Happy Friday, Happy April, and Happy Springtime to you! This past Saturday, we celebrated a friend’s birthday by riding our bikes through the streets of Long Beach. It was all fun times until the rain decided to come out and play along with us. Some unfortunate nicks, scrapes, sprains, and wipe-outs did result, so frankly, the weekend just got away from us. (No one was badly injured, thankfully, just our bruised egos as we realized the limitations in our riding skills.) So, as a result, our March Ethnic Exploration is just now making its way to your computer screens. Hey, on the bright side, April will have two editions of our monthly ethnic food expedition! And here’s the first…
March proved to be a busy time for both Chrystal and I, so we admit without shame that one of our initial hopes was to feature a dish that wasn’t too complicated to execute. We only had a handful of days the two of us could meet up, so the simpler the recipe, the better. Per usual, we tossed a few ideas back and forth, but it was Chrystal who suggested Korean. At first, I had some trepidations–only because there was little time for a trip to our favorite Asian market in LA–but after closer examination of the suggestion to make mandu, a meat filled Korean dumpling, I was sold.
There’s a good chance you’ve actually tasted this dish at some point, which is popular throughout parts of Asia. Mandu dumplings, or mandoo, are very similar to the Chinese wonton jiaozi or the Japanese gyoza, which we generally know as pot stickers. In fact, mandu were thought to be first brought to Korea by the Mongolians in the 14th century. It just goes to show how a simple, delicious idea can spread from region to region. The main difference between the various dumpling categories is the thickness and shape of the wrapper. Mandu specifically calls for ground pork or chicken to be mixed together with various vegetables. It’s all sealed tightly in the wrapper’s dough, cooked, and served with a rice wine vinegar based sauce. They can be steamed, pan or deep fried, boiled, even grilled. The choice is your’s. Many recipes of mandu also incorporate kimchi, mung bean or sweet potato noodles to the meat filling.
Per my concerns above with limited time and the ability to shop at a specific Asian market, we were relegated to our chain grocery store just around the corner. This turned out not to be a big deal after all, as the square Chinese wonton wrappers we got used were a fine substitute. The store was also out of ground pork, so we grabbed a package of ground chicken instead. Feel free to use whichever you like best. In no time, we were back in C’s kitchen, ready to get started. Making the sauce and filling was a breeze. The most strenuous task was filling, folding, and sealing several dozen individual dumplings. Thank the Lord there were two us to divide and conquer. Just pull up a seat at your dining table, click on some music jams, pour a glass of wine and start cranking them out. The elbow grease will be well worth it. These little guys are pretty sticky; be sure to have plenty of wax or parchment paper on hand to rest them on.
At first we decided to steam the dumplings using makeshift equipment–a vegetable steaming pot outfitted with parchment paper in the basket to hold the dumplings. It took at least 15 minutes to cook just a few dumplings. Without an appropriate steamer, this was not the best idea. Boiling the dumplings turned out to be the way to go. Once they were fully cooked, we decided to crisp the wontons a bit. A quick toss into a hot, oiled skillet gets them lightly brown in under a minute.
As we were cooking the wontons, two of our close friends stopped by. They watched us pan fry the boiled dumplings and slide them, in batches, onto a plate. We nibbled on the hot dumplings while the rest cooked. In no time, the four of us devoured all 60 of the wontons we made! Five dozen gone before the pot of water could even cool down. If this is any indication to you, by all means, whip up these small delights for yourself or your loved ones.
Mandu (Korean Dumplings) – Yields approximately 5 dozen dumplings (adapted by About and Almost Bourdain)
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
Zest and juice from 1/2 lime
1 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon sriracha
1 pound ground chicken, lean ground beef or pork
1/2 cup green onion, finely chopped
1/2 small cabbage head, finely chopped, parboiled and drained
1/2 cup extra firm tofu, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 package mandu wrappers (or Japanese gyoza, gow gee or Chinese wonton wrappers)
1 cup cool water, set aside
1. Make the sauce: whisk together all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together meat with onion, cabbage, tofu garlic, sesame seed oil, soy sauce, and seasonings until well combined. Set aside.
3. Place about 1 – 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in the water and lightly wet the outer edges of the wrapper, creating a thin wet border around the whole wonton. Gently fold wrapper in half and lightly press close to seal. If desired, for wrinkles along the seal of the wonton by crimping the edge. To prevent them from sticking to the work surface, place folded wontons on wax or parchment paper or on a lightly floured surface. Repeat until filling is gone.
4. Cook wontons in a large pot of boiling water for 4-6 minutes, or they can be steam for 2 minutes longer, or until meat is fulling cooked. Serve warm with dipping sauce.
Note: Leftover cooked dumplings freeze easily. Cook by desired method straight from the freezer when ready to eat. Frozen dumplings are great for stews, soups, or by themselves as a snack.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.
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