Who doesn’t like a dumpling? Dumplings have always been one of my favourite things to eat, whatever their form. I grew up eating British stew and dumplings, when it is a kind of breaded item. As I grew up and began to explore the world, I encountered dim sum, gyoza, momos, and mandu. There is a whole world of dumplings out there!
Korea loves a dumpling, and it is one of my favourite things to eat here. They are available almost everywhere, and make a fantastic snack. They are usually quite cheap, so great for those visiting Korea on a budget!
WHAT ARE THEY?
Mandu (만두) are beautiful pockets of filling contained in a soft wrap. They are usually steamed, sometimes served in gorgeous little bamboo baskets. Steamed dumplings are juicy and incredibly comforting. You can also order pan-fried and boiled. Pan-fried are going to be crispy, with a bit more bite. Most restaurants will offer a selection, so you can try a few!
The filling comes in a variety of great flavours. The most popular are kimchi, galbi and shrimp. My personal favourite is galbi mandu, a short rib meat filling. They can taste a bit smoky, depending on where you buy them.
My other favourite way to enjoy mandu (and one I would highly recommend!) is mandu guk (만둣국), or mandu soup. It usually comes as a light broth, served with rice cakes, mushrooms, and whole pieces of mandu. Usually costing about 7000 won (about £5) it is my go-to meal when I need some comforting and warming. It’s surprisingly filling and has a clean feel about it (although I don’t know how accurate this is!).
WHERE TO BUY THEM?
Unlike gimbap, they aren’t really available in convenience stores. You can buy packs of frozen ones, but I wouldn’t recommend these. Instead, look for a Korean restaurant, ideally a cheaper one. Most will offer a couple of different types of mandu, in sets of about 10.
You can also find some specialised dumpling houses, which is going to be the best place to get great mandu! They will offer a fantastic range, so a great place to go if you want to try some different types. Some of the more popular have long queues outside, so do your research.
Have you tried mandu? What did you think!?