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Yatai Gyoza Ran Ran (屋台餃子 蘭蘭): Gyoza So Good, It Destroyed My Diet

If not for my roommate’s persuasion, I would have never step foot into this izakaya-type gyoza bar. First of all, I don’t eat meat. The storefront advertising its main menu item, GYOZA (餃子, a meat-filled dumpling), in big, red calligraphic characters, does not entice the average non-meat eater. Second of all, I’m trying to limit my alcohol consumption. The spread of alcoholic drinks handwritten on large slips of paper plastered on the windows on top of the outdoor tables with stacked beer crates for legs is also not a plus for an alcohol-conscious alcoholic like me. I had no incentive to go there… but, as you can already tell, I did, indeed, step foot into this charming gyoza bar called Yatai Gyoza Ran Ran (屋台餃子 蘭蘭).



When I first pulled open the glass door, I noticed a significant difference from the other izakayas (an izakaya is a Japanese bar that also serves side dishes and other snacks to accompany the alcohol) I’ve been to in Kofu. First was how spacious it was: the ceiling was high, and the tables were low with customers seated on cute little red stools. I didn’t have to shimmy around other customers, nor did I feel as if my head would knock on the ceiling. It was a more Chinese-inspired layout and aesthetic, with the tabletops wrapped in a bright, flower-patterned vinyl table covering and garish (but not distasteful) wall décor reminiscent of outdoor Chinese streetside eateries I would often see back home in Singapore. It was refreshing compared to other izakayas I’ve been to in Kōfu that are furnished with bulky wooden tables and chairs packed close together.

This visual, along with the bare, concrete floor and mono-legged tables coupled with its stools gave me some mysterious nostalgia, as if I just got off work and dropped by the streetside bar on the way home to wind down with some friends, exchange some banter with the store owner, and down a couple pints before retiring for the day. To put it simply: the whole place made me want to chow on some good food and enjoy some good alcohol.

We were seated at the end of the long, continuous table that surrounded the central kitchen where the cook (who is also the store manager, 店長 tenchō in Japanese) was working. Food was delivered minutes after ordering. Drinks were, more often than not, set before us mere seconds after ordering. In the cases it took a bit more than a few minutes, we were too busy savoring the already-served bite-sized gyoza and otsumami (おつまみ, a snack or side dish eaten with a drink), that perfectly accompanied the delicious alcohol.



Ran Ran served beer and other alcohols, but I mainly drank lemon sour (a popular alcoholic drink in Japan). The store’s version was deliciously smooth, but one variation called shio remon sawā (塩レモンサワー), or salty lemon sour, that the store offered was an absolute pleasure to drink. It came with chopped up lemon rind and lemon pulp, with large-granule salt coating the rim of the glass. When you take a sip, the salt immediately melts on your tongue and is washed down by the tart sweetness of the lemon sour, finished with the satisfying texture of chewing softened lemon rind and pulp, its sourness diluted from floating about in the drink.







The store’s star otsumami, gyoza, are available two ways: yakigyōza (焼き餃子, pan-fried gyoza) and suigyōza (水餃子, boiled gyoza). You can order them in plates of 20 pieces, 30 pieces, and 40 pieces. 40 pieces sounds like a lot, but my friends were able to eat anywhere from five to ten plates of these delectable little dumplings. My roommate’s absolute favorite was the soup that paired with the suigyōza, prepared from a broth she described to have a deep, rich umami flavor.



As the night went on, it seemed the tenchō noticed my tendency to avoid meat, for he suddenly served a plate of non-meat, vegetable filled yakigyōza and a plate of suigyōza. He even set out a non-meat version of the soup my roommate loved. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement; I was moved to tears by the tenchō’s thoughtfulness and service. The vegetable gyoza, garnished tenderly with the tenchō’s kindness, was delicious.



Now, I have a confession to make. The second time I went to Ran Ran was with my roommate and her two close friends. They had come all the way from Tokyo just for Ran Ran (one of them wanted to celebrate her 21st birthday there). As we drank and ate and drank some more, engaging in fun, slurred, banter with the part-timer and the tenchō, there was a plate of gyoza left in the middle of our table. At some point, my roommate and her friend left to use the washroom, and I was left with her other friend. My eyes were glued to the plate of yakigyōza sitting in front of me. I looked at her, then looked at the plate of gyoza, and only one thought was on my mind. I must eat at least one of Ran Ran’s gyoza in this life.

“I’m gonna eat one.” I declared.

She responded with a goading smile. “Do it.”

And then I did it.

I’ve been a non-meat eater for about 4 years now, but I clearly remember the wonderful taste of gyoza, for I had my fair share of Singapore’s best yakigyōza and suigyōza alike before changing my diet. Eventually, I began to dislike the taste of meat, and the smell also put me off. Walking by ramen stalls with their pork-bone broth smell wafting from the kitchen sends my stomach squirming – but the moment I put Ran Ran’s little bite-sized yakigyōza on my tongue, I thought about becoming a meat-eater again. The subtle crunch of the pan-seared gyoza skin crackled satisfyingly between my teeth as the rich, juicy meat filling, complemented by the fresh tang of the spring onion enveloped my taste buds. When paired with the vinegar soy sauce dip, that perfect balance of acidity and salt sent endorphins pinging in my brain. The meat flavor was not overwhelming, nor did it leave a coat of grease on my tongue and sit like an oily clump in my stomach. It was just good. Again, the perfect size to eat while drinking delicious lemon sour.


If you like the atmosphere of a streetside izakaya, if you enjoy drinking, if you like good food, and if you like classic, delicious gyoza, Yatai Gyoza Ran Ran is a place I strongly recommend. Even my roommate’s friends came all the way to Yamanashi just for Ran Ran. The service is superb, the staff is kind, and from my experience, you’ll leave thinking “I’m glad I went here.”

Address: Yatai Gyoza Ran Ran (屋台餃子 蘭蘭), 1 Chome-12-5 Zenkoji, Kofu, Yamanashi 400-0806

Ashley Gor

Published on

  • February 2, 2023


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