adventures in new wave japanese vegan cooking and cycling extremely long distances!

hi folks! it's getting colder these days... but around noontime it's still nice and warm, like a september day in vancouver. in any case, I'm gonna break out the winter blankets tonight because it's too chilly to sleep already.
I'm doing well. we are celebrating halloween in our english classes. people here love halloween but the kids don't go around door to door. it's just our classroom that organizes a door-to-door event.
I also bought a road bike and last sunday rode it to the beach in Tanabe which is about 65 km south of here. so that day I rode nearly 130 km total. I'm sure that if I left earlier i could go further though. maybe one of these days I'll go to osaka... or Nara. or even Tohoku! I bet on this bike I could go anywhere. here's a video of my ride back in september... I was riding my regular bike (the townie) but I still went 108 km. total.
I thought of the title because whenever i go deep
into the countryside on my bike, I get a lot of stares.
I guess they don't see many people like me on bikes!

my second adventure tonight was an experiment in cooking! have you ever thought, "I really hate pork, but I really love gyoza. I cannot accept such a cruel fate! alas!"?
you have?! wow, me too! so that's why I made up this recipe for vegan gyoza. it's easy to make and rich in protein. the measurements are extremely inaccurate (I used my eyes!) so just add as much or as little as you see fit.

15 round gyoza (potsticker) skins
50 grams okara* (soy pulp, a byproduct of making soy milk)
1-2 thirds of a nagaimo/yamaimo*
1 tsp. yuzu or lemon juice
a medium carrot, sliced with a mandolin and then finely chopped
a bunch of mushrooms, finely chopped (I used maitake, but you can use any mushroom, really!)
a stalk of green onion, finely chopped
a couple cloves of garlic, finely chopped (I did not use this)
a dash of salt (I did not use this)

a small dish of water
water for steaming
oil for frying
ponzu (or soy sauce with lemon/lime/yuzu juice) for dipping

make the filling

  1. peel the skin of the nagaimo with a vegetable peeler. make sure all sides are peeled and that there are no dry areas left. when you are done, it should be more slippery than a bar of wet soap. get a fine-tooth grater and grate the whole thing into a bowl. when you are done, you should have something that feels like beaten raw eggs. mix the yuzu or lemon juice into this to prevent browning
  2. into this bowl, dump the okara. mix it around well until it is the same consistency of ground meat. this means you can make a ball with the stuff without it crumbling or dripping.
  3. mix in the remaining vegetables and mushrooms. the reason the carrot should be sliced with a mandolin first is because carrots are hard to cook through if they're thick at all, and this filling will be cooked from raw. so make sure your ingredients are small enough and then mix them well into the okara mixture.
assemble and cook
  1. take about a teaspoon and a half worth of filling and put it in the centre of a gyoza skin. wet the tip of your finger with the water from the dish and wet the skin in a ring. I don't know how to explain how to pleat the outside skin so I found this video for you. basically you hold the bottom part flat and fold the top part in several "Z" shaped pleats using both of your thumbs. she did two big pleats, but I did pleats of about 1 cm all facing in the same direction. do whatever works for you. it takes some practice. if the pleats start coming undone, just go back and press on the seam harder :)
  2. do this until you've run out of filling or skins.
  3. get a big pan and fill it with 0.5-1 cm of water and start to boil it. when it has almost boiled place the gyoza filling side down and pleats facing UP, all in a row so they are all in a tight line. steam for, I don't know, 5-10 minutes.
  4. when the water is gone or before they start to get too puffy, drain any remaining water and fry them in oil. I used the same pan. if you move them around too much, they stick to the pan and tear. just let them fry and the pan will take care of it. after a few minutes, take off the heat and they should come free with some coaxing.
*items can be bought at a japanese grocer or other asian grocer. nagaimo are regularly stocked at T&T but I'm not sure about okara. Fujiya carries both (along with aji-pon ponzu, the best ponzu in a thousand suns)! 
*okara might sound disgusting or bad when you describe it as "soy milk byproduct" but all it is is 100% soybean pulp and is naturally flavourless, and naturally good for you :) 
my dinner tonight (I had seconds of gyoza :3)

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