Thursday, August 18, 2011

Double Take: Mandu (Korean Dumplings)

Doooooo Doo DooDoo Do Doo Dooo Dooooooo. (It’s tough to type the sound starting the CBS evening news.)

Good evening (its evening somewhere) and welcome to the 6 o’clock news. Last week we brought you a taste of Korea with Korean Fried Chicken. Today, the story continues with Korean dumplings.

What are dumplings, you ask? Well, they’re not your Southern style dumplings folks! (Although those are completely unbeatable, this is the continued Korean story.) These dumplings are along the line of Chinese/Japanese potstickers, Eastern European pierogies, and could be considered a cousin to tortellini. What do all these have in common? They’re dough with a filling inside that is boiled and eaten. All are typically dipped in or served with a sauce.


Tortellini are distinctly Italian. The tortellini dough is really more of a pasta. Tortellini are typically filled with cheese and either a meat or vegetable. Its also served with marinara, white sauce, or in a broth as a soup component.

Pierogi vary across Eastern Europe but are commonly stuffed with potatoes, cabbage, meat, cheese, and sometimes other veggies or fruit. Pierogi can be boiled, baked, fried or even a combination of boiling and frying. They are served with sour cream, butter, or occasionally fried onions and bacon.

Chinese/Japanese pot stickers take us quite a bit closer to the Korean dumplings. They use the same rice based wrappers, are boiled, steamed or boiled/steamed, then fried. Pot stickers are dipped into a soy sauce mixture. The big difference is how they’re filled. Its rather regional but common ingredients in pot stickers include green onions, pork, and shrimp. As an added note, in Boston they call pot stickers Peking Ravioli. That’s funny since ravioli and tortellini are quite similar other than shape and city of origin.

What makes Mandu special? Well, it’s a hybrid. It looks like the potstickers but is flavored with fillings that are common to Korea such as sesame salt for seasoning and is lighter on meat since Koreans originally discouraged eating meat due to their Buddhist practices. According to one legend, the Mongolians brought the mandu when they invaded and relaxed meat restrictions in Korea. Mandu can be served in a broth like tortellini or with a soy sauce mixture after boiling, frying, steaming or a combination of boiling and frying. This recipe calls for the mandu to be boiled but I prefer them boiled then pan fried.

Mandu: The two up close are boiled. At the back, one has been boiled, then dry fried.


Mandu (Korean Dumplings) Recipe
(Adapted from AlmostBourdain and the Gourmet Traveller Magazine September 2010 issue)

Serves 6 (Makes about 35 dumplings)
Time: 1.5 hours

GT - "These dumplings are similar to the Japanese gyoza – you could even fry them after steaming if you wanted the extra crunch. Sesame salt is a common seasoning in Korean cooking – make extra to have on hand for seasoning other dishes too."

Ingredients

½ lb (200 gm) finely minced pork
½ pkg (5 oz) (150 gm) firm tofu, coarsely mashed with a fork
½ c. (100 gm) drained cabbage kimchi, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic chives
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
35 round gow gee wrappers

Sesame salt:
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp fine salt

Dipping sauce:
¼ c. (60 mL) soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar



How To:

For sesame salt, dry-roast sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium-high heat until roasted (2-3 minutes). Cool slightly, set aside 1 tsp for dipping sauce, then pound remainder with salt in a mortar and pestle until finely ground. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, don’t fret. Grab a hammer or rubber mallet and put your sesame seeds in a ziploc bag. Give the seeds a light beating. You’ll feel better after whatever happened at work or the lab and you’ll be doing something productive at the same time.)

Combine pork, tofu, kimchi, chives, spring onion, sesame oil and a large pinch of freshly ground pepper in a bowl and season to taste with sesame salt (about 1 tsp). Set aside. Be sure to mix these very well together. If not, you’ll have some with too much tofu.

Lay a few wrappers on a work surface, place a teaspoonful of pork mixture in centre of each, then brush edges with a little water. Fold in half to form a semicircle. Then trim edges with a 7cm-diameter cutter. Pleat edges and set aside on a lightly floured tray.

Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

Cook mandu in batches in boiling water over medium-high heat until cooked through (2-4 minutes). Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, for dipping sauce, combine ingredients and reserved roasted sesame seeds in a bowl. Serve with mandu, kimchi and extra sesame salt.


Reaction

As written, this is not a weeknight meal. This could be a weeknight meal if you have the filling prepped the day before though. Becky and I made these with the Korean fried chicken and it was a long evening. By the end, we were so hungry and tired we weren’t too picky about what we ate.

They tasted great fresh out of the steamer but were slightly less awesome when reheated the next day. Mixing the filling very well is key to having similar flavors for all the dumplings. I think I prefer more meat though. In the future, I’d increase the meat to tofu ratio or skip the tofu altogether. I distinctly liked the flavor of the kimchi in the dumplings and would encourage increasing the kimchi in the filling ratio in the future. I thought the sesame seeds tasted good in the dumplings but I preferred the dipping sauce without sesame seeds. I dry fried a couple dumplings that were trying to fall apart and they were very tasty. I’d definitely recommend frying them in the future.

Summary: more pork, more kimchi (special cabbage…kind of like a pickled cabbage), less tofu, and NO sesame seeds in the dipping sauce.

This is starting to sound like pierogi meeting a German. It’s fun to try food from unfamiliar places. In the end, most foods have a similar dish somewhere else in the world. It’s funny to me that foods and places that can seem so different can have so much in common.

Are you hungry for a second opinion? See what Mel thought at Fabulously Fun Food!

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