Dumplings are basically pieces of dough wrapped around a filling, or cooked alone. Many different cultures have their own versions of them. For example Africa has Kenkey and Banku. Italy has Ravioli, Tortellini and Gnocchi. Turkey has Mantı and Scotland has clootie dumpling. The list of course, goes on and on, but as you may also guess, in this article I will be focusing on the kind of dumplings that has to be eaten with chopsticks: Mandu.
As you probably know from this article, dumplings from Korea are called Mandu. And although they may not look quite as eccentric as some of the other Korean dishes, they certainly do have their characteristics, which differ them from dumplings of other cultures.
Here are the 5 interesting things to know about Mandu, dumplings from Korea:
1- It’s Name May Change Based On the Cooking Method
If you are going to be specific about the way you like your Mandu to be cooked, you should use the proper name for the dish. Mandu is called Gunmandu (군만두) if grilled or fried, Jjinmandu (찐만두) if steamed and Mulmandu (물만두) if boiled.
My advice is simple of course: Try them all!
2- It is Traditionally Served With a Dipping Sauce
When possible, mandu is enjoyed with a proper dipping sauce. A nice example is Chojang-a kind of a spicy-sweet pepper sauce.
3- It Has Countless Variations
Apart from the different cooking methods, you can make many different versions of Mandu based on your personal choices. You don’t like pork? No problem, fill it with beef! Are you a vegetarian? All right then, why not stuff it with vegetables? There is even a variation called Eomandu, in which the ingredients are wrapped inside fish meat, instead of dough. So as you can see, you really don’t have the option of saying “I don’t like Mandu.”
4- It Can Turn Into a Tasty Soup
Yes, Mandu is not the only Korean food that can be served as the main course or as a side dish, but I am not sure how many dishes are there that can actually be used as ingredients in other meals. There is a Korean soup(Guk) called Manduguk(starting to learn Korean are we?). It is made by boiling the Mandu in a beef broth.
5- It May be Much Older Than You Think
Some believe that Mandu was first brought to Korea by the Mongolians in 14th Century. It was during the Goryeo Dynasty and the state religion of Goryeo was Buddhism. Needless to say, meat consumption was discouraged. With the coming of the Mongolians, the prohibition against consuming meat was relaxed. Mandu was among the first dishes that included meat.
Another possibility that people entertain is that Mandu came to Korea from the Middle East, through Silk Road during much earlier times.
To know more about Mandu, well, eat it!
Hope you enjoyed it, see you in another post!
Photo: Chloe Lim