Mandoo or Mandu (Korean Dumplings)

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Mandoo (or mandu) is the Korean word for dumpling.  And there really is nothing like a homemade dumpling.

There is something truly special about the process handcrafting a dumpling.  Taking a wrapper, mounding the filling inside, carefully sealing the edges to make beautiful little pockets of juicy, meaty goodness.  It feels rewarding, productive, and special.  As I look at the tray of dumplings, I feel myself smile, bursting with pride.  I made those.  And it felt good.  Everytime I conquer some culinary challenge in this way, it makes me feel like I could do anything.

These dumplings are delicious.  One of my best creations.  The outside is soft and pillowy yet crunchy at the same time.  The inside is salty, sweet, meaty yet light all at once.  The quick dip in the sauce adds a little more saltiness, a nuttiness from the sesame oil, and a little acid from the vinegar to balance all the flavors.  There is nothing quite like the taste that you get when you bite through the chewy, crunchy exterior to the soft, flavorful filling and feel the salty dip on your tongue.

As I say with a lot of my recipes, they’re not difficult, but they do require time.  Getting back to making foods by hand, from scratch has made me appreciate a lot more.  I appreciate the time, the final product after investing so much of myself, and the satisfaction from my family’s reactions to the yummy morsels.

The best thing about this recipe is that it will yield 36+ dumplings and they are so so easy to freeze, so a little time invested will be the gift that will keep on giving for a long time.

Dumplings:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small package of bean thread (about 1.75 oz.)
  • 1 package tofu (can be firm or soft, whatever you have), squeezed of all water
  • 3 medium carrots, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 4 T. soy sauce
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T kochujaru (korean chili flakes) or red pepper flakes
  • 1 T. sesame oil and 2 T. vegetable oil for sautéing
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1 package of pre-made dumpling skins (or gyozo)

Dipping Sauce:

  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 T. vinegar
  • sprinkle of sesame seeds (optional)
  • sprinkle of cayenne pepper (optional)

In skillet, heat sesame oil and vegetable oil over medium high heat.  When hot (you’ll see a slight ripple or shimmer), add onions and carrot, half the garlic, salt and pepper, and sweat until onions are translucent and carrots are soft.  Remove from heat, cool and set aside.

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To prepare bean thread: boil 1 C. of water, pour over bean thread and let sit for 5 minutes.  Drain and wrap in paper towel to remove moisture.  Chop bean thread into 1 inch pieces.

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In a large bowl, break up ground beef and tofu.  (Note: tofu must be very dry or otherwise will add unnecessary, unwanted moisture in the dumplings.  To do this, cut tofu into quarters, take a few paper towels, clean dish towel, or cheesecloth, wrap around tofu and squeeze.)  Add soy sauce, sesame oil, remaining garlic, salt, pepper, kochujaru, honey, bean thread, and cooled onion and carrot mixture.  Combine thoroughly.  (I recommend using your hands to get the best results.)

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Fill a bowl or a cup with water.  Take a dumpling wrapper and place a rounded teaspoon of mixture into the center.  Dip fingers into water and moisten edges of wrapper.  Carefully seal the dumpling into a half moon shape, then crimp edges using your nail every cm or with a fork.  Do not overfill as your dumplings will explode when you cook them.  Repeat until all the mixture is gone.

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Place dumplings on a cookie sheet until ready to cook or freeze.  Make sure not to have the wet edges of the dumplings touching, otherwise they will stick together.

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To cook, you can boil, steam, deep fry or pan fry.  Pan frying is my personal favorite.  This is how you do it:

Cover the bottom of a nonstick skillet with vegetable oil and heat until hot (look for that shimmer/ripple).  Place in number of desired dumplings.  Cook for 2 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown, flip.  Pour in 1/4 C. water, cover for 2-3 minutes, remove lid and let water fully evaporate.  The water helps steam the dumplings and when the water is fully evaporated, the dumplings continue to get all golden in the remaining oil. Dumplings are done when both sides are golden brown and crisp.

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Serve with dipping sauce.

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To freeze: arrange dumplings in a single layer on well-floured cookie sheet or on a sheet of parchment paper and place in freezer for at least two hours.  When frozen, remove from cookie sheet and place in a large ziploc bag.  Remove as many as you want whenever you want.

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2 thoughts on “Mandoo or Mandu (Korean Dumplings)

  1. Mary Roy June 9, 2013 at 3:27 am Reply

    Hi, I’m just pan frying my dumplings now, but you don’t say if we pour the oil off, before we add the water and cook covered for 2-3 minutes. I did take the oil out, before adding the water…but not sure if that’s correct.

    • merpkim June 9, 2013 at 6:10 am Reply

      Hi Mary, thanks for the great question. No, you don’t pour the oil off before adding the water. The water helps steam the dumplings and when that evaporates, the oil allows them to continue to brown nicely and not stick to the pan. Good luck! I hope they were delicious!!

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