My guide to perfect Korean dumplings – aka mandu

Just 6 hours left till the draw closes to win the Le Chasseur Cast Iron Grill! There’s three ways to enter, and you can give yourself up to three entries in the draw! Check this post for more details 🙂

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Dumplings are awesome.

Why? Because inside a thin pastry wrapper, you can hide almost ANY ingredient, mixed into a luscious little meatball that can then be cooked in almost any fashion. The wrapper makes sure all the flavour stays trapped inside so you don’t lose any moisture or nutrients and paired with a good dipping sauce, can be served as a side dish, snack or main!

And hey, talk about variety! Those familiar with Korean food will know that even the most basic meal has a number of different “banchan” to ensure different flavours, ingredients and textures can be enjoyed in the one meal. How about putting all that into every single bite?

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Back in the early days of this blog (2007), I put up a pretty awesome family recipe for Korean dumplings (Mandu) that we’ve used and loved for many many years. Unfortunately, store-bought mandu tend to lack decent flavour or texture, and are an incredibly poor representation of what should be a fabulous dish. For this reason, my mother has always made huge batches of mandu for the freezer for us to enjoy. Whether in rice cake soup, just steamed or pan-fried, we never say “no” to these delights so it pays to make them in bulk and have them in the freezer to satisfy our dumpling cravings, or even when we want a quick and hearty dish in a flash.

But looking over that post now, I thought I could do a bit better to help instruct you, my readers, on how to make these beauties – so read on for a comprehensive guide on how to make your very own mandu!

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“Mandu”, aka Korean Dumplings

Mandu Ingredients (makes approx. 100)
500g pork mince
300g dried tofu
2x medium-sized eggs
100g garlic chives or spring onion, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp minced ginger
4-6 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup mirin
250g mung bean shoots
6 large leaves of napa cabbage (also called chinese cabbage) *
1-2 tbsp dark sesame oil (Asian sesame oil)
1x 500g pk dumpling skins (preferably gowzee/gowgee or gyoza)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Large freezer bags
Freezer-safe plates or trays

Dipping Sauce
2 parts soy sauce
1 part rice vinegar
Toasted sesame oil (optional)
Cracked pepper (optional)
Korean dried chilli powder (optional)
Finely sliced spring onion (optional)

1. Thoroughly wash your bean shoots, and bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, add the bean shoots and blanch for about 1-2 minutes, or till soft enough to bend in half but not mushy.

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2. Once the bean shoots are blanched, drain but do not rinse with cold water as this causes them to get soggy and laden with water. Allow them to cool completely in a colander, tossing occasionally to shake off any water. Once cool, roughly dice into 2-3cm lengths and set aside.

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3. Rinse the napa cabbage leaves, then bring another pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the cabbage leaves and blanch for about 3-4 minutes, or till the base of each leaf is *just* tender enough to pierce with a fingernail or chopstick. Drain well and allow to completely cool.

Cut the base off each leaf, then cut into a rough 1cm dice and set aside.

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4. Drain the firm tofu, then break into a mince with a potato masher/ricer/food mill. Make sure there are no large lumps left.

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5. Taking small handfuls of the bean shoots, squeeze out as much water as possible from the entire batch and add to the tofu. Do the same with the cabbage, then add all the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine evenly.mandu05

Once the filling is made, it can be filled into any white dumpling wrappers (gyoza or gowee/gowgee) and folded however you like – to be cooked and enjoyed straight away or frozen for future consumption. Read on for my instructions on how to fold and how to best store/freeze dumplings!

How to fold dumplings

There are many different ways of folding dumplings, and each shape has it’s good and bad points. The below instructions show you how to fold in my favourite shape, which lends itself to both panfrying and holds up well during steaming or boiling!

1. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre of the dumpling wrapper, then dip a finger in the egg white and run it around the edges.

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2. Pinch the two sides together by the centre, then grab a little of the wrapper next to the centre, fold it in on itself and press firmly to join.

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3. Grab a little pastry next to the first fold, then fold it in on itself and press firmly to stick. You can usually get 3 or 4 folds to either side of the centre join, depending on the size of the wrapper and how much filling you’ve put in!

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4. Swap to the next side and repeat, making sure to try and keep even spacing between each of the folds for neat presentation – though it makes no difference to flavour if they’re a bit wonky 🙂

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5. Ta-da! One beautifully folded dumpling!

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While you can leave the uncooked dumplings on a tray for half an hour or so, if you need to leave them out for longer then make sure to cover them with a damp teatowel so they don’t dry out! Unfortunately, dumpling pastry that has dried out cannot be rescued and will stay tough even when cooked. However, if you want these for the freezer, then you can use my mother’s handy tip for storage –

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The Kitchen Wench way of freezing dumplings!

