Growing up, friends and neighbors would come over to make Mandu, Korean dumplings wrapped in thin flour wrappers and filled with ground pork, tofu, garlic chives, and ginger.
Our house was full of gossip, chatter, and laughter. We’d put up hundreds, maybe even thousands of Mandu, filling every square inch of the kitchen counter and tabletops. Our house smelled delicious as we looked forward to the idea of future meals filled with Mandu.
They can be steamed, deep fried, pan fried, boiled, or added to a bowl of dumpling soup. Eat them for a snack, serve them as an appetizer, alongside a main course, or as a meal onto themselves.
These days, making Mandu is still a party at my house. My sister and friends come over to stuff and pinch hundreds of them to fill our bellies and freezers.
What is Mandu?
Koreans call any form of dumplings mandu. They made their way to Korea from the Middle East through China. The word mandu means “meat-filled dumpling,” but it captures any kind of filled dumpling, not just with meat.
Chinese bao, Turkish or Uzbeki manti, fried Japanese gyoza, are all called mandu in Korea. This recipe is a classic Korean version with thin wheat wrappers and a filling of ground pork, tofu, garlic, garlic chives, and onions, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
Mandu wrappers are called mandu pi in Korean. They can be found in the refrigerated or frozen foods section of grocery stores. They are sometimes called gyoza or wonton wrappers.
In Asian markets, there are several varieties available. I recommend using the round ones, but the square ones are fine too. If they are frozen, be sure to defrost them in the fridge for about two days before using them.
Filling and Forming Mandu
Everyone’s Mandu looks unique and has their own personal touch. Even if you don’t have any experience filling and shaping them, it shouldn’t cause you stress! It gets easier with practice.
The trick is not to overfill them so you can fold them into perfectly pleated half-moons. You can also fold them in half and seal them into half-moons with no pleats.
Lots of Variations
The beauty of Mandu is that you can fill them with pretty much anything you’d like.
- Instead of pork, use any ground meat. Any combination of ground pork, beef, chicken, turkey, or even shrimp is a good idea.
- For a vegetarian version called yachae mandu, use more tofu and add finely chopped cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, sweet potatoes, or cooked mung bean noodles.
- Add chopped kimchi for a spicy variation. My only recommendation is to make sure to squeeze out as much of the brine as possible. Otherwise, the Mandu will be soggy.
How to Cook and Serve Mandu
There are many ways to cook Mandu.
- For this recipe, I pan fry them with a little oil until golden brown. Serve them as a snack or as an appetizer with a simple dipping sauce made with soy sauce and rice vinegar.
- You could also add it to a soup—we have a recipe for a Korean dumpling soup called Mandu Guk!
- To steam the Mandu: Prepare a steamer basket by lining it with parchment paper. Add the dumplings on top, without overlapping. Cover the steamer basket with a lid and place it over a pot or wok of boiling water set over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes. The filling should cook through and the skin should be semi-translucent.
- To boil the Mandu: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the dumplings one at a time and boil for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring to make sure the dumplings don’t stick to each other or the pot. Fish the dumplings out with a slotted spoon or ladle.
Mandu is best served with a bit of dipping sauce on the side. Mix equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar. For a more elaborate dipping sauce, combine soy sauce, thinly sliced green onions, minced garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and a little gochugaru (Korean chili powder).
Make Ahead and Freeze
This recipe yields 50 to 60 Mandu. Freeze some for later! Freeze them in a single layer on a sheet pan for about one hour or until firmly frozen. Then transfer them into a freezer-safe zip top bag. They will keep in the freezer for three to six months.
How to Cook from Frozen
To cook the Mandu from frozen, do not thaw them first. The wrapper will break and the filling will spill out as it cooks.
Just cook them as is for a little longer. If you’re frying them, use a lid to help steam the frozen filling and to keep the extra moisture from causing the oil to splatter.
Wrapped and Delicious Recipes
- Baked Vegetable and Cream Cheese Wontons
- Air Fryer Crab Rangoon
- Baked Chicken Samosas with Mint Yogurt Dip
- Vegetable Samosas with Mint Cilantro Chutney
- Curried Pork Empanadas
Mandu (Korean Dumplings)
Buchu are Korean garlic chives that are different than chives commonly found in the grocery store. They have long flat leaves that look like broad blades of grass and taste like a combination of onions and garlic. If you can’t find it, use equal amounts of regular chives, but note that chives have a stronger flavor.
- For the filling
- 8 ounces medium-firm tofu
- 8 ounces ground pork
- 8 ounces ground beef
- 2 cups buchu (Korean garlic chives), finely chopped
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon white or black pepper
- For the mandu
- Flour, for sprinkling
- 1 package (50 to 60 wrappers) store-bought or homemade mandu wrappers
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for pan frying
- For the dipping sauce
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean chili flakes), optional
Drain the tofu:
Tofu usually comes in 16-ounce blocks. You will use half of it. Reserve the other half in the fridge for another use. Place the tofu on a cheese cloth or flour sack towel.
Loosely break it up into small pieces using your fingers. Wrap the cloth or towel around the tofu tightly and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.
Leave the tofu in the cloth and set it in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure it’s drained well.
Make the filling:
In a large bowl, add the tofu, pork, beef, buchu, onions, garlic, ginger, egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and black pepper. Stir until combined well.
Prepare to assemble the Mandu:
Sprinkle a large tray or sheet pan with a little flour. This will prevent the Mandu from sticking.
Fill a small bowl with water, which will be used to seal the Mandu wrapper.
Fill the Mandu:
Place a Mandu wrapper on the palm of your non-dominant hand. Place a scant tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper. You should be left with about a 1/2-inch perimeter.
Seal the Mandu:
Dip a finger in the water and wet the edges of the wrapper. You may have to dip your finger into the water a couple of times.
For simple half-moon shaped Mandu, fold the wrapper in half over the filling and firmly seal the edges by pinching them together with your fingers.
Alternately, gently fold the wrapper in half over the filling. Use your index finger and thumb to create pleats on the edge of the top half, pressing them down to seal the top and bottom edges together.
You’ll get 5 to 7 pleats and the Mandu will curve a bit as you do this. This may take some practice, but you’ll get better at it. No matter how your dumplings look, they will taste amazing!
Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
Cook the Mandu:
To pan fry the Mandu, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and as many Mandu as you can fit without overlapping. You will have to cook them in batches.
Cook them for 1 to 2 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. Flip them, carefully add a splash of water to the pan, and cover it immediately with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook them for about 4 minutes. The steam will help the Mandu cook through but cut one in half to make sure.
Make the dipping sauce:
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, scallions, garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and gochugaru. Serve alongside the Mandu for dipping.