This week’s food for Friday is the (usually) bitesize Korean favourite, mandu. Often confused with Chinese dumplings, or specifically jiaozi, and sharing many similarities with Japanese gyoza, these little parcels of tastiness have been part of Korean cuisine since the times of the Goryeo royal court. It’s thought that they were originally introduced by the Mongolians from Northern China. This would go some way to explaining their name – mandu is written the same as the Chinese mantou, which was their original name in China. Nowadays, mantou refers to steamed buns, and the original meat filled mantou is called baozi.
Because of this, it seems as though there are many more types of mandu then there actually is, with different variations from other countries being thrown into the mix. However, that isn’t to say there aren’t a number of variations on mandu. Far from it in fact. There are a lot. They all vary by regions, but there are three main types based on the cooking method. These are gun mandu, mul mandu and jjin mandu – fried, boiled and steamed respectively. Each has its own distinct flavour and texture. A few other types include wang mandu, so named as “king” mandu because of how large they are),and seongnyu mandu, literally “pomegranate” mandu for their shape.
But what makes a mandu? Gyoja mandu are made with thin sheets of dough wrapped around the meat or vegetable filling then subsequently fried, boiled or steamed. The contents are usually a mixture of ground meat, most commonly chicken or pork. Sometimes kimchi can be added, but more often it’s onion and mushrooms, with some chives and other seasonings mixed in. This can include soy sauce and sesame oil.
Though mandu are predominantly eaten as snacks or starters, they can also make up a main dish too. Manduguk is a soup made from Korean dumplings. They’re boiled up with beef or anchovy broth, to which beaten egg is added. So there’s even more ways to try these little morsels.
Have you tried mandu before? What was your favourite type? Try dipping them in a sauce made from soy, rice vinegar and sesame oil for an added depth to the flavour. And once we’ve got you hooked on how delicious they are, why not try making them yourself? Take a look at Maangchi’s recipe for kimchi wang mandu below!