One problem with freezing uncooked dumplings is that they can stick to the plate or tray that you’re freezing them on, making them difficult to remove and potentially causing issues with torn wrappers when you try and remove them. And god forbid you bag them before they’re frozen – this will cause them to freeze together into one solid mound so you have to cook all of them at once, or none at all 🙁

Our way of overcoming that issue is to bag them before they are frozen! Place a plate or small tray inside a clean plastic bag, then arrange the dumplings on top so they are barely touching – as below.

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Place the plate or tray inside the freezer, then allow to freeze solid (takes about 20 minutes). Once they are frozen rock hard, pull the bottom of the plastic bag (underneath the plate) over the top of the dumplings. Remove the plate, pull up – and you’ve got a bag of frozen dumplings! Tie the top up, and place the bag in the freezer – all done!

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As you can see, this method comes in particularly handy when, for example, you’re a bit crazy like me and decide to make 200 dumplings in one day 🙂

Oh – and as for how to best cook them? My favourite way is pan-fried! However, you can’t just pan-fry dumplings as you’ll often find that the filling hasn’t cooked through by the time that the pastry is golden. You could always boil/steam them first then pan-fry them for texture, but this usually results in a dumpling that is wrinkled and lumpy all over, not to mention that the pastry will stick to the pan.

The best way to pan-fry dumplings is to fry – then steam – then fry again. The first fry ensures the pastry doesn’t expand or change shape too much, the steam cooks the filling, and the second fry restores that crunch and texture! Though it sounds really complicated, it’s actually easier than you think!

HOW TO PAN-FRY DUMPLINGS

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1. Pan fry the dumplings till golden.

2. Fill the frying pan with enough water so it covers the bottom with about 1 cm of water. Place a  lid over the top and allow to steam till the water has evaporated.

3. Since the steaming has made the pastry soggy, leave the dumplings on the heat to crispen up. They may have stuck to the pan when steamed, but given a few extra minutes, the skins will firm up to the point that they can be easily removed again.

4. Serve with dipping sauce on the side and enjoy!

Garlic & Ginger Grilled Prawns – and a giveaway!

This grill pan was provided free of charge by Kitchenware Direct for the purposes of this review, however all images, text and opinions are my own.

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Apologies for the absence, folks! There’s been a lot of happenings here in the world of your Kitchen Wench. Lots of ups. Lots of downs. And lots of in-between!

Part of that has been an interesting migration of the blog from one host to another. Two weeks on, it finally appears to be working (for the most part), but I’ve got my hand glued to a piece of wood just in case there’s another issue that I just haven’t come across yet!

One of the things I’ve been waiting to blog about is a brilliant new cast iron grill that I received from Kitchenware Direct. Cast iron is, without a doubt, my absolute favourite material when it comes to cooking pans. Not only is the heat retention of a cast iron pot or pan absolutely without rival, but there is nothing quite as non-stick either! Unlike other coated non-stick pots or pans, if a cast iron cooking surface becomes a bit sticky, a little oil and heat to re-season it and you’re done!

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I know quite a few people who have had cast iron cookware handed down from their grandmothers and mothers – pots and pans so old and so well-seasoned with years of use that the surfaces gleam jet black. Even my mother tells me stories of the huge cast iron pans that her own mother used back when she was a little girl growing up in the Korean countryside. Stories of pans used to feed the family night after night, but that also saw many celebrations and feasts. Pans that, unfortunately, were lost along the way of her moving to the city and a smaller kitchen with no wood-stoked fires.

Hearing these stories, I hope that my grandmother’s pans are still rolling around the Korean countryside somewhere, weathered and beaten but still making delicious food in them as she used to when they were still in her hands.

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When my mother emigrated from Korea to Australia, there were very few things that she was able to bring with her – and part of that means that she had to leave a large part of herself and her cooking history back home. Since she didn’t have too many pieces from my grandmother in the first place (since she was busy using them herself!), it also meant that there was very little for me to inherit – certainly no beautiful old cast iron pieces anyway!

Since I adore cooking on cast iron, this means that I’ve slowly been building up my own collection of cookware over the years, investing in some pieces that will survive the brutal treatment that they would undoubtedly receive from my family, and other pieces that I hoped would stand the test of time so they could be passed on when I was done with them. And while I’d been looking for the “right” grill pan for awhile, when my friends over at Kitchenware Direct offered me the opportunity to pick one up for review, I jumped at the opportunity.

