18 August 2011

Double Take: Almost Bourdain's Mandu (Korean Dumplings)

Dumplings.... one of those things that I don't photograph well.

Dumplings are one of those foods that seem to cross food cultures. Each one has its own version, a different unique spin, and I have yet to come across one I didn’t like. Oh, some of them fail to excite me, that’s true enough, but I don’t actively dislike any of them.

But one thing that really doesn’t excite me about them is making them. There is just something about filling and sealing each dumpling individually that doesn’t get me going. I’m more than happy to eat them (and very happy in the case of samosas and empanadas), but to stand there over a bowl of raw meat filling and sealing and crimping the edges for ages just doesn’t excite me.  

The ready-availability of shells for dumplings does thrill me. Yep, that’s right; I don’t like making the dough either. I’ve gotten better at it now that I have made it a few times, but I’m still a reluctant dumpling maker. I wish I could tell you that this recipe made me want to go out and make some more on my own, but it didn’t. But in the process of making them I did come to one conclusion: The Dude’s friend Awesome really is Awesome. Well, two conclusions. Get someone to help you make them! It's so much more fun that way. 

I used Japanese wrappers instead of Korean, but it still worked well.

The Dude and Awesome showed up at Korean cooking night an HOUR early. Eeps. So much for  putting on a little makeup. That plan totally went out the window. But I was halfway through filling the dumplings when they arrived, and Awesome rolled up her sleeves, washed her hands, and took over the dumpling filling for me (wooohoo!) She asked me to show her what I was doing and then she commented on how she wasn’t sure she could make them as pretty as mine. Hah. Hers where way prettier. When I told her how great they looked, she replied, “Of course, I’m Asian.” I could only grin.

So, if you dread making dumplings the way I do, rope a couple friends into helping you fill and seal them. Everything about making these dumplings is crazy-easy, it’s just time consuming. With even one set of extra hands it goes so much faster, and you’ll be chowing down on dumpling deliciousness in no time at all!

Kimchi, chives, and green onions.

Mandu (Korean Dumplings) Recipe
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller Magazine September 2010 issue
Serves 6 (Makes about 35 dumplings)
GT - "These dumplings are similar to the Japanese gyoza – you could even fry them after steaming if you wanted the extra crunch. Sesame salt is a common seasoning in Korean cooking – make extra to have on hand for seasoning other dishes too."

8 ounces (200 g) finely minced pork
5 ounces (150 g) firm tofu, coarsely mashed with a fork
½ cup (100 g) drained cabbage kimchi, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
2 tablespoons (30 ml) finely chopped garlic chives (regular chives are fine)
½ spring onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon (5 ml) sesame oil
35 round gow gee wrappers (won ton wrappers are fine)

Sesame salt (optional):
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons fine salt

Dipping sauce:
¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice wine vinegar

I thought the meat to tofu ratio was great!

For sesame salt, dry-roast sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium-high heat until roasted (2-3 minutes). Cool slightly, set aside 1 tsp for dipping sauce, then pound remainder with salt in a mortar and pestle until finely ground.

Combine pork, tofu, kimchi, chives, spring onion, sesame oil and a large pinch of freshly ground pepper in a bowl and season to taste with sesame salt (about 1 tsp). Set aside. Since I didn't use the sesame salt or garlic chives, I subbed with garlic salt.

Lay a few wrappers on a work surface, place two teaspoons of pork mixture in the center of each, then brush edges with a little water. Fold in half to form a semicircle. Pleat edges and set aside on a lightly floured tray. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

Cook mandu in batches in boiling water over medium-high heat until cooked through (2-4 minutes). Drain and keep warm. Or, plop the finished ones in a bowl as them come out for your hungry guests to enjoy hot!

Meanwhile, for dipping sauce, combine ingredients and reserved roasted sesame seeds in a bowl. Serve with mandu, kimchi and extra sesame salt.

I found it best to use two teaspoons of filling per wrapper.

Tabitha and I actually made mandu together using a different recipe way back before I moved to Germany, but they were incredibly salty. Almost too salty to eat. The amount of salt in these mandu was absolutely perfect with Kosher salt. If you use table salt, cut it back to about ¾ teaspoon. Oh, and I can't comment on the sesame salt because I didn't make it or serve it. I don't use sesame seeds in my cooking and didn't want to go out and buy some for one recipe. If you like sesame seeds and make the sesame salt, let me know how it turns out!

All four of us enjoyed the dumplings, including Bender. I’d never seen Bender eat dumplings before, so I was pleased as punch.

Awesome is from Malaysia, not Korea, and had never had the dipping sauce before. She loved it so much that I sent her home with my bottle of rice wine vinegar. By that point in time, we knew when we’d be moving so it seemed reasonable to start gifting things we wouldn’t be using again before then.  We served Awesome’s kimchi with the mandu, and it was great! I highly recommend homemade kimchi. Yum! Speaking of which, I need to go get that recipe from her…

Wow-these-are-really-good: 3 votes
Huh-not-bad: 1 vote

To see Tabitha's take on Mandu, head on over to Double the Garlic!

What are your favorite dumplings?

We ran out of gyoza wrappers so used some egg roll wrappers too.

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