Tsuge: The Proper Gyoza

Gyoza, though Chinese in origin, are popular throughout Japan and even in the Philippines. You can buy microwaveable gyoza from many 7/11 outlets here, but while these were passable, to my foreign tongue at least, nothing beats handmade, pan-fried gyoza. I’ve had them in a number of Japanese restaurants, but the best gyoza I had, to date, were from Tsuge, a small shop which was actually within walking distance from Naochan, the shop that sells the best chicken nanban I  ever had. Why are people not fat in those streets?

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Exercise, that’s why

We had to wait for about thirty minutes, because Tsuge has about ten countertop seats, almost all of which are always occupied. If you’re in a hurry, however, you can order gyoza to go. While we were waiting for seats, a lot of people dropped by to pick up orders they phoned in advance for.

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Hungry, professional wait-ers.

Tsuge is located in downtown Nobeoka, and is open from 4:30 PM to 11:00 PM. (At least, I think that’s what the sign says.) Once, we were walking back from a festival at around ten or eleven, and the place was still packed.

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It’s a family-run shop, with the otosan doing the cooking and the okasan handling the administrative work. I asked if I could take a picture of him while he was cooking, but he, most probably being a typically shy Japanese, declined.  Though you can’t see the process, here, at least, is the product.

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Tsuge’s gyoza are served fresh off the pan, so they are scaldingly hot. Show a little bit of patience though, and let it cool a bit, because despite the apparent simplicity, each mouthful is worth the wait. The gyoza are at turns crispy and soft, in all the right places. Though they didn’t have as much meat as gyoza served in other restaurants, for some reason, they still tasted much more exquisitely. Even better, it was pretty cheap by Japanese standards. Eight pieces of gyoza cost about 400 yen, which is not a bad deal considering generic, microwaveable gyoza cost 100 yen for about three to four pieces.

Tsuge really is striking for its simplicity, from the set-up of the shop to the very sparse menu. Basically, it was a gyoza-and-beer kind of store. Still, they’re testament to the notion that when you do one thing, you ought to do it well. Itadakimasu!

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