When it comes to cast iron, my preference is for a naked cast iron cooking surface with an enameled back – the reason for this is that an enamel coating on the cooking surface means there is no non-stick surface, but no enamel on the back means that you have to be diligent about making sure that every single inch of the pan (inside and out) remains seasoned and free of rust or flaking. WAY too much effort for someone as time-poor as myself. So when browsing their collection, my eye was immediately drawn to this gorgeous, flame-red enameled grill pan which is the perfect size for catering to a family of 5.

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Once I received this beauty, I had to decide what sort of a recipe would be worthy of such a gorgeous kitchen tool and quickly decided to do something with prawns. Whilst those of you overseas may be familiar with the old Australian ad to “throw a shrimp on the barbie“, the weather here in Melbourne tends to be so unpredictable that you can never be 100% sure that the big outdoor BBQ will actually be useable! That and the bitterly cold-cold-cold autumn and winter days/nights can also mean that you can really only get your grill on for half the year.

So what did I think of the prawns on this grill?

No surprises, really.

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The grill went from the burner straight to the table, and was still (almost) too hot to the touch once the photos were taken and the food consumed. Heat retention? Mega-check.

Since I’d made sure to season the cast-iron well, absolutely no issues with anything sticking to the pan. Check.

And clean up? Some boiling water, a quick scrub and all done! Check.

It passed every single check that you would expect and want from a quality piece of cast-iron, with flying colours.

Since then, I’ve also used it to cook steaks and other delicious hunks of animal flesh, various grilled vegetables, and even some grilled polenta. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that it doesn’t leave the stove top since we use it so much.

And of course, those lovely folks at Kitchenware Direct have even given me another beautiful Chasseur Stovetop Grill to give away – though you’ll need to scroll down to see how to win it 🙂

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Grilled Chilli Garlic Prawns with Choy sum
(This recipe is inspired by a dish I’ve enjoyed quite a few times from Miss Chu – though not exactly alike, I think it’s pretty darn tasty!)

Ingredients (serves 4)
16-20 medium sized raw prawns (or 8-10 bigguns!)
1 tsp grated ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp fish sauce
2-4 red thai chillis
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

8 bunches of small/baby choy sum (can be substituted with any other slender Asian green such as Gai lan)
Steamed rice, to serve

1. Remove the shell from your prawns (you can give these a quick rinse and store them in your freezer for the next time you make seafood stock), then cut off the heads and remove the vein along the back.

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2. Place the cleaned prawns in a bowl and add the marinade ingredients, stir well then allow to marinate for at least 1-2 hours.

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3. While the prawns are marinating, thoroughly wash the choy sum (it can collect a *lot* of dirt between the stems), then drain well to remove as much water as possible.

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4. Once the prawns have finished marinating, drain them (make sure to reserve the marinade) and give them a quick toss to coat them in a neutral-flavoured oil (such as grapeseed oil). Heat the grill pan over a medium heat, then whack those prawns right on there! Don’t overcook these babies – you can flip them over as soon as you see the tail change colour, and then they’ll only need another minute or two on the other side.

While the prawns are grilling – pour the leftover marinade over the drained choy sum and give it a quick toss through.

OILING FOOD FOR A GRILL: Unlike cooking on a regular frying pan or in a pot, the raised grills mean that any oil poured into a grill pan will sit in the valleys and be largely useless in terms of helping to prevent sticking. The correct procedure is to always oil any food with the potential to stick first, before placing it to cook on the heated grill pan.

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5. Once the prawns are done cooking, remove them to a plate and throw on the choy sum – this won’t take long to cook, about a minute each side will do it. Arrange both the prawns and the choy sum back on the grill or on a plate, and present to the table.

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Served with some steamed rice, this is a lovely light and healthy meal that you can have for lunch or dinner that will fill you up without weighing you down!

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NOW – to win your very own beautiful Chasseur grill pan (sans those dirty little cooking marks in my photos – heh!), all you need to do is leave a comment telling me what your most prized kitchen utensil is!

FOR A SECOND ENTRY IN THE DRAW – tweet this message to your Twitter account!

Hey @Kitchenwench! I want to win that Chasseur Grill pan #GrillGiveaway http://wp.me/p7JpM-zZ

FOR A THIRD ENTRY IN THE DRAW – Leave a comment on the Kitchen Wench Facebook page under this photo and tell me why you want the grill 🙂

Entries close on Sunday 21st April at midnight, and the winner will be picked the next day, so get a shuffle on!

(Unfortunately, this giveaway is only open to Australian residents – sorry to my international readers, but shipping from Australia to other continents is just a bit pricey!)

That's amore!

