Saturday, February 9, 2013

Yachae Mandoo (Korean Vegetable Dumplings)

I wish I could say that this recipe is my grandmother's or even my mother's, but it's just one that I made up last night. Sure, it's based on dumplings they've made and ones I've had at Korean establishments. But, when I called my mom for her recipe, all she could offer was a list of a few ingredients and to use whatever I have on hand. For a woman who never cooked from a cookbook, I can't blame her. It's difficult to share a recipe when it's in your head and there is no exact formula. As a result, I looked up a few recipes online and modified them to match what I remembered. 

Although my family typically makes beef dumplings, I opted to make vegetable dumplings because I think they're the best. Unlike Chinese or Japanese dumplings, they're distinctly Korean, even with similar ingredients such as tofu, vermicelli noodles, and sesame oil. For me, the flavors are all there, so you don't really need a dipping sauce. However, if you want a sauce, the Korean Tofu Salad dressing doubles as a dip.

What follows is what I consider yachae mandoo, or Korean vegetable dumplings. It was made for the first time yesterday, so it's not tried and true. Feel free to let me know if there's room for improvement.

(Photo taken by myself, with the help of Instagram. K was unavailable.)

Yachae Mandoo (Korean Vegetable Dumplings)
Yields: 36+ dumplings

2 blocks tofu (regular, not silken)
~1 cup napa cabbage, shredded
~1 cup bean sprouts
~1 cup vermicelli noodles
~1 cup oyster mushrooms, minced
1 carrot, shredded
2 bunches scallions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
3 eggs
3 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper

2-1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup water

To make the filling:

1) Pat dry the tofu with paper towels, then crumble it with your hands over a sieve and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.

2) Place shredded cabbage in a bowl, sprinkle it with salt, and set aside for at least 15 minutes. 

3) Blanch bean sprouts, rinse with cold water, and then squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

4) Cook vermicelli noodles according to package directions and let cool.

5) Prepare (mince, chop, shred) the remaining vegetable ingredients and set aside.

6) Drain the cabbage and everything else again. It’s crucial to squeeze out the excess liquid to prevent the dumpling from becoming too watery.

7) Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Set egg whites aside for later.

8) Mix all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl.

To make the wrapper:

9) Pour 2-1/2 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl.

10) Make a well in the center.

11) Pour cold water into the center, while mixing the flour and water together.

12) Knead dough into a ball and work it until it’s soft and elastic. It shouldn’t be sticky nor dry.

13) Cover the dough with plastic wrap or place it in a plastic bag and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

14) Roll out dough on a floured surface, making it as thin as you desire.

15) Cut out circles using a cup, circular lid, or any food-safe round object. (I used a lid with a diameter of 3-1/2", which yielded about 3 dozen dumplings.) 

*This is more or less the way my mom makes them, but there is another way that doesn’t require cutting out circles and may be a better and proven method.

To make dumplings:

16) Dip your finger in the egg whites (or water) and wet the outside edge of one half of the wrapper.

17) Place about a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper.

18) Fold the wrapper and pinch the edges together. I crimped mine to hide how misshapen mine were and ensure they adhere better.

19) Place dumplings on a floured surface, plate, or tray as you go along.

20) Repeat until all of the filling and wrappers are used up.

21) Steam, boil, or pan-fry the dumplings.

*If you want to freeze them, place them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Make sure they’re not touching one another and sitting on a floured surface. Then, you may store them in a freezer bag or plastic container.

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