Here in South Korea, Mandu, or dumplings, are a really common snack, treat, or even meal for many people. One of the great things about mandu is that there is a huge range of varieties with different fillings and cooking methods.
In the central part of the country, in the area around a city called Chungju, there is a variety of mandu called Gochu Mandu, or pepper mandu. This means that the dumplings are filled with spicy peppers, and this variety is not always found in other parts of the country.
I was recently visiting Chungju, and I found that near my hotel there were a few shops that were selling Pepper Mandu, and I figured I would give it a try and see if it was as good as I remember.
The shop, Zzangoo Mandu, advertises itself as being open for over 30 years.
The menu has a fair number of options on it, including rice dishes, noodles, and of course mandu!
The small shop had just opened for breakfast, and the owners were ready to take my order.
I decided on one order of fried pepper mandu, and one order of steamed meat mandu.
The owner brought some dipping sauce for the mandu, a concoction of red pepper flakes and soy sauce with just a splash of vinegar added in.
The first food to arrive was the pepper mandu. They looked so crispy and golden!
I quickly picked one up, and dipped it in the sauce that they had prepared.
Well, the fried pepper