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Mandu – Korean Dumplings

Mandu – Korean Dumplings

Mandu are believed to have been first brought to Korea by Mongolians in the 14th century when the Goryeo dynasty ruled the area. The Goryeo had embraced Buddhism as their state religion and, in line with their implementation of religious doctrine, had discouraged the consumption of meat. In subsequent years, Mongolians were able to gain a foothold in the general area and, with their increasing power, religious doctrine limiting the consumption of meat became less relevant. Mandu (Dumplings) were one of the popular dishes that resulted in increased meat consumption.

I must admit that I have always thought of making dumplings as intimidating. For starters, dumplings are not a dish that I grew up with. I would think that the first food stuff of this kind that ever entered my body were Chinese Egg Rolls. That said, neither the region in which I grew up, nor my parents were particularly adventurous when it came to “ethnic” food. To make matters worse, I was a horrible eater...just like my daughter! Thus, I would think that I must have been at least 16 years old before I ever ate anything Asian – whether any kind of dumpling was part of that culinary exploration, I can not say definitively, but since egg rolls are often consumed as appetizers in Chinese restaurants, I think it's a safe bet to assume that I must have tried them at around the same time that I first became interested in Asian cuisine.

That said, these types of dumplings are certainly appealing to many people, and especially to my difficult eater. The shape is familiar to many people from other cuisines that can be readily encountered just about anywhere. Thus, it is reminiscent of Italian stuffed pasta (such as Ravioli), Eastern European Pierogi, German Maultaschen, etc., and is seemingly omnipresent in many Asian cuisines as well.

As finger foods, these small dumplings are perfect for children – most kids just love the ease of using their hands to eat. These dumplings also have a lovely golden hue – mostly beige, if you will – that is visually appealing.

Back to the matter at hand, though: Intimidation! There is none here! These dumplings are easy to make. They are quick to make as well – perfect to simply put together when you have hunger pangs and/or want your Asian fix.

The ingredients for this dish can be found in just about any grocery store – you don't even need to go to a specialty “Asian” food store, making this dish even easier to make.

I will also include three simple recipes for dipping sauces – a sweet-hot-sour dipping sauce that uses a garlic-chili paste that is readily available just about anywhere (Sambal Olek), one with ginger and, one with a special Korean Chili paste. These recipes don't consist of much more than a few ingredients that are simply mixed together. I will readily admit that the first sauce is, by far, my favorite.

Please note that I use an authentic Korean Chili paste (called Gochujang) for the third dipping sauce. You definitely won't be able to find that in a regular grocery store! That said, Gochujang has a particular flavor that may not be overly palatable to the average consumer. If you are adventurous, go for it!

If you decide to make your own dipping sauces, I would advise you to mix them first so that the flavor can blend while you make the dumplings.

However, if you want to make this real simple, just use one of the many Asian dipping sauces that can be found in grocery stores.


8 cups Water.

1 small head Chinese Cabbage (either Napa or Bok Choy would be great for this).

½ lb. soft Tofu.

2 Eggs.

8 Green Onions, chopped.

1 tsp. Salt.

1 tsp. Sesame Oil

about 50 (or so) Won Ton wrappers (unless you happen to find true Mandu skins somewhere). Note that wrappers can be circular or square (mine were square).

Vegetable or Canola Oil for frying.

A bit of water to steam the dumplings.

Sweet-Hot-Sour Dipping Sauce:

1 cup Sugar.

½ cup Water.

½ cup distilled White Vinegar.

3 minced Garlic cloves.

1 tsp. Salt.

3 tsp. Garlic-Chili Sauce/Sambal Olek.

1 Green Onion, finely sliced.

Sesame Dipping Sauce:

½ cup Soy Sauce.

½ tsp. Sesame Oil.

¼ tsp. freshly grated Ginger.

1 glove Garlic, crushed with a garlic press.

T Tbs. minced Green Onion.

Chili Dipping Sauce:

6 Tbs. Soy Sauce.

3 Tbs. Water.

1 Tbs. Rice Vinegar.

1 Tbs. Sesame Oil.

1 Tbs. Gochujang (Korean Chili Paste).

1 Tbs. Sugar.

¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper.

1 glove Garlic, crushed with a garlic press.

2 Green Onions, minced.

Let's get started:

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil.

Meanwhile, chop the Chinese cabbage into thin strips – but make sure you discard the tough core/stem area.

When the water has come to a boil, place the chopped cabbage in the pot and parboil for about five minutes.

Drain and completely dry the cabbage (I use a salad spinner).

Drain the tofu and blot dry.

Add tofu to a big work bowl and mash with a fork.

Add the dried cabbage.

Beat one egg and add to the cabbage mixture.

Add the chopped green onions.

Add the salt.

Add the pepper.

Add the sesame oil.

Mix thoroughly until all ingredients are well integrated.

Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl and set aside.

Lay the Won Ton wrappers onto a flat surface. If you can't fit all 50 (or so), simply work in batches.

With a pastry brush, spread some of the beaten egg along the lower edges of each wrapper (the complete bottom edge as well as roughly half-way up on each side. The egg will make the wrapper stick together and seal the contents inside. You can do so for all the wrappers you have laid out, especially if you work in batches.

Place roughly 1 Tbs. of the cabbage mixture smack-center on the the wrapper. Again, I do so for every wrapper I have laid out before I start sealing them. Doing so accomplishes two things: One, you can use your fingers to make sure the filling is where you want it to be. Two, you don't make a mess by constantly getting either filling or egg on your fingers when you close to wrappers. Instead, it will be either all filling or all egg...

Fold the top half of the wrapper over the filling so that the edges align.

Press the edges together to form a tight seal.

Repeat until you have used all the wrappers or all the filling.

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, place nine or ten dumplings in the pan and fry for about one minute or until the bottom is golden brown.

Turn the dumplings over and add just enough water to the pan to cover the bottom.

Cover the pan and steam for about three or four minutes – or until the water has evaporated.

Remove the dumplings, add another 1 Tbs. of oil, and repeat the procedure until all the dumplings are done.

Dipping sauces:

Sweet-Hot-Sour Dipping Sauce:

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, vinegar, garlic, and salt.

Stir and bring to a boil

Keep stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved completely.

Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes – or until the mixture starts to attain the sticky consistency of syrup.

Once the mixture is nice and sticky, turn off the heat and add the garlic-chili sauce.

Stir until well-incorporated.

Add the sliced green onion.

Stir and serve.

Please note that this sauce gets really, really sticky once it starts to cool down. I find that it is easiest to serve it slightly heated in order to make dipping much easier.

Sesame Dipping Sauce/Chili Dipping Sauce:

Simply mix all the ingredients (separately for each sauce, of course) together in a bowl and let the flavors blend while you make the dumplings.

Serve with the dumplings!

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