Food plays a big role in both of Sara Fujimura’s delightful YA rom-coms, Every Reason We Shouldn’t and Faking Reality. To help us celebrate this festive time of the year, she’s shared two family recipes with us that she’ll be cooking over the holiday season!
By Sara Fujimura
If you’ve read any of my books, then you know that food is my love language. And nothing says love like recreating your family’s favorite recipes for the holidays. Today, I’m talking about grandmothers’ recipes. If it’s your grandfather who spoils you with his cooking though, then my next book, Faking Reality (coming next summer, July 13th, 2021)—with its grandfather/grandson cooking team—is definitely for you.
In Every Reason We Shouldn’t (coming out in paperback on March 2nd, 2021), speed skater Jonah Choi reminisces about his halmeoni1 getting up early to make him cinnamon-sugar filled hotteok before his practices. My kids too have a few dishes they associate with their grandmothers.
Obaasan Fujimura taught both of my kids how to make gyoza2 during our summer visits to Japan. Many of the best family dishes don’t actually have recipes. You learn them by doing. But here’s how we make our family’s version of gyoza.
- 3 lbs ground pork
- ½ a head Napa cabbage
- 3 bunches (~ 25 stalks) green onions
- 2 packages (~ 100 pieces) premade gyoza skins
Use a food processor to chop the cabbage and green onion into fine pieces. Transfer them to a bowl and microwave for five minutes. Dump the cooked vegetables into a colander and drain the water out. In a large bowl, add the cooked vegetables to the ground pork. Mix thoroughly. Prep a finger bowl of water. Put about ½ tsp of the filling into the center of the gyoza skin and shape it into a log. Dip your finger in the water and put a ring of water around the edge of the gyoza skin. Fold the gyoza in half around the filling and ruffle the top side against the bottom side, making 5 ruffles. Gently squeeze the two sides together. Stand the gyoza up until three sides form. After all the gyoza are prepared, heat a pancake griddle to 350°. In batches of 20, cook each of the three sides for two minutes until all the sides are golden brown. Add enough water to steam the gyoza without them sitting in a puddle. Immediately put a cover over the top. Check after about 2 minutes. Once all the water has evaporated, remove the gyoza to a plate to cool slightly and prepare your sauce.
Traditional gyoza dipping sauce is made with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a little sesame chili oil (called rayu or sometimes la-yu). We are not traditionalists. Instead, each person puts 1 teaspoon of bottled memmi sauce (a concentrated soup base for noodles) and a few drops of rayu on a tiny plate.
- My daughter doesn’t own a food processor, so she puts the vegetables into her blender with water until they are finely chopped. Just be sure to drain the water out both before and after you cook the vegetables. She also uses a frying pan instead of a griddle.
- Want to make a vegetarian version? Swap the ground pork for Beyond Beef and make the traditional sauce above instead.
FRANCIS FAMILY SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world…It’s not Christmas until Granny Francis arrives with the tin of shortbread. Here’s the recipe we’ve passed down through the generations.
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup rice flour
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 sticks butter (not margarine) at room temperature
- ¼ tsp salt
- Granulated sugar to sprinkle on top
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Then mix by hand until the dough works into a ball. Divide the dough and press into two 8-inch pie pans. With a sharp knife, score the dough into 8 pieces. Crimp the edges and prick the dough with a fork. Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes until a pale golden color. Cut against the scored lines with a sharp knife and sprinkle granulated sugar on top (optional) while still warm. When cool, serve with a hot cup of tea.
What’s a special dish you make for the holidays thanks to your grandmother? And what do you call her? Let us know in the comments.
1. There is more than one spelling for grandmother in Korean. I used Halmeoni like we do in Every Reason We Shouldn’t.
2. You don’t pluralize words in Japanese. Therefore you can have one gyoza or 100 gyoza.