Ahh, good ol’ Dean Martin certainly knew what he was talking about – a moon-sized pizza pie is definetely a decent way to express your love, especially if the base is crisp, cooked to perfection and topped with your favourite ingredients!

The last time I made pizza dough, it was the first time that I’d ever used yeast or made home-made pizza, and needless to say that seeing that dough expand to become as big as my head (and that is pretty darn big – no joke! One day I’ll share my primary school big-head-no-hat shameful story with you…) was one of the proudest moments of my life, and punching down that dough after it was done rising was certainly one of the most therapeutic.

However, the pizza was not very well received by the family as they preferred thinner, crisper bases and I really had no idea what I was doing when it came to rolling out the dough and putting the toppings on. Nonetheless, the pizza was devoured, and I made a mental note of all the things that my family said they didn’t like about the base to be aware of the next time round.

And then I had this incident with my next yeast adventure (gee, sounds a little wrong huh?) and became so terrified of yeast that I put off my second pizza-making attempt again and again and again. Until last night.

Last night my awesome galpal Vee came over so that we could cook dinner, and what a spread we put on! Soy-braised pork ribs inspired by those made by Jules from Stone Soup, mini pizzas and an apple and pear crumble also inspired by the ones made by Jules. I know I know, it was a very ‘Stone Soup’ inspired evening 😉 Unfortunately I was too busy keeping multiple dishes moving to serve to my starving family to take pictures, but all dishes were winners so I will definetely remake them 😉


I remade this pizza for lunch today and it was an absolute hit (again!) and suited my family’s tastebuds to a tee!

I only used half the dough I made yesterday so I decided to use up the rest today and make some more pizzas for lunch. Not having a pizza stone (yet!), I needed another way to get a nicely crisped base, so I decided to parbake it and then add the topping. P-E-R-F-E-C-T! So much so that my pizza-avoiding brother absolutely devoured the ones I made both yesterday and today and said they’re the best pizzas he’s ever had 😉 Two of the major problems I have with bought pizzas is the extremely oily crusts and doughy bases that don’t appear to have been cooked properly (you know what I mean, you look under the topping and the dough looks and feels completely uncooked!), and these crusts didn’t suffer any of these problems!

Here’s the ingredients again for those who are interested 😉

That's amore!
 
Author: 
This is a quick and easy recipe for a basic simple dough that can be par-baked and frozen for a fast meal.
Ingredients
  • 450g all-purpose flour
  • 1 sachet (7g) active dry yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 and ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp olive oil
Instructions
  1. Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl, then create a well in the middle, pour in the water and oil and mix with a wooden spoon till well combined, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead till almost smooth.

  2. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling-wrap and place in a warm area for an hour, or till dough has doubled in size.

  3. Remove the dough onto a floured surface and PUMMEL IT! That's right, beat that dough into place, show it who's boss, beat it till it can't be beat no more ;)

  4. Place the dough onto a lightly oiled pizza pan/stone/tray, pushing it out to the edges gently, trying to get the thickness as even as possible.

  5. When ready bake, preheat the oven to 220 degrees C and bake till raised and lightly golden. They can then be wrapped tightly in cling film and stored in the freezer till required.

 

 

Simple Pizza Dough
450g all-purpose flour
1 (7g) sachet active dry yeast
Pinch of salt
1 and 1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp olive oil

 


This crust is light as air, crispy, chewy and has a mild yeasty tang that gives it quite a nice flavour.

Tips/Pointers from my experience

  • Parbake the crust to make sure that it’s nicely cooked and crisp – if you’re a fan of a nice, medium thickness crust like me then roll it about 5mm thick, prick it all over with a fork then bake it in an oven preheated to 200 degrees C for 10-15 minutes, till it is crisped on top and feels light in your hand.
  • If your house is as cold as mine, then place the proofing bowl on a central heating duct or next to a wall heater, making sure to place a towel under the bowl to help it retain the heat.
  • To get your ingredients to stay on the crust, sprinkle cheese under the ingredients and then just add a light cheese layer on top of them. By placing the cheese under the rest of the toppings, it prevents the cheese from cooking/melting too quickly and provides a gooey layer that holds the toppings in place.
  • If you’re making entree-sized pizzas like I did (roughly the size of a saucer) and have lots of leftover dough, you can parbake them, wrap them tightly in cling wrap and freeze them to use at another time. They make for an easy meal, and are much tastier an your store-bought crusts.
  • Use your favourite ingredients to make for a deliciously indulgent meal. I placed onions, mushrooms, tinned pineapple, capsicum and very thinly sliced chorizo sausages on mine. I pan-fried the sausage slices then made sure to blot each one with a kitchen towel to rid them of oil.