This restaurant-machine fusion is one small step for vending, one giant leap for vending-machine-kind.
There are approximately 2.5 million vending machines in Japan and each one has a story, but none so enticing as a machine rumored to vend handmade gyoza 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine. Our reporter Masanuki caught wind of this legend and set out to the dark corners of Yokohama – where the wild Pikachu roam – in order to find it.
It actually turned out not to be in the dark corners, but about five minutes from Center Minami Station on foot. Nevertheless, danger was afoot as Masanuki didn’t know the exact location of the machine and would have to scour the… Oh, there it is!
Painted bright yellow, it certainly did have a unique appearance worthy of its reputation. Hearing of a machine that dished out gyoza, Masanuki was half-expecting one of those old-timey machines with questionable tuna sandwiches inside, but this one was very clean and modern looking. He had no qualms about buying perishable food from it.
The machine was located outside of the Lonsanbo Chinesee small plate restaurant and boasted several of its items such as Handmade Gyoza (13 for 1,000 yen), Meat Gyoza (12 for 1,000 yen), Mizu Gyoza (8 for 880 yen), along with soup dumplings and shumai to choose from. All items were made by the Lonsanbo staff themselves.
Normally, Masanuki would probably look at the 1,000 yen (US$9) price tag and keep on walking. However, since he had a job to do, he took the plunge and ordered a baker’s dozen of Handmade Gyoza.
The pack was frozen when it plunked down to the opening and it came sealed in plastic, along with instructions on how to cook the gyoza so as to recreate the restaurant’s taste. Masanuki wasted no time and threw them in a plastic bag conveniently provided on the side of the machine. He then hurried home to start cooking.
He followed the simple instructions provided to him. He placed the dumplings in a greased pan and poured enough water to submerge them halfway. He then boiled them for about five minutes on high heat. Next, he removed the extra water and added a small amount of oil. After placing a lid on the pan, he fried them for another two or three minutes until they turned golden brown. Total cooking time was around 10 minutes.
And golden brown they did turn! Masanuki was thoroughly surprised at how delicious-looking these vending machine gyoza turned out to be. They were a little bigger than expected and appeared to be generously stuffed with vegetables.
Their taste was equally impressive. The skins were delectably tender and burst forth with fresh flavors when broken. It was definitely a restaurant caliber set of gyoza.
In the end Masanuki was thankful he didn’t pass up these dumplings because of the steep price. In terms of taste, quality, and convenience they turned out to be well worth it.
So at any time of day, if you happen to be in the neighborhood around Center Minami Station in Yokohama where several of these machines are located, don’t pass up the chance to try some vending machine Chinese food. It’s way better than it sounds!