Taste-testing the new and old gyoza at Ohsho.

Japanese restaurant Ohsho is Japan’s most popular gyoza chain. It’s so heavily associated with the pan-fried dumplings that the chain’s official name is actually Gyoza no Ohsho, or “Ohsho of the Gyoza.”

So it was a very big deal this week when Ohsho changed its gyoza recipe.

As very big gyoza fans, we were curious to see what would happen to Ohsho’s marque dish. Unfortunately, a proper side-by-side comparison wasn’t going to be feasible, since gyoza are at their most delicious right out of the wok. So instead we did the next best thing and sent our Japanese-language reporter Takashi Harada to eat Ohsho gyoza two days in a row, on both the last day for the old recipe and the first day for the new one. To eliminate as many variables as possible, he even went to the same restaurant at the same time (right after opening) on both days, and ordered the exact same thing: the 935-yen (US$6.45) gyoza teishoku/gyoza set meal, which includes 12 gyoza.

Sitting down for one final old Ohsho gyoza meal, Takashi’s taste buds were greeted like an old friend. The skin has a light crispness, and as soon as you bite through it you’re met with a pronounced and spreading garlic sensation, followed by the taste of ginger and the natural sweetness of cabbage.

The secret to Ohsho’s success with customers of all ages and walks of life has been how well-balanced the flavor of their gyoza was. That balance also means the gyoza go great with any and all of the standard condiments provided for them, so depending on how much sauce, vinegar, black pepper, or rayu chili oil you use, you can create a range of flavors in order to suit your individual tastes. The superb balance of Ohsho’s gyoza also means they pair just as perfectly with a bowl of steamed white rice as they do a frosted mug of draft beer.

When Takashi went back the next day, he saw a sign had been placed in front of the restaurant’s entrance, announcing “Not just garlic! By making better use of ginger, our gyoza will become more delicious.”

Once again, he ordered the gyoza teishoku, the price for which hasn’t changed.

Visually, he couldn’t spot any difference between the new gyoza and the old ones at this point.

He took a bite, and didn’t immediately notice a shocking difference in flavor. He could clearly taste that there was a stronger ginger taste than before, but not so much that you’d go so far as to call these “ginger gyoza.”

▼ Old gyoza (top) and new gyoza (bottom)

Most importantly, Takashi felt that the new gyoza are still delicious. As he continued eating, though, he did find one clear difference, in his mind, between the two: the new gyoza have a stronger overall flavor in and of themselves. As mentioned above, Takashi felt like Ohsho’s old gyoza could be greatly influenced by the mix of condiments you add. With the new ones, though, he feels like the flavor of the gyoza themselves isn’t so easily altered, and he was quite happy eating the new ones with no sauce at all.

So Takashi is just as happy to keep going to Ohsho for his gyoza fix as he ever was, and even if you happen to not be a fan of the new recipe, there are lots of other great things to eat there too.

Photos © SoraNews24
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