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Nourishing food filled with a chef's secret ingredients—— Mandu (Dumpling)
2011-01-27 VIEW: 6372
During wintertime a steaming pot of mandu warms our hearts. Famous and popular mandu houses experience long queues of customers seeking this heart-warming food. Mandu, which is packed with various nourishing fillings, is a good choice not only for an afternoon snack but also for a meal. Manduguk, a rich soup filled with mandu, is another winter delicacy that you shouldn't miss.
Mandu originated during the Han Dynasty in China. Zhuge Liang, a famous strategist in ancient Chinese history, faced a severe storm on his way home after defeating the southern barbarians. To calm the storm he had to perform ancestral rites, which required him to offer the heads of 49 men as a sacrifice to the god of the water. However, Zhuge Liang substituted the men's heads with flour based dough packets stuffed with lamb; it is this delicious packet that came to be known as mandu. Mandu, literally meant the head of a barbarian (灣頭), but the name was changed to the current Chinese character meaning dumpling (饅頭).
The first record of mandu found in Korean history dates from the Goryeo Dynasty, but it was highly possible that mandu were transferred to Korea in the period of the Three States. 'Ssanghwajeom (雙花店)’, a Goryeo gayo (lyrical poem popular during the Goryeo Dynasty) created by O jam in 1279, starts with the line "I went to the sanghwa store to buy sanghwa. Hoehoe man grabbed my hand." Sanghwa is a steamed bun containing vegetables and red bean filling. The bun was made with flour dough fermented with wine. Hoehoe is the name of Uighur in Chinese. The lyrics mean that people originating from Uighur were living in Goryeo and selling Sanghwa, which was loved by the people of Goryeo.
The current version of Korean mandu originated in the 1930s. There are various versions of mandu. A meat mandu of the size of a fist is called gyoza while smaller versions, which are more common these days, are called cheonjin gyoza. Jeongyoza is fried in a pan and then covered to be steamed. Deep fried mandu is called tuigim mandu. Boiled mandu is called sugyoza while the steamed type is called jeunggyoza. Korean people call jeunggyoza 'tongmandu' while the Chinese call it jiaozi and the Japanese gyoza.
Korean people used to use buckwheat flour, instead of wheat flour, to make the dough for mandu. Since buckwheat dough is not as sticky as wheat dough, it should be treated very carefully while cooking. Buckwheat mandu skins break very easily. In Gaeseong city, the capital of the Goryeo Dynasty, wheat flour was used to make mandu skin thanks to the sanghwa from old times. Among the famous dishes of Gaeseong is pyeonsu, another variation of mandu. Pyeonsu is made with a pork, mung bean noodle and vegetable filling and wheat flour dough. The skin is cut in a square and the corners are gathered together to close the skin and form a pocket. Gaeseong’s pyeonsu mandu has become today's mandu. When this Gaeseong mandu was introduced in Seoul after the World War II, the Seoul-style buckwheat mandu gradually disappeared. Even though mandu originated in China, manduguk has long been an important dish for New Year’s celebrations in Korea. Thus, we can call it a traditional Korean food.
As with other dishes, seasonal ingredients are used to make mandu. During winter, Koreans used to enjoy saengchimandu, which used pheasant meat. Since pheasant became more difficult to procure, chicken became a popular alternative. First you need to pick the meat from the bone of the pheasant or chicken. The meat needs to be minced, seasoned, and fried. The bones are used to make a stock. Saengchimandu is one of the representative dishes of Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.
Kimchimandu, one of the most common types of mandu, is a local dish of Gyeonggi Province. The filling is made with kimchi and oysters. Gyeonggi province is blessed with abundant seafood produced in its western region as well as grain and rice harvested from the rich soil. The unique feature of the mandu in this region is the sweet rice powder and buckwheat flour used to make the mandu dough. For kimchmandu, sweet rice powder and buckwheat flour are mixed and steamed. The steamed powder is again mixed with wheat flour and water, kneaded, and rolled. For the filling, chopped kimchi is mixed with oysters and perilla oil. The filling is then wrapped with the rolled dough and steamed.
Chinese herring mandu, a seasonal food eaten during late spring, is another variant. It used to be enjoyed on Dano in the 5th month of the lunar calendar. Even though Chinese herring mandu is a variation of mandu, it cannot serve as staple dish. Chinese herring mandu is a meatball made of fish meat and beef. It can be served steamed or boiled. Steamed Chinese herring mandu is usually served with vinegar and soy sauce.
The best way to enjoy the full flavor of mandu is in manduguk. Manduguk, mandu boiled in beef stock, is the perfect winter delicacy. In Korean royal cuisine, manduguk was called 'byeongsi (餠匙)' and 'Eumsikdimibang (飮食知味方)'; a cook book written in the 17th century recorded manduguk as 'seognyutang'. Manduguk is best cooked following the recipes of the northern provinces. The mandu doesn't have a tangy taste, but the real flavor can be enjoyed as you sip the stock again and again. Having nourishing mandu and heartwarming manduguk is one of the best ways of eating healthily during the winter.
There are many people who have cherished memories of their grandmother's mandu. For such, Mandujip, located across from Galleria West in Apgujeong-dong, Seoul, is a place to recommend. When you order manduguk, you will be served a stainless steel bowl filled with six fist-sized mandus and rich stock. You cannot eat one mandu piece in one go. The filling made of Korean beef is good, but the rich stock is better. Mandujeongol served with eight mandus is recommend for couples.
- Exit No. 2 of Apgujeong Station, Line 3
- 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month
Woorijip Mandu, boasting a 27-year-long history, is famous for its fully packed to bursting glossy mandus that make people drool. The filling, made of 21 perfectly balanced ingredients, is the key that makes Woorijip Mandu special. Mansutang, a noodle soup containing two mandus and rich beef bone stock, is a cherished dish because of its spicy flavor. Kimchi gunmandu and Kimchi mandujeongol are other choices you should not miss.
- Exit No. 7 of Gangnam Station, Line 2