Mandu - otherwise known as Korean dumplings - have always been part of my family celebrations. Even in this day and age of high-quality pre-made frozen options, Korean families, like mine, assemble Avengers style in the marathon undertaking of making enough mandu for everyone to feast on as well as to share with co-workers, neighbors, and anyone else who happens to ask “whats smells so good?” A holiday without mandu would be like a birthday cake without candles.
This mandu is a variation that combines two of my nostalgic flavors: The sesame-ginger marinated bulgogi (made popular in Korean barbecue beef) and cheese.
These seemingly disparate things actually complement each other: In fact, the bulgogi has all the flavors that go with Tam: Salt, sweet, and nutty. The recipe can be made easier if you have a reliable source of bulgogi - i.e. a favorite restaurant, support independent businesses, especially now - or you can make your own (recipe below).
However you come by the bulgogi, you’ll be rewarded with a luscious sauce created by the melted buttery triple cream Mt Tam, and a complexity from the cheese’s mushroomy finish.
Like many mandu recipes, these can be made steamed or pan-fried. If steaming, eat as soon as possible. The pan-fried option is more forgiving in serving temperature and is a great option for anyone wanting to share the love.
I don’t really give a serving size here as they vary. Tiny women like my mother (4’11”) or myself (5’1”) can easily go through half the recipe by ourselves. But the recipe has been scaled down for pod-friendly serving. All in all, expect to make 16 (if using the King Mandu wrapper) or 24 (if using the standard wrapper size), but the recipe can be easily multiplied depending on your needs.
Mt Tam & Bulgogi Mandu
2 cups Bulgogi, cooked & cooled (can be leftover or use recipe below)
1 package of mandu wrappers (can use gyoza or any circular dumpling wrapper)
1 wheel Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam (8 oz), cut into pieces (about 24 for standard size wrappers, 16 for king-sized)
Small bowl of cold water for sealing the wrappers
- With the wrapper on a flat working surface, place a piece of Tam onto the middle and smoosh it gently down.
- Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of meat mixture on the cheese, arranging as necessary to facilitate a half moon shape.
- Dip your finger into the cold water and trace the edge of the wrapper. Then fold the seams together and tightly pinch to seal. Then fold/crimp the edges together to create a fluted pattern and a stronger seal. Keep dumplings covered until ready to cook.
- Repeat until all the wrappers have been used or the filling is done. You can also freeze them in a single layer in a storage container until ready to cook.
- Time to cook:
- To steam: Prepare a double boiler or a steamer basket. Line the upper chamber/basket with cheesecloth or parchment paper to help prevent the dumplings from sticking. Once boiling, add the dumplings to the basket, cover and let cook until wrappers are translucent and the meat and cheese are warmed through (about 10 minutes). Serve immediately.
- To pan-fry: Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add a neutral oil, then add the dumplings in a single layer. Reduce heat as needed to prevent from burning. Brown on one side and flip to brown on the other. On its second side, cover the pan to let the dumplings steam slightly. Place onto a paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Beef or Mushroom Bulgogi
1 to 1 ½ pounds thinly sliced beef (can be flank, skirt, eye of round) or ground beef OR ½ pound Dried Shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, drained, and chopped finely
1 small apple, grated or puréed
1 small yellow onion, grated/puréed
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
1 teaspoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
½ cup chopped green onions or korean chives
Neutral oil for grilling
- Combine the meat/reconstituted mushrooms with the remaining ingredients and mix well. Let marinate overnight and bring close to room temperature when ready to cook.
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add some oil. Add the marinated meat to the pan and stir fry until meat is cooked through. Let cool completely. If using for dumplings, cut the meat into finer pieces.
- Store covered, sealed, and chilled until ready to use for dumplings.
Vanessa Chang is Cowgirl Creamery's Marketing Director. She is a Certified Cheese Professional® that has worked with some of the Bay Area’s most beloved dairy brands, including Laura Chenel and St. Benoit Creamery. She's an avid home cook, ice cream maniac, and fur baby mama to a cat named–what else–Mandu.