When an eatery claims its fame in serving a speciality dish or recipe, it usually speaks volumes of its confidence in delivery and quality. Now, we have a newcomer to the scene that aims to satisfy your hunger with bite-sized gyozas.
Chao Chao Gyoza in Royal Square @ Novena is an unmissable casual eatery that looks out onto the main Novena artery and welcomes potential patrons with bright banners.
Aimed at those seeking a quick lunch or casual dinner, the dining space is small and cosy, with a very Japanese feel.
I think that gyozas, in general, aren’t something I really consider when going for Japanese food (it’s usually a complement to my bowl of ramen), but if you’ve been wishing for a place that solely focuses on this starter/side dish, then you’ve come to the right place!
The menu is pretty extensive so return visits are probably your best bet if you wish to sample all of the gyozas. One that piqued my interest was the Age Tori Cheese Gyoza (S$3.90 for three pieces, S$5.90 for five pieces). It’s one of their bestsellers and is filled with chicken and mozzarella cheese.
The minced chicken was juicy, but I failed to taste any mozzarella *cue sad face*. My lunch wasn’t off to a great start, but with many more dishes on the way, I still had faith.
I took a generous bite of the Chao Chao Gyoza (S$4.90 for eight pieces, S$7.90 for 16 pieces). This signature gyoza is stuffed with minced pork and is handmade every day with a homemade gyoza skin.
What makes these gyozas so special is that they are prepared and cooked as a cluster, as opposed to individually. This requires adept skills from the chefs, and it’s pretty amazing trying to figure out how it’s done.
Taste-wise, these were actually a lot more flavourful than the previous gyoza we had. It was surprisingly light as well, and paired really well with their house-made dipping sauce. The smokiness from the burnt edges was a bonus.
Next, I tried the Curry Gyoza (S$3.90 for three pieces, S$5.90 for six pieces). I have a love-hate relationship with Japanese curry, mostly due to the inconsistencies across all the various establishments. Some are too sweet for my taste, while others just taste bland.
These had a potent curry flavour, with adequate heat. I was curious as to whether their curry recipe was traditionally Japanese though, because it sure tasted a lot more like the local curry flavour I’m used to.
It was hearty and dense, so this is one I would recommend if you’re crazy for curry.
I also had the Red Pepper Gyoza (S$4.90 for three pieces, S$6.90 for five pieces). The menu even gives a heads-up to diners that the gyoza‘s filling is “red hot”, so I was really expecting instant waterworks on my first bite.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t impressively spicy *cue another sad face*. At the very least, it was as spicy as eating green chilli. It also didn’t taste of much, to be honest. A squeeze of the lemon wedge did little to enhance the flavours.
However, I must say, by this point, I did notice that the gyoza skins were consistently chewy with a nice bite, so that made them very easy one-bite helpings.
Cheese lovers rejoice, as they also have an Onsen Egg & Cheese Gyoza (S$4.90 for three pieces, S$6.90 for five pieces). There was definitely more cheese than egg, and just the sight of this plate made me excited to try it.
Was this as drool-worthy as it looks? Hmm, I’m on the fence about this, mainly because of my bias towards the generous slathering of cheese.
I mean, come on, just look at that pull! Okay, sincerely though, because of the overwhelming amount of cheese, the gyoza skins got too drenched, and when cooled, it turned out to be quite a sloppy mess.
Also, I found it lacked seasoning, so only go for this if cheese is really your thing.
The next one is a novelty — Yuzu Pepper Gyoza (S$4.90 for three pieces, S$6.90 for six pieces). It’s pork gyoza accompanied by a tiny dollop of yuzu and black pepper sauce. I was looking forward to a citrusy and fragrant bite, but instead, it was a peculiar mix of savoury and sour.
Even though I understand the chemistry behind placing pork with yuzu, perhaps my palate isn’t used to such an odd combination.
Finally, I received some classic gyozas, the Ebi Gyoza (S$5.90 for three pieces, S$7.90 for five pieces). The prawns were satisfyingly plump and sweet, making this my favourite of them all (along with the Curry Gyoza).
I especially enjoyed the contrasting texture of chewy and springy, complemented by their homemade sauce. It all came together really well, given the hint of saltiness in the sauce, and at long last, I found a gyoza I could get behind 100%.
Another interesting one to try is the Tebasaki Gyoza (S$4.90 for two pieces). It’s chicken wings stuffed with their signature minced pork meat. With meat upon meat, there really wasn’t much to gripe about!
The chicken wing was tender and since it encapsulated the minced pork, that was also very juicy.
Which did it taste more of? I would say a good mix of both; I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. But it was certainly one of the few dishes with a lot more flavour to it, given the use of two types of meat.
Jumping on the bandwagon of the salted egg craze, they also serve Salted Egg Tori Karaage Gyoza (S$4.90 for three pieces, S$6.90 for five pieces). Right off the bat, I wish they’d included salted egg in the filling itself rather than simply drizzling the sauce on top.
I wouldn’t say this type of gyoza was bad in itself, but it would have had so much more potential if the meat had been mixed in with the sauce prior to being wrapped. I reckon that would enhance these bites, and make them more enjoyable.
Lastly, I had the Kani Ebi Stick Gyoza (S$7.90 for a piece, S$11.90 for two pieces). These novel gyozas come in long strips (180mm), so ordering one piece should suffice if you’re sharing numerous plates.
Just like the Ebi Gyoza, the prawns here were exquisitely bouncy and naturally sweet, so much so that I almost didn’t need to dip it in any sauce. For these, I actually noticed a little more smokiness, which was really pleasant.
With so many variations of gyozas, you’re sure to be spoilt for choice. However, it’s rather unfortunate that not every dish proved to be appetising. In fact, it was the more traditional flavours that turned out to be my favourites after all.
With such a wide selection though, there’s something for everyone, and you can most definitely satisfy your gyoza cravings at Chao Chao.
Expected damage: S$10 – S$20 per pax