Dumpling delight as Olympic favorite makes its way to Japanese tables
Written by tokyoclub on August 28, 2021
A giant Japanese food producer is cashing in on the huge popularity of its dumplings by promoting an Olympic athletes’ village favorite to customers wanting a taste of the games.
Olympic gold medalists like judoka siblings Uta and Hifumi Abe and table tennis player Mima Ito are endorsing ready-made frozen dumplings like those that got rave reviews from visiting athletes documenting their food journeys during the Tokyo Olympics on social media.
Supplied photo shows Ajinomoto Frozen Foods Co.’s “Energy Gyoza” for athletes. (Kyodo)
Men’s figure skating superstar Yuzuru Hanyu, a two-time champion at the Winter Games, is also on the dumpling gravy train after having taken part in the taste testing.
Gyoza is the Japanese name for the half moon-shaped dumplings most commonly filled with minced pork, vegetables and seasonings, and then wrapped in a thin wheat-based dough. Yaki gyoza, or fried dumplings, is one of the most popular Japanese soul foods.
During the July 23 to Aug. 8 Olympics, international athletes who were not able to leave the village in the Harumi waterfront district due to coronavirus restrictions were singing the praises of the dumplings, one of 700 meal options offered there 24 hours a day.
On social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, athletes shared a glimpse of what the dining experience in Tokyo was like.
U.S. rugby player Ilona Maher took to TikTok to show the world some of her favorites including deep-fried camembert, spring rolls, ramen and gyoza.
“Not to be dramatic or anything, but these are the best gyoza dumpling things I’ve ever had in my life,” she said.
Supplied photo shows Ajinomoto Frozen Foods Co.’s “Conditioning Gyoza” for athletes. (Kyodo)
Her review prompted the company, Ajinomoto Frozen Foods Co., which provided the dumplings, to claim the Japanese dumplings won a gold medal in her eyes.
In another video, American volleyball player Erik Shoji is seen in the main dining hall, where he holds a piece of cucumber sushi to the camera before popping a gyoza in his mouth. “These gyozas are the bomb!” he exclaimed.
Irish rugby player Harry McNulty and Puerto Rico basketball player Ali Gibson are just a few of the athletes who shared a video tour of the dining hall, highlighting the many options available while doing so.
“I had coffee at the athletes’ village. The gyoza were delicious,” Japanese table tennis player Kasumi Ishikawa said in an Instagram post uploaded two days after she won team silver.
According to Ajinomoto, which announced the launch of a new sport-themed brand and the sale of two types of frozen gyoza on Wednesday, a combined 600,000 gyoza will be served over the length of the Olympics and Paralympics at the athletes’ village.
It said the newly released “For ATHLETE” gyoza range was on the menu at the G-Road Station, a facility run by the Japanese Olympic Committee near the village during the Olympics where light Japanese meals were served to athletes.
“For us, the social media response was unexpected but we are very happy with the global recognition. We saw a slight increase in sales in stores,” Ajinomoto public relations official Keita Katsumura said.