The first time I tasted Yaki Mandu, I had no idea what to expect. Jared and I were eating dinner at a tiny restaurant close to our house, and the owner gave us a plate of this snack food on the house. I was immediately hooked and knew that I had to try to make some on my own.
Mandu means dumpling in Korean; they are either eaten on their own or included in a soup. I couldn’t find a clear answer on what “yaki” means, but from what I can determine it refers to the cooking style of grilling. At least, that’s what it means in Japan (like the delicious okonomiyaki we had in Kyoto); since Japan has had a influence on Korean culture, I wouldn’t be surprised that the term was borrowed from the Japanese. Regardless of what the term means, these little treats are delicious. They are stuffed with meat, tofu, onions, and seasonings; then fried to a golden brown and served with a sauce for dipping.
I could not find a recipe that I was completely satisfied with. I really didn’t want 30 different ingredients or to spend 8 hours slow roasting meat. So I consulted three cookbooks and multiple websites before concocting my own version. I relied most heavily on Debbie Lee’s Seoultown Kitchen cookbook, and this recipe from maangchi.com. (I will definitely be visiting her website more in the future!)
As I created this from various recipes and advice, it is not perfect. I felt that on their own my mandu were a little bland, but tasted very good with the dipping sauce. They are not nearly as good as mandu I have had in restaurants, but some foods never are. I think this recipe could easily be played around with by using different meat, vegetables, and spices. I will definitely add more spice next time- paprika? red pepper?
Yaki Mandu (yield 20 dumplings)
Mix meat, salt, white pepper, and 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil by hands in a large bowl.
Chop green onions, and place them in a small bowl. Coat the onions with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and mix well. Add green onions to meat mixture.
Squeeze tofu with paper towel to remove excess water. Mix with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sesame oil before adding it to the meat mixture.
Add two eggs, garlic, and whatever other spices tickle your fancy to the mixture and stir all ingredients together. This is your mandu filling!
Crack the remaining egg into a small bowl and mix together yolk and egg white. This will be used to seal your dumplings. (You can use water instead of egg to seal if you prefer). Place one wrapper on a flat surface and spoon mandu filling into the center. Depending on the shape (circle or square) and size of your wrappers, determine the best way to seal your dumplings. Smaller wrappings may simply be pinched together and brushed with the egg mixture. Larger wrappings, like mine, may need to be folded to create a smaller, tighter dumpling. I started from one side and made a small fold in, the layered folds on top of each other until the filling was completely enclosed. Brush seams with egg mixture.
Place all the dumplings on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Make sure the dumplings are not touching. Place the dumplings in the freezer from 20-30 minutes to help them retain their shape while frying.
Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of your pan. I used my electric skillet, but stove top frying will work just as well. Heat the oil to medium high. Place 10-12 dumplings in your pan and sear on one side. Once they are golden brown, turn them over and add 3-4 Tablespoons of water. Cover the skillet and reduce heat to low. Allow the dumplings to steam until the water has evaporated. Continue to cook until both sides are browned. Transfer to serving platter, and cook remaining dumplings.
If 20 dumplings is too many for your family, you may freeze some of the dumplings and then fry them at a later time.
Although I am enjoying trying the Korean recipes, I don’t feel that my creations are quite as satisfying as the originals I taste on the street or in restaurants. I am still happy to keep trying and adapting the recipes to fit my style. I find Korean food severely lacking in the cheese department, and may need to figure out how to incorporate that favorite food into these recipes. Perhaps a grilled cheese mandu fusion?