Text Susan Jung / Pictures Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
I always have at least two batches of homemade cabbage kimchi in my fridge – one relatively fresh, the other, because I haven’t used it quickly enough, overfermented and very pungent. Like any good Korean housewife (except I’m neither Korean nor a housewife) who dislikes waste, I cook the older kimchi in various ways, letting its intense funkiness flavour other ingredients. If the kimchi you have is too fresh, leave it at room temperature for a few days so the flavour becomes stronger.
Kimchi mandu (pictured)
It's important to squeeze as much water as possible out of the kimchi and bean curd - if you don’t, the moisture will make the dumpling wrappers soggy.
If possible, enlist a friend to help you make the mandu – one person can roll out the wrappers while the other fills them. Don’t make the mistake of rolling out the wrappers and stacking them, because they might stick together and you’ll have to roll out the dough a second time (yes, this advice comes from experience).
For the wrappers:
400 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for rolling
About 200ml cool water
For the filling:
1 350-gram pack firm tofu
About 300 grams cabbage kimchi, drained then finely chopped
20 grams flat green chives, minced
30 grams spring onions, minced
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
300 grams minced pork
About ¾ tsp fine sea salt
A large pinch of ground white pepper
20ml sesame oil
About 1.5 litres home-made chicken broth
Spring onions, sliced
Cabbage kimchi and other types of banchan (Korean side dishes)
Make the dough by mixing the water with the flour to make a rough, shaggy mass. If the mixture seems dry, drizzle in more water. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it for several minutes until it becomes cohesive and smooth. It should be neither sticky nor dry. Wrap the dough in cling-film and leave it at room temperature while making the filling.
Cut the tofu into large chunks and pat them dry with paper towels. Dampen a clean kitchen cloth or a double layer of food-grade cheesecloth and squeeze out as much water as possible. Put the tofu in the centre of the cloth, pull up the corners and edges to form a bag and squeeze it tight to extract as much liquid as possible. Put the tofu in a bowl. Rinse the cloth and squeeze it dry, then repeat the process with the kimchi. Weigh out 130 grams of the kimchi and put it in the bowl with the tofu. Add the chives, spring onion, garlic and minced pork, then season with the salt, pepper and sesame oil. Mix thoroughly. Shape a small amount of the mixture into a meatball and pan-fry it until cooked through, then taste; if needed, adjust the seasonings in the mixture. Cover with cling-film then refrigerate while making the dumpling wrappers.
Line a baking tray with aluminium foil. Have a small bowl of water ready for moistening the edges of the wrappers.
Unwrap the dough and cut it in half; wrap one piece of the dough while working with the other. Roll the dough into a long snake then cut it into pieces that each weigh 15 grams. Roll each piece of dough into a ball then roll it into a circle that’s about 9cm in diameter. Spoon some of the filling into the centre of a wrapper (stuff it quite fully). Lightly moisten half of the wrapper then fold it over, stretching the dough slightly, if necessary, to tightly enclose the filling. Pinch the edges of the wrapper to seal it. Bring the two corners of the half-circle together, moisten one of them, then press them tightly so they adhere – they’ll look like very fat tortelloni. As you wrap each dumpling, lay it on the foil-lined baking tray, but don’t let them touch each other.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Cook the dumplings in batches. When you place them in the water, they’ll sink. When they float to the surface, cook them for two minutes, then scoop them from the water with a flat, slotted ladle.
Put them into bowls.
Heat the chicken broth until simmering and season with salt, if needed. Ladle the broth over the mandu. Drizzle with a little sesame oil and sprinkle with spring onion. Serve with banchan.
This recipe makes about 50 mandu.
Stir-fried pork belly with kimchi and tofu
You can add more vegetables to this dish, such as sliced carrot, Korean squash, or various types of fresh mushroom.
500 grams well-layered pork belly, rind removed and discarded
10ml sesame oil
1-2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
20 grams gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), or to taste
200 grams lightly drained cabbage kimchi, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small onion, halved then sliced about 5mm thick
3 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced about 5mm thick
1 red banana chilli, sliced about 5mm thick
200 grams firm tofu
2 spring onions, minced
Cut the pork belly into thin slices and mix it with the sesame oil and garlic. Heat a skillet over a medium flame, add the pork slices and pan-fry them until they lose their pink colour. Stir in the gochujang and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the kimchi and mix thoroughly. Stir in the onion, mushroom and chilli. Bring to the boil then lower the flame and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the pork and vegetables are tender. The consistency should be slightly soupy, but not too wet; if necessary, increase the heat and simmer to reduce the sauce. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Drain the tofu and rinse it with cool water, then drain again. Blot it with paper towels then cut it into 8mm thick slices. Lay the tofu on a plate. Spoon the pork belly mixture over the tofu, scatter with spring onion, then serve with steamed white rice.