Every culture has its own version of the dumpling. In Japan, this is the gyoza or pot sticker. While gyoza originated from China – where it’s known as ‘jiaozi’ – they’ve become a popular and ubiquitous dish in Japan. They’re often served as appetizers or accompaniments to ramen, but there are just as many restaurants that specialise in gyoza dishes alone. Imagine that!
Gyoza on a plate in Kyoto: Pablo Sanchez Noguera / Shutterstock.com
In their most common incarnation as ‘yaki gyoza’, they’re filled with a well-seasoned mixture of ground pork and alliums before being pan-fried until juicy but crispy-bottomed. But, you’ll see many variations on dumplings. THey might be boiled and served in a light broth, or deep-fried until hot and crispy. Plus, they can be filled with pretty much anything you can think of. Shrimp, vegetables, chicken, cheese – the sky’s the limit.
We love that they’re tasty and inexpensive, and you can eat as many or as few as you like. Gyoza also makes a great bedfellow with alcohol. It almost goes without saying that we have our favourite gyoza places in Kyoto. Here’s a list of places for you to check out.
- Tiger Gyoza Kawaramachi (Downtown Kyoto; budget to mid-range)
We don’t believe in being snobby about chain restaurants – some in Japan serve excellent food. One of our favourites is Tiger Gyoza Kawaramachi, where you can eat a wide variety of great dumplings. Whether they’re pan-fried, boiled, fried, or vegetarian, this place has it all.
- Gyoza Hohei (Southern Higashiyama; budget to mid-range)
Located smack in the middle of the geisha district of Gion, Gyoza Hohei serves fabulously garlicky dumplings to fuel you up after a long day of sightseeing. As a bonus, you might even see a local maiko or geiko enjoying a plate of gyoza, too.
- Kyoto Gyoza Bar Anzukko (Downtown Kyoto; budget to mid-range)
Anzukko, a gyoza bar located down a small alley near Sanjo Station, merits multiple visits. We love this pocket-sized slip of a restaurant for their excellent, inventive gyoza.
- Senmonten (Southern Higashiyama; budget)
This hole-in-the-wall shop in Gion sells only two things: gyoza and beer. Their gyoza are some of the best in town.
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Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy - here's how.
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)