As with any dumplings, making mandu requires lots of space, time and hands. In other words, it’s the perfect project food for your next dinner party. Double or triple this recipe so all of your guests can take home leftovers. And if anyone finds it too difficult to fold the classic dumpling shape, offer up the alternate cigar shape. Its ratio of crispy brown crust to moist filling is perfect.
- 1pound firm tofu, drained
- 8ounces mung-bean sprouts
- fine sea salt
- 1bunch watercress, trimmed
- 1pound ground pork
- 1packed cup kimchi, drained and finely chopped
- 6cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
- ½cup finely sliced scallion whites
- 1cup finely sliced garlic chives
- 1teaspoon sugar
- 1tablespoon soy sauce
- ½teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1tablespoon mirin
- grapeseed, canola or other neutral-tasting oil for cooking
- 3-inch dumpling wrappers (square or round is fine)
For the filling (can be made up to one day in advance):
- Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium-size bowl. Quarter the block of tofu, and place in the strainer. Cover with a bowl, and place 1 or 2 canned goods in the bowl to weigh it down. Set aside for 1 hour to press water from tofu.
- Place the bean sprouts in a medium bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine. Set aside for 1 hour.
- Line four baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot, and season with 1 tablespoon salt. Blanch the watercress for 10 seconds. Spread out onto one of the baking sheets in a single layer, and allow to cool, then squeeze out any excess water, and chop finely.
- Squeeze out the tofu to remove any excess liquid, then crumble finely into a large bowl. Squeeze out bean sprouts, chop finely, then add to tofu. Add watercress, pork, kimchi, garlic, ginger, scallion whites, garlic chives, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, mirin and 1 teaspoon salt. Use your hands to combine the mixture vigorously for about 90 seconds, until the pork becomes tacky and sticks to your palm.
- Preheat a small frying pan, and add 1 teaspoon neutral-tasting oil. Make a thin, silver-dollar-size patty of filling and cook it through on both sides. Taste and adjust salt, garlic, ginger and soy as needed. The filling should be pleasantly savory.
For the dumplings:
- Lightly dust remaining baking sheets with flour. Fill a small bowl or spray bottle with cool water.
- Place a wrapper in the palm of your hand and spoon in 2 teaspoons or so of filling. Lightly spray or brush water onto the edges of the wrapper, then fold the edges over to seal, squeezing out air bubbles as you go. If using square wrappers, fold corner to corner to form a triangle. (You could stop here, if you like.) Holding the dumpling in one hand, use the index finger of your other to gently poke an indent into the center of its base (the bottom of the filling). Folding the dumpling around the indent, draw both of its bottom corners together to form a fortune-cookie shape. Overlap the corners and press to seal them together. Place onto floured tray in a single layer. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers.
- Alternate version: To form cigar-shaped dumplings, spread 2 teaspoons filling in a line along the center of a square wrapper, then roll wrapper around the filling, leaving the last 1/2 inch of the wrapper unrolled. Pinch the ends of the dumpling to seal. Connect five cigars by nestling each onto the unrolled edge of the previous one and pressing to adhere. Carefully lift and place onto floured tray.
- At this point, dumplings can be cooked or frozen. To freeze, freeze in a single layer until solid, then pack into zip-sealed freezer bags. Freeze for up to 2 months.
Cook the dumplings:
- If using bamboo steamer, fill a pot with same dimensions as basket with 2 inches of water. Bring water to a simmer. Cover steamer and set atop pot. If using a metal steamer insert, set inside large pot, and add water just until it starts to come through the bottom of the insert. Cover pot, and bring to a simmer. Steam for 7 minutes until dough is tender. Serve hot.
- To steam-fry the dumplings, set a cast-iron or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom, then carefully place a single layer of dumplings into the pan. Fry until bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes, then carefully add about 1/4 cup water to the pan and cover. Steam for 3 minutes until dough is tender and the water has evaporated. Serve hot with soy dipping sauce.