Kimchi Mandu, traditional style

Stuffed dumplings will be no stranger to most readers because they are a first cousin to Chinese dim sum dumplings. In the traditional Korean recipe, the stuffing includes ground pork (usually the well-marbled belly meat), cabbage kimchi, and mashed bean curd. This recipe is a lighter and healthier version that uses chicken, lean pork, or seafood.

Typically, one of three different cooking methods is used, to make steamed dumplings (tchin mandu), pan-fried dumplings (kun mandu) , or boiled dumplings. Steaming makes the lightest and softest dumplings and also provides the most elegant presentation. Pan-frying (rather than deep-frying, which is how most Asian dumplings are prepared) gives Korean dumplings a light, crusty skin, locking in their moist, rich, nutty flavor. Boiling in water or stock is the quickest method, making light and soft-skinned dumplings for use in other recipes. Directions are given for all three, so you can try them all.

Makes 64 dumplings

1 hour to prepare and 45 minutes to cook

  • 1 recipe Homemade Dumpling Wrappers (page 83), store-bought wonton skins, or gyoza skins, defrosted (if frozen)
  • 10 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms or p’yogo (shiitake) mushrooms
  • 1 pound napa cabbage, soft leafy part, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Whole Cabbage Kimchi stuffing removed, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces medium-firm bean curd 1 pound coarsely ground chicken breast, or 1/2 pound coarsely ground chicken and 1/2 pound coarsely ground lean pork
  • 1 Pickled Hot Green Pepper, seeded, deribbed, and finely chopped
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons ch’ongju (rice wine) or vermouth
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • 2 large green onions, white and pale green part only, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ginger juice or grated ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups flour, for dusting

Place the wrappers in a bowl covered with a damp towel. Set aside.

In a stockpot, make 4 cups acidulated water (page 10) and bring to a boil. Add the mushrooms and blanch for 10 seconds, or until the mushrooms are barely wilted. Scoop out the mushrooms and plunge them into ice water to stop cooking. Drain in a colander. With a kitchen towel, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop fine. Place the mushrooms in a large bowl. Bring the acidulated water back to a boil, add the cabbage, and blanch for 3 minutes, repeating the same process as with the mushrooms. Add the cabbage to the bowl with the mushrooms. Wearing rubber gloves, wrap the kimchi in a paper towel. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, and add it to the bowl with the mushrooms and cabbage. Wrap the bean curd in a paper towel. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place the bean curd in the bowl, along with all remaining ingredients except the flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon or with your hands until the mixture is smooth and soft.

To assemble the dumplings, have the following on hand: the bowl of wrappers, the bowl of stuffing, a teaspoon, a bowl of cold water, a small brush, and two large baking sheets liberally dusted with flour. Hold a wrapper in the palm of one hand and, using the teaspoon, spoon a walnut-size ball of stuffing in the center of the wrapper. Dip the brush into the water and lightly moisten the wrapper’s edge. Fold into a half-moon shape. Seal the edges tightly using your thumb and index finger. Doubly seal the dumpling by pinching the edge with your thumb and middle finger. It will resemble a piecrust edge. (This shape is for steaming or boiling. If pan-frying, shape the dumpling into three sides by flattening the bottom to give it a base.) Line up the finished dumplings on the flour-dusted baking sheets about 1/2 inch apart to prevent sticking. To store, dust the dumplings well with flour, wrap the baking sheet tightly in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. After the dumplings are frozen they may be transferred to a plastic bag and kept in the freezer for up to a month.

To steam the dumplings, place as many as will fit in the steamer, leaving space in between to prevent the dumplings from sticking together. Steam for 10 to 12 minutes, until the skin becomes transparent and the stuffing shows through the skin. Transfer to a bamboo tray and set aside. Repeat with the remaining dumplings. Serve as a main course or as an appetizer with Vinegar Soy Sauce for dipping.

To pan-fry the dumplings, in a nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting cover heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or olive oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Working quickly, place as many dumplings as will fit in the skillet, setting them on their sides and leaving space in between to prevent the dumplings from sticking together. Cook the 2 sides about 2 minutes each, until golden-brown. Cook the bottom for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium. Immediately pour 113 cup ice water into the skillet and quickly cover with the lid. Let steam for about 3 minutes, until all the water is evaporated and the dumplings are juicy inside and crispy outside. Transfer to a bamboo tray and set aside. Repeat with the remaining dumplings. Serve as a main course or as an appetizer with Vinegar Soy Sauce for dipping.

To boil the dumplings, in a stockpot bring 8 cups of water to a boil.

Drop in one-fourth of the dumplings (about 15 pieces) and bring to a vigorous boil. Decrease the heat to medium and boil gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dumplings float to the surface. With a slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings to a large bowl filled with ice water, to stop the cooking and to retain a chewy and soft texture. Remove from the water and drain in a colander. Repeat with the remaining dumplings.

Note: Bean curd and egg are two necessary ingredients in the stuffing. Not only are they flavorful and nutritious, but they also act as crucial binding agents.

Variations: To make Dumpling Soup (Manduguk), follow the directions for boiling the dumplings; drain. Add 4 cups Chicken Stock or Beef Stock to the stockpot. Bring to a vigorous boil, add the dumplings, and bring to a boil once again. Drizzle 1 egg, slightly beaten, into the stock and stir. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, and garnish with green onion rings. Serve as a main course with rice, as a one-dish meal, or as an appetizer.

In summer, the cooked dumplings are often served cold in ice water and are called Water Dumplings (Mul Mandu).