Making mandu with Mom and Dad
Mandu is a Korean dumpling that my family and I make a couple times a year.
Korean food is something I hold very close to my heart.
I grew up making things like bulgogi around the house and eating it when I attended Kamp Kimchee. However, there is nothing I love more than mandu, a Korean dumpling that can be steamed or fried.
I love mandu so much that we made and served over 300 pieces of it for my graduation party. My mom barely got to enjoy time with our guests because she was in the kitchen making more when they got low.
I try to make at least one Korean dish a month, but it is often hard to find the time to sit down and fold dumplings by hand. Making one package of about 60 wonton wrappers can take me anywhere from an hour to two depending on how productive I am feeling.
I’ve been making a lot more Korean food, especially japchae. Japchae is a stir fry glass noodle dish that mixes sweet potato vermicelli and vegetables together into a savory dish. This is something that I knew I wanted to make for my parents eventually but haven’t had the time.
However, I recently went home for Thanksgiving and made plans with my parents to have Korean food for dinner on Friday. I was in charge of making japchae and helping my mom with bulgogi and mandu. It was a whole production, but the food we produced was definitely worth it.
I’ve always had a strong connection with my Korean background. I was curious from a young age and have gone back to South Korea twice. I actively watch K-dramas and listen to K-pop, plus I’m currently working on teaching myself the language.
These are things I don’t necessarily have in common with my adoptive family, but we all enjoy the food.
We began cooking around 3:30 p.m. and finished somewhere between 6 and 6:30 p.m. We also made three different dishes. The easiest of the three was bulgogi, a marinated meat dish. In Korea, beef is the common meat of choice, but we normally use chicken. This time around we just used a premade marinade and let it sit in the fridge while we prepared the other dishes, but we also could make an easy marinade mixture.
While that marinated, my mom and I began to prepare the mixture for our mandu. We always pan fry our dumplings in oil on the stove top, but you can steam or air fry them as well for a more healthy alternative.
My family is at the point that we don’t always measure the ingredients we put into the mixture, but our recipe calls for one package of wonton wrappers, 1 pound of ground beef, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, two medium sized carrots finely grated, 1 cup of napa cabbage, 3/4 cup of rice noodles cut up and vegetable oil for frying.
We begin by browning the ground beef in a pan and seasoning it with onion powder. I always add a little bit of salt and pepper as well. The onion powder is important because it will just taste like hamburger without it and that overpowers everything else.
While I browned the hamburger, my mom worked on cutting up the vegetables. She started with the napa cabbage, taking the outer leaves off and throwing those away. We washed it and cut it into small pieces. We also grated two medium sized carrots and mixed both of those veggies into a bowl with the ground beef.
The last item we prepared was the rice noodles. These noodles cook in about two minutes and are very easy to overcook. The way my mom and I cook them is by bringing the water to a boil and taking the pan off of the heat before putting the noodles in. We let them sit in the boiling water for about two minutes before taking them out, rinsing them in cold water so they don’t stick to themselves and cutting them up into smaller pieces. Then we add those to the mixture.
The mixture is pretty easy to make and doesn’t require too much prep time, but folding the dumplings can be time consuming. When I do it on my own, I often put on a TV show or K-pop to listen to while I roll.
My parents don’t love K-pop, but humored me while we were cooking this time around. I put on music from the group SEVENTEEN, a 13-member boy group that debuted in 2015. For me, listening to K-pop makes the time feel like it goes by a little faster.
To roll the mandu, we put a spoonful of the mixture on the center of a wonton wrapper and folded it in half, sealing the edges with water. Some people seal with eggs, but we have always used water. My dad helped out, too, so the process was super quick for us. It can be really tricky at first but it gets easy!
Then we warmed up vegetable oil in a pan on the stovetop. Less is more when it comes to oil in this case. You want it to cover the bottom half of the dumpling in the pan, but the more oil you add, the greasier the dumplings will seem.
We fried them for about two minutes on each side, but they will continue to cook faster as the oil continues to heat up. I flipped the dumplings over when they began to turn golden brown, but they will also continue to cook a little bit after taking them out of the oil.
Personally, this is my favorite food. They bring back a lot of good memories and the flavor is amazing. I’ll be describing how I cook japchae next week, so keep an eye out.