Tochigi Prefecture doesn’t pop-up in the news often, but when it does it usually involves food. You might remember the “First Love” flavored gyoza or the tomato-milk-lemon drink. I totally understand if you didn’t jump out of your seat to go to Tochigi just to taste those… unique… goods for yourself, but there is a new product in Tochigi that is flying off of the shelves and just might be worth that trip: “Kekeru gyoza.”
You might already be familiar with gyoza, the Japanese take on Chinese fried dumplings. Residents of Tochigi’s Utsunomiya City however, are very familiar with this delicious bite-sized food, as their town is known as the “Gyoza City” due to its 200-plus gyoza specialty shops. But what exactly is the “kekeru” in “kekeru gyoza,” you ask? In Japanese, one meaning of “kekeru” is “to put on,” in this case, to put on top of rice. So “kekeru gyoza” is basically a gyoza-flavored topping to be eaten over rice.
Well, that sounds great! Anything that tastes like gyoza has to be delicious! We’re not the only ones who think that either. Apparently, it’s been growing in popularity recently, even being covered by some TV programs. But, it took awhile for us here at RocketNews24 to get wind of it, so it can’t be that popular, right?
Our very own P.K. Sanjun headed up to Tochigi to find some and taste it for himself, but the first highway service area he came to had signs up in the souvenir section announcing that all of the “kakeru gyoza” was sold out. Keep in mind that service areas are prime locations to buy souvenirs, so they are always well stocked. Even the staff at the service area was surprised, telling P.K. that not only were they sold out today, but they were continuously selling out. But… it’s just a rice topping, right? How could it be that good?
Luckily P.K. got his hands on some at the next service area and rushed home to try it out.
▼These little jars are filled with pure goodness.
▼ Pure gyoza-flavored goodness.
Essentially, this “kakeru gyoza” topping is râyu, a spicy oil often added to ramen or gyoza sauce, with some other ingredients making it kind of chunky. It doesn’t look anything like gyoza. When P.K. loaded it up on top of his rice, it turned the white rice into a reddish color, which he found delightfully appetizing.
▼ The gyoza-topping on rice.
Only one bite in and he completely understood what all of the hype was about, “Wow! It’s SO good!” he exclaimed. P.K. described it as having a garlic fragrance and a distinct texture that added to the flavor of the spicy oil. Without a doubt, it was a perfect gyoza flavor, yet not too overpowering. Before he knew it, his rice was gone. He couldn’t have been more pleased with the product.
While sitting in a food coma a novel thought hit him, “What if I ate this topping with actual gyoza?!” He was out of his chair and on his way to the store before he could even finish the thought.
▼ Gyoza is delicious just on its own.
As he cooked the gyoza, a variety of predictions ran through his head, “Maybe it will just taste like extra-strong flavored gyoza?” and modestly, “It might be the next big thing to hit the gyoza market.” But then he had his doubts, “Maybe the two flavors will fight for dominance, or even cancel each other out?”
It may have been from the appetizing aroma, but his final thought before trying his new creation was, “Maybe it will be a miracle combination, a perfect harmony of flavors.” Understandably, he indulged himself and doused the gyoza in the topping and didn’t hesitate to eat the whole piece in one bite.
▼ Gyoza-flavored topping on top of actual gyoza.
His verdict? “WOW! This is SO delicious too!”
The moisture of the topping immediately infused itself in the soft shell of the dumpling. The flavors mixed in his mouth in pure harmony. Since the topping was spread out over the gyoza, it didn’t overpower the taste of the gyoza itself, instead the two flavors balanced perfectly. They weren’t fighting each other at all! And then, since the topping had so much volume of its own, eating one smothered gyoza was more like eating two.
▼ Take a bite of gyoza topped with gyoza-flavored spicy oil.
So, to sum up his overall impression of kekeru gyoza: Without a doubt it’s incredibly delicious on rice, but putting it on top of real gyoza is just pure heaven.
If you get the chance, you have to try this. In fact, you might just want to buy your bus ticket to Tochigi right now. Or if you’re even more desperate, Amazon.jp is now selling it, but unfortunately it doesn’t ship internationally… yet.