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Carol had a hankering for mother’s Korean dumplings, so she convinced her to make some.  Carol brought the dumpling wrappers and cheesecloth that our mother normally uses with her when she and Fidel drove up last week.  Mom got the ingredients for the filling at the produce market and got busy chopping and mixing.  Carol and mother had a day overlap before mother went down to Southern California, so we wrapped and feasted on dumplings on Monday.

Upon asking my mom about her recipe, I learned that she makes a version of Kaesongsheek moolmahndoo, which translates to Kaesong style water dumplings.  Kaesong is a city in North Korea, mool means water and mahndoo means dumpling.  They’re called water dumplings because you boil and serve them in water.

She learned how to make them from her mother in law, my paternal grandmother, after she married my father.  She told me that before she had gotten married, she had never seen dumplings before.  My father’s side of the family is originally from Kaesong, and they were able to escape to the south during the war.  My mother grew up in Daegu, a city in the southeastern part of South Korea.  These dumplings are common where my father grew up, but my mom had never been exposed to them.

Recipe courtesy of Mamma Yoo

Makes around 10 – 15 servings


  • dumpling wrappers – 2, 10 oz packs (about 100 skins)
  • mung-bean sprouts – 2 full produce bags (the clear perforated kind on a roll in the grocery store)
  • firm tofu – 3, 14 oz packs
  • zucchini – 2 (regular American variety, not Korean zucchini)
  • cabbage – 1/6 of a head
  • lean ground beef – 1/2 lb. (she used 98% lean)
  • green onion – 1 bunch (4 or 5 stalks)
  • 1 Tbsp ground garlic
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil, enough to lightly coat mixture
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Korean red chili pepper powder
  • 1 egg for recipe, 1 egg for egg wash.
  • soy sauce / dipping sauce for optional seasoning


Julienne the zucchini and cabbage, do a quick steam or blanch the mung-bean sprouts and mix all together with tofu.  Wrap into a cheesecloth and squeeze out as much of the water as possible.  I remember mother putting the wrapped cheesecloth in the sink with a really, really big stone on it and letting it sit a while before squeezing out the water.

Once all the water has been squeezed out, mix in ground beef, chopped green onions, garlic, sesame oil, salt, black pepper, red chili pepper powder and an egg.

Put a teaspoon of the mixture onto the middle of a wrapper,  go around the edge of the wrapper with egg wash and fold the wrapper so that the dumpling folds into a half-circle and flute the edges, much like a pie crust.  If you want to be fancy, you can fold it into a half circle and then bring the two ends together to make a tortellini shape. Place the dumplings on a tray as a single layer, don’t stack them.

To cook them, drop dumplings into water that is at a full rolling boil.  Cook fresh dumplings for around 3 minutes and frozen dumplings for around 5 minutes.  The skin should wrinkle up and becomes translucent.  If you cook them too long they’ll burst, but you want to make sure the meat cooks sufficiently.  Ladle dumplings with some of the cooking water into a bowl.  Serve with soy sauce as an optional condiment.  I like to flavor the cooking water in my bowl with the soy sauce instead of pouring the soy sauce directly into the dumplings.  You can also make a soy-vinegar dipping sauce if you so desire.

Gather around some friends and family to wrap a bunch, eat, and then divvy up the rest among yourselves.  Fresh dumplings should be eaten within a few hours of making them or put into the freezer for later consumption.  They can be kept frozen up to a few months.  It’s best to freeze the dumplings on a tray or a flat surface so they’re not touching.  After they’re frozen, you can conserve space by placing them into zip top bags.  This way the dumplings won’t stick together while freezing.

Here’s a video of Fidel and my mother squeezing the filling to get rid of the water.  She recruited Fidel for his manly strength.

*An interesting fyi, another type of mahndoo originating from Kaesong is a summer dumpling called Pyeonsu (Square Dumplings).