My mom may not have been the best cook in our neighborhood when I was growing up, but she had a few good recipes up her sleeve. One of those recipes is for her mandu, which are Korean dumplings. Every Korean mom on our block had her own special mandu recipe – one mom added sweet potato noodles to her dumplings, while another added bean sprouts – but I always liked my mom’s dumplings the best because they were simple but delicious. It was good home cooking.
Over time, my mom ended up making dumplings for special occasions like our birthdays and major holidays. Every Christmas morning, I remember waking up early and sitting in the kitchen with my brothers, folding dumplings, as we would race to see who can fold the most. Once everything was assembled, my mom would make fried dumplings, steamed dumplings and dumpling and rice cake soup. We were in dumpling heaven! Those are some happy food memories for me, so whenever Christmas comes around, I reminisce about those dumplings, and so I’ve put together my version of her recipe. Enjoy!
Korean Dumplings (Mandu)
Yield: About 3 dozen
7 ounces of organic soft tofu
1 cup of grated cabbage
1/3 cup of finely grated carrot
1/4 lb. of beef brisket, finely chopped (or extra-lean ground beef)
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/4 cup of finely grated onion
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon organic sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated pepper
1 packet of round wonton skins (36 wrappers)
Vegetable oil for frying
Dipping sauce (recipe below)
1. Place the tofu in a cloth napkin or cheese cloth. Wrap tightly to create a beggar’s purse. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Remove the tofu from the napkin and place in a bowl and set aside.
2. Placed the grated cabbage in a sieve and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place over a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the cabbage as possible. Place in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Place the grated carrot in a small sieve and sprinkle with a smidgen of salt. Place over a bowl and let set for 5 minutes. Squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible. Place in a small bowl and set aside.
4. In another bowl, combine the beef, sesame oil, and baking soda. Stir to combine and let it sit for 5 minutes.
5. In a large bowl, add the tofu, cabbage, carrots, beef, onion, green onion, sugar, egg, salt and pepper and stir to combine. You can also use a clean hand to mix all the ingredients.
6. Get your wonton skins and a small bowl of water. Take one of the wonton skins and place a heaping teaspoon of the dumpling mixture onto the skin. Dab some water around the edges and fold over to make a half-moon. Press tightly to seal (if you want to get fancy, you can create pleats). Place the dumpling on a parchment lined half sheet pan. Keep the rest of the wonton skins covered with a towel to prevent them from drying.
7. Repeat the process until all the filling is gone.
8. Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium. Once the skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Place about 1/3 of the dumplings in the pan. Cook on one side for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Flip the dumplings over and cook for another minute. Reduce the heat to low, add 1/4 cup of water and cover. Cook for about 5-10 until all the water has evaporated. (You are essentially steaming the dumplings to cook the filling.)
10. Remove the dumplings and transfer them to a plate. Serve with the dipping sauce.
1/8 cup organic soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of coarse Korean red pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Serve with the dumplings.