The most popular item at this food court in the Belgian city of Antwerp is gyoza dumplings. More than 800 pieces are sold every day. Let’s see who’s making dumplings. It’s not a chef, but a machine that can churn out up to a thousand gyoza an hour.
-It’s great because we don’t need to employ workers to wrap the gyoza. That requires professional skills.
The machine was made by a manufacturer in the industrial city of Hamamatsu in central Japan. The company used to manufacture motorcycle parts, but it began developing gyoza-making machines 40 years ago at the request of the president’s friend.
Exports have increased five-fold in the past 10 years. The secret to the expanding sales lies in the mold. This is the part that wraps fillings inside a thin layer of dough. The craftsman tailors the mold to suit customer’s requests.
-I think machines are becoming more and more important in the food industry.
-Absolutely. One of the most difficult things about running a restaurant is maintaining quality and consistency. And there’s definitely a lock of skilled labor. And the labor costs are going up with the increases in minimum wage. And so these machines solve both problems, because it reduces the labor cost and it also maintains a consistent level of quality in the food product.
-Japanese companies are both innovative and resilient. And so it allows them to adapt as the consumer needs change.
The machine is so precise that adjustments can be measured to within one-hundredth of a millimeters. Foreign customers are invited to visit so staff can teach them everything they need to make gyoza. On this day, an executive from a Vietnamese food company has come to visit.
-Japan is famous for their attention to detail. And so it just makes sense that this tradition is carried through in food machinery as well.
-It’s been an invaluable experience. It was worth it to come and learn about gyoza.
-That’s right. Every kind of Japanese food, from sushi to ramen to takoyaki, is blooming abroad. And one of the things I do is, I work with food brands and restaurants to help them develop new products and menus that appeal to the local market.
-This type of food is typically called a dumpling in the US. But gyoza has become so popular in the US now that you could just call it gyoza. They pronounce it gi-yo-za.
-But the primary difference between gyoza and the Chinese version is that gyoza has a much thinner wrapper, so it allows a lot more filling to be inserted into it.
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