully round Hamamatsu gyoza dish, I ordered 18 pieces (a serving for three) at Hamataro, a popular gyoza restaurant. It was quickly served on a sizzling cast-iron plate and tasted sweet, which is said to result just from the cabbage.
I ate the gyoza in a variety of ways: plain, with tare (sauce made with chili oil), and tare with yuzu kosho (paste made from yuzu zest and chili peppers). After each couple of gyoza, I ate some of the moyashi, which refreshed my taste buds.