My Citizens SUPREME! I am beyond grateful for your zealous company as we walk together along the royal road of rare Asian dumplings to a final destination that is now within sight – this is in fact recipe 5 out of 6 in this unique series of posts and the first to include beef as a protein. This is unsurprising when you realize that today’s post focuses on the Land of the Morning Calm, the great beef eaters of Asia – the glorious nation of South Korea! Their national dish just might be mandu, and these dumplings delight all who try them!
Mandu (Korean: 만두; Hanja: 饅頭), or mandoo, are dumplings in Korean cuisine. Mandu can be steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or deep-fried (TFD’s favorite). The styles also vary across regions in the Korean Peninsula. Mandu were long part of Korean royal court cuisine, but are now found in supermarkets, restaurants, and snack shops throughout South Korea. I find the deep-fried version to be especially toothsome and as such this (as well as the pan-fried) will be the variant(s) showcased in this post – but as you’re about to discover, there are MANY versions of mandu!
In Korean cuisine, mandu generally denotes a type of filled dumpling similar to pelmeni and pierogi in some Slavic cultures. The name is cognate with the names of similar types of meat-filled dumplings along the Silk Road in Central Asia, such as Uyghur manta (مانتا), Turkish mantı, Kazakh mänti (мәнті), Uzbek manti, Afghan mantu and Armenian mantʿi (մանթի). Chinese mántou (馒头; 饅頭) is also considered a cognate, which used to mean meat-filled dumplings, but now refers to steamed buns without any filling.
Mandu can be divided into gyoja (교자; 餃子) type and poja (포자; 包子) type. In Chinese, the categories of dumplings are called jiǎozi (饺子; 餃子) and bāozi (包子) respectively, which are cognates with the Korean words. In Japanese, the former-type dumplings are called gyōza (餃子), which is also a cognate. In Mongolian, the latter-type dumplings are called buuz (бууз) and in Nepalese and Tibetan, they are called momo (मम, མོག་མོག) all of which is also cognates with the former.
Mandu are believed to have been first brought to Korea by Yuan Mongolians in the 14th century during the reign of the Goryeo dynasty. The state religion of Goryeo was Buddhism, which discouraged consumption of meat. The Mongolian incursion into Goryeo relaxed the religious prohibition against consuming meat, and mandu were among the newly imported dishes that included meat.
Another possibility is mandu came to Korea at a much earlier period from the Middle East through the Silk Road. Historians point out many cuisines based on wheat, such as dumplings and noodles which originated from Mesopotamia and gradually spread from there. It also spread east along the Silk Road, leaving many versions of mandu throughout Central and East Asia.
A Goryeo-era folk song, “Ssanghwajeom”, tells a story of a mandu shop (ssanghwa meaning ‘dumplings’, and jeom meaning ‘shop’) run by a foreigner, probably of Central Asian origin.
If the dumplings are grilled or pan-fried, they are called gun-mandu (which is today’s recipe! (군만두); when steamed, jjin-mandu (찐만두); and when boiled, mul-mandu (물만두). In North Korea, mandu styles vary in different regions of the country and here are only a small sampling of the range of mandu found throughout the Koreas:
- Mul-mandu (물만두) means “boiled mandu”
- Gun-mandu (군만두) is pan-fried mandu. It is derived from guun-mandu 구운만두=>군만두 to mean “panned” dumplings
- Jjin-mandu (찐만두) is steamed, either in a traditional bamboo steamer or modern versions
- Gullin-mandu (굴린만두), also called gulmandu, is a variety made in a ball shape without a covering. It is mainly eaten in summer
- Wang mandu (왕만두) is a bun stuffed with pork and vegetables, similar to the Chinese baozi
- Pyeonsu (편수), mandu are stuffed with vegetables in a rectangular shape. It is mainly eaten in summer and a local specialty of Kaesong, North Korea
- Eo-mandu (어만두), which are wrapped with sliced fish fillets. It was originally eaten in Korean royal court and yangban (noble class) families
- Saengchi-mandu (생치만두), these are a luxurious dumpling stuffed with pheasant meat, beef, and tofu that was eaten in the Korean royal court and in the Seoul area during winter
- Seongnyu-mandu (석류만두), literally “pomegranate dumpling” because of the shape
- So-mandu (소만두), these are stuffed with only vegetables, which were originally eaten in Buddhist temples
- Gyuasang (규아상), which are stuffed with shredded cucumber and minced beef in the shape of a sea cucumber. It is mainly eaten in the summer
- Kimchi-mandu (김치만두), dumplings with stuffing which contains kimchi. The addition of kimchi gives it a spicier taste compared to other mandu
- Napjak-mandu (납작만두), a Daegu specialty. As the name suggests (napjak in Korean means ‘flat’), the mandu is not as plump as the other types. A small amount of chopped glass noodles and chopped vegetables go inside the mandu. The dumpling is then boiled once and pan-fried once, finished off with a dipping sauce made with soy sauce and red pepper powder, and garnished on top with vegetables
Manduguk is a variety of Korean soup (guk) made with mandu in beef broth. In the Korean royal court, the dish was called byeongsi (餠匙) while in the Eumsik dimibang, a 17th-century cookbook, it was called “seokryutang” (석류탕).
