City of Dumplings – Chinese Soul Food with a Japanese Twist
Utsunomiya, the largest city in the northern Kanto region of Tochigi Prefecture, is recognized as a city of gyoza (pan-fried dumplings). It is said that gyoza was originally introduced to Utsunomiya by returning soldiers from the 14th Division (Imperial Japanese Army) who had been stationed in Manchuria in northeastern China during the Pacific War. It was not until 1990, however, that Utsunomiya city officials started using gyoza as a branding tool to revitalize the city. As a result, Utsunomiya is allegedly the largest consumer of gyoza in Japan. Contributing to the success of the advertising campaign is Utsunomiya’s inland climate, with hot summers and cold winters, which is credited with building up stamina. “Utsunomiya Gyoza” has less meat and more vegetables than mainstream gyoza which is stuffed with juicy meat and garlic. Utsunomiya Gyoza Festival is held on the first Saturday of November every year. Restaurants affiliated with Utsunomiya Gyoza Association participate actively in the festival. It is a great time to sample gyoza and enjoy Utsunomiya culture.
Best Gyoza Restaurants in Utsunomiya
1: Kouran（餃子の店 香蘭）
Kouran (餃子の店 香蘭) is located near the center of Utsunomiya City. You can easily recognize the restaurant by the bright red signboard and the queue of people waiting outside. Kouran, established in 1959, specializes in gyoza. The restaurant temporarily closed in 2008 due to the aging of the previous owner, but, thanks to many fans, the restaurant made a miraculous comeback in 2011. Kouran serves three types of gyoza: Yaki-gyoza (pan-fried), Sui-gyoza (boiled and served in a light broth), and Age-gyoza (deep fried). The characteristic of the gyoza is crispy skin and juicy stuffing.
- Name: Kouran (餃子の店 香蘭)
- Address: 1-24 Honcho, Utsunomiya, Tochigi
- Phone: +81-(0)28-622-4024
- Hours: 11:30 – 20:00
- Closed On: Tuesdays
- Number of Seats: 24
- Budget: Lunch: – JPY1,000 / Dinner: – JPY1,000
- Payment Options: Cash Only
- Official Website (Japanese Only): https://gyouzakouran.com/
2: Utsunomiya Min Min Honten（宇都宮みんみん 本店）
Founded in 1958, Utsunomiya Min Min (宇都宮みんみん 本店) is an essential part of the story of Utsunomiya Gyoza. Just like Kouran, the restaurant serves only three types of gyoza: Yaki-gyoza (pan-fried), Sui-gyoza (boiled and served in light broth), and Age-gyoza (deep fried). Min Min is generally credited with being the first of this specialty-style, gyoza-only restaurant in Japan. Because of the popularity of its gyoza, there is often a long line in front of the restaurant. Thanks to the fast turnover rate, however, it shouldn’t take too long to get a seat.