As fads come and go, it can be easy for traditional foods to get lost in the crowd of new dishes, or dismissed as “too old” for the new generation. Korean dumplings, or mandu, however, have managed to remain a ubiquitous part of Korean cuisine since as far back as the Joseon Dynasty.
Mandu’s origins can be traced back by its name, as it sounds a lot like “mantou,” the Chinese word for “dumpling.” Mandu is thought to have been introduced to Korea by the Chinese and was historically eaten at winter celebrations and in the royal court.
So, what is mandu and what makes it so different from other dumplings? Well, mandu’s ingredients change based on the season—you can find ones filled with pork or various vegetables. There is also a huge selection of different types of mandu. Those that are most commonly found in Korea include: mul mandu (small boiled dumplings), jjin mandu (steamed dumplings, tteok Mandu (that you put in soup for New Year), Japanese gyoza (fried dumplings), and wong mandu (big dumplings made of steamed bread and filling).
Even if you don’t live in Korea, there are definitely some ways that you can get your hands on some mandu. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find some frozen dumplings at your local supermarket (the brand Bibigo has some great ones!). If not, you might be able to find some at a Korean restaurant, or you could always make your own! There are a plethora of Korean dumpling recipes floating around on the internet, and what’s great about them is that you don’t need to follow them exactly! The ease that comes with mixing and matching different ingredients and flavours (and maybe even spices) is what makes dumplings so special.
Written by Lynn Lee