Beef is truly the protein most near and dear to Koreans, as cogently noted in this post from englishspectrum.com:
It is a well-known fact that languages do reflect on its culture and history. In Korea, beef has the symbol of wealth. Especially, for older generations, beef has been the food that they used to long for in the olden days because it wasn’t easy to buy in the 60s and 70s.
In 1970, average annual beef consumption per person was about 1.2 kg. As of 2010, the average annual beef consumption increased to more than 10kg. This indicates that not many people had access to beef as opposed to today.
The wealthy people, back in 1960 and 1970, they used to eat beef once or twice a week. Unfortunately, majority of middle class Koreans couldn’t taste it unless it was a special holiday. For that reason, it wasn’t an unusual thing to see people asking for beef fat to make the soup because there wasn’t enough meat to flavor large quantity of beef soup.
In Korea, the main purpose of cattle was for harvesting back in the days, which made it harder for people to eat beef. Plus, only the royal household could eat beef for special events. During the Japanese colonialism in Korea, the growth of cattle increased for the military use. However, after the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Asia-Pacific War, all the cattle were taken to Japan. Of course, it got even harder to eat beef after the Korean War.
Up to these days, the history became part of the culture and became a saying. Some Koreans may describe the status of their financial stability by saying they can afford to buy and eat beef. It doesn’t literally mean they were not able to eat beef before. It just explains that they are making a lot of money or representing financial success.
According to this survey done by ‘Job Korea’, Korean’s favorite meat was pork meat. 68.8% of Koreans said pork meat and 19.1% of people said chicken. What is ironic about it is that Koreans consume more pork than beef regardless of their current economic status. For Koreans, Soju is a good pair with pork meat. Most likely, Soju plays a big role in this outperforming pork meat consumption.
Even though Koreans eat more pork, they are mostly likely to say yes to ‘beef’ when you treat Koreans out. At least, now you will probably understand why.
The beloved mandu is one that I especially enjoy when the filling is complex in both texture, flavors and colors (all of which are ferociously important in Korean cuisine, particularly for royal recipes) and this recipe is one is just as worthy of a Korean sovereign as My own noble palate! Reflecting Korean taste, this recipe is ⅔ pork and ⅓ beef to achieve ultimate juiciness and savor. It is lightened by the addition of slivered zucchini, kimchi, tofu, cabbage, rice vermicelli, fresh shiitake mushrooms, onion and scallion plus a host of seasonings.
Scallion kimchi of quality, rice vermicelli noodles, premium gochugaru chili flakes Kadoya sesame oil and rare Korean herbal soy honey vinegar sauce can all be purchased at the links, the other ingredients are quite easy to purchase at your local grocer store.
My preferred dipping sauce uses Ganso seasoned soy sauce, a special blend of the Hanega family’s house vinegar, honey and soy sauce. Hanega’s flagship product and also its best selling, the 5 years aged Gingko ‘Hyo’ vinegar gets its unique blend of flavors from ginkgo grown in the family’s orchard along with 14 other herbs, fruits, grains and roots. If you prefer, just make your own “home brew” version dipping sauce with soy, honey, vinegar and hot pepper flakes in your favored proportions.
For the kimchi traditionally used in this filling, I have chosen to use Kimchi-prepared scallions as opposed to cabbage, but please do feel free to use the far more easily obtained cabbage version if you so prefer! Buy it at your local store or even better MAKE the ULTIMATE VERSION – my own! The recipe is detailed here.
Please note that the dough recipe and instructions are gratefully cribbed from maangchi.com.
My Citizens, this is a deep-fried, meaty and savory dumpling that packs a truly spicy kick – I have every confidence it will wow you, your family and any very fortunate dinner guests fortunate enough to be invited to your table! See the full glorious range of royal and plebian Korean recipes from the South (and yes, even North Korea!) available here on TFD at this link.
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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