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[Diana’s Table] Korean dumplings or mandu

Meat mandu (Courtesy of Diana Kang)
Meat mandu (Courtesy of Diana Kang)

Although the dumpling originated in China, it is now considered one of the most recognized signature Korean dishes. There are many types of mandu, ranging from popular street food types to delicate Michelin-starred dishes. Filled with a wide variety of stuffing ranging from meat and seafood to vegetables, they can be cooked in many ways to add flavor to appetizers, main dishes and even salads.

In Korea, mandu was traditionally made for celebratory occasions such as weddings and the New Year. It was thought to bring good fortune, and we paid special attention to making perfectly shaped mandu to hold in our fortune. In fact, it was considered a virtue to be able to make beautifully shaped mandu.

Making mandu together is also a family tradition as we all gather to lend a hand, making hundreds at a time. Not only does this speed up the process, it also serves as an opportunity to catch up on the latest family news and share the mandu together.

Each family has its own favorite recipe for the mandu stuffing. Some prefer kimchi mandu, while others prefer adding bean sprouts and chives. My family prefers shrimp and egg mandu with green peas or asparagus. You can be adventurous and combine your favorite ingredients to enhance the taste and flavor. It is also a great way to use up all the vegetables in your refrigerator.

Today, I am sharing my recipe for a simple meat-based mandu. I have reduced the number of vegetables in this recipe while maintaining the basic flavor. Instead of using kimchi, I use salted cabbage. I usually make a lot of mandu at once and keep them in the freezer. It is comforting to know that I have frozen mandu that can be used when I am in a hurry. They can be pan-fried or boiled. They can be added to salads or soups as toppings. I even put them in kimchi stew or in instant ramen to enhance the flavor.

Meat mandu

Ingredients:

1 cup ground beef

1 cup ground pork

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 cup drained tofu, mashed

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup salted cabbage

Directions:

To make the salted cabbage, add a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of sugar to two cups of cabbage. Squeeze excess water after 10 minutes. Pre-season meat with the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper and set it aside for 30 minutes.

Add the tofu, green onions and salted cabbage to the pre-seasoned meat base.

For something different, I have also included my recipe for shrimp egg mandu for you to try. Although it is a very simple recipe, it is so delicate and beautiful that you can use it when entertaining guests. These mandu can be pan-fried or steamed, but I also find that they make beautiful dumpling soups with simple vegetable or dashi broth.



Shrimp mandu (Courtesy of Diana Kang)
Shrimp mandu (Courtesy of Diana Kang)

Shrimp mandu with eggs and peas

Ingredients:

10-12 whole shrimp, de-veined and washed (Can use frozen shrimp also.)

1/2 cup sweet green peas (Can use frozen peas. Can substitute asparagus.)

5 eggs, scrambled

1 tablespoon ginger sake

Salt and pepper to taste



Directions:

Remove shrimp tail and chop into small chunks.

Add one teaspoon of salt and pepper and one tablespoon of ginger sake. Marinate the shrimp for 10 minutes.

Season green peas with salt and pepper.

Scramble the eggs and season with salt and pepper.

Mix all ingredients together and stuff into mandu skin.


As we prepare for the upcoming Lunar New Year, I hope that you will make these mandu with your family and friends. I hope they will bring you good fortune and good health.


Happy cooking and happier eating!



Diana Kang is a lifestyle content creator specializing in Korean food and food culture. She has worked as an executive producer of the PBS series on Korean food “Kimchi Chronicles,” and has written regular columns on celebrity chefs, specialty ingredients and family recipes. -- Ed.
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