While I was at the Korean grocery store, I thought I would try and make some mandu again. This is something that I have done on intermittent occasion in the past, but the last time I made any was during finals in law school. And, since it is that time of year, I thought it was about time for another go.
Kimchee Mandu Recipe:
1. Pick a recipe: I looked around at a couple of other kimchee mandu recipes.They all basically said the same thing. A little of this, a little of that. But the weird thing was that all the recipes I read wanted you to squeeze out extra moisture from everything. Making mandu was something that my mom and I did together when I was very young. I know I wasn’t exactly paying close attention at the time, but I don’t ever remember my mom doing that.
The other thing I didn’t like about other kimchee mandu recipes was that they seemed to have a lot of things that I didn’t feel like working with, like ginger or scallions. Instead, I figured I would just make up my own recipe. I no longer like pizza, tacos, or empanadas with a lot of fillings. So this kimchee mandu recipe takes a similarly restrained approach and has just kimchee, pork, and tofu.
2. Cube and fry pork: I defrosted a pork chop from the freezer. It was about a quarter pound of pork loin. I first removed all the fat and then cubed the pork as small as I could get it. This was enjoyable knifework.
I put about a teaspoon of duck fat in a frying pan. Give the pork a quick sear and then remove to a large mixing bowl. Duck fat isn’t required, any oil will do. But I had saved the rendered fat from the last time I roasted a duck. And I thought it would be a nice touch. It was.
3. Cube and fry tofu: Take about half a brick of tofu. I don’t have a particular brand that I like. All that matters is that it’s firm or extra firm. Soft tofu is for soups. Silken tofu is for Americans who want to put it in smoothies or whatever.
I cubed the tofu in pieces as small as the pork. This, too, was enjoyable knifework. I put it into the frying pan that the pork had been cooked in. I also added about a tablespoon of soy sauce and about a half teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. I cooked it until all the moisture seemed to cook out of the tofu.
I only used half of the brick of tofu – about 9-10 ounces. The rest, I saved for another day. I am thinking that I will cube it and put it into ramyun. Or, you can slice it into mini toast sized pieces, dredge in egg wash, and fry. My wife really likes that.
The tofu holds a lot of liquid. At first, it will pull up any fond from the pan you cooked pork in. Then, as the moisture cooks off, it will begin to stick to the pan. That’s when you know it’s done enough. Put it in the same bowl as the pork.
4. Dice and fry kimchee: I pulled about 1.5 C of kimchee from the jar. Then, I diced it. Rather than squeezing out kimchee, which sounded utterly annoying and unnecessary, I thought I would just cook out some of the liquid. When it was done, I put it into the big mixing bowl with the tofu and pork. Mix.
5. Let cool: you don’t want to put hot filling inside the mandu wrappers. So, I let it cool. In the meantime, I did the dishes; I don’t have a dishwashing machine, so I like to clean as I go. Also, I got my mandu making station ready. I got out my mandu wrappers, a sheet pan with two pieces of parchment paper cut to fit, and a small bowl of water.
6. Assemble: Making these is like making any filled food, like calzones, burritos, or raviolis. The general idea is that you put in less filling than you would think and then you seal it.
Take a wrapper in your left hand. Then, drop about 1.5-2 t of filling into it. After that, you dip your right index finger in the water and moisten the entire circumference of the wrapper. Then, you fold it over in half and press to seal. As you begin to press everything, it helps to gently try and squeeze out any air pockets. You should then have a half moon shape.
You can take the ends of the half moon and fold them over towards each other to create a large tortellini-style shape. But this strikes me as more of a Chinese preparation.
7. Repeat: Keep making mandu until you use up all the wrappers and filling. This particular package of mandu wrappers had 20 skins. And the filling got used up just as I finished making the last one. That is the kind of serendipity that helps me keep sane-ish.
Once you finish one layer, put the second piece of parchment paper on top and then lay the mandu on top. It doesn’t have to be OCD lined up like mine, which reduces anxiety and enhances the mandu flavor. But, you’re going to put this in the freezer, so you have to make sure none of them are touching. Otherwise, they will freeze together, which will not reduce anxiety. After about an hour in the freezer, you can move these to a freezer bag.
8. Cook: There are many ways to cook mandu. You can steam them, which I find is the easiest way to make a ton at a time, which is helpful when you are hung over. You can also add them to ramyun by adding them in after you put the noodles to the water. The boiling water/ramyun broth is hot enough to thaw and cook the mandu. This is a good way to bulk up a quick noodle meal that happens to also be good when you are hung over.
My favorite way to have them is to fry them. Deep frying them is better, but pan frying is a good next-best. On this particular evening, I put about 2t of duck fat into a hot pan. Fry them on one side. Once they looked nice, crispy, and golden brown, flip them over and get the other side. The filling is pre-cooked, so you’re just looking to cook the outside and reheat the inside.
You can do the whole pot sticker thing where you fry them till they stick to the pan, then pour in some water or chicken stock, and then cover to let them steam. But that also seems to be more of a Chinese preparation. And it’s a lot of friggin work.
I just fry them. And, if some don’t crisp up like I want, I tilt the frying pan until the oil pools. Then, I put that mandu into the little pool so that it can kind of mini deep fry. It’s an annoying process. I really should just get a wok.
I ate these with a dipping sauce of 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice wine vinegar. And I also poured myself some soju. I used the new soju glassware that I bought at the Korean grocery store that I picked precisely because they looked so asian that they looked Epcot Center fake.
I took a bite into these, and they were marvellous. The ratio of kimchee to the rest of the filling was probably a little short to call these a legit kimchee mandu. Nevertheless, even though I was alone, I found myself saying “Man, these are good,” on multiple occasions and to no one in particular.
Usually, I use gyoza skins like you can get at the regular grocery store. But the ones I used today were more like asian pasta sheets. When filled and fried, they had this particularly satisfying doughy/crispy thing going on, much like the professionally made and deep fried yaki mandu I get back home in New Jersey. I will never go back to that other brand again.
Food like this just begs to be eaten with booze and while sitting on the couch. I had these with some Jinro soju. Although I started out drinking the soju ironically and because I happened to be out of beer, it was a really good combination. The richness of the duck-fat-fried mandu was cut nicely when using this soju as a palette cleanser. It was awesome, and it made me wish that I had made more than twenty of them in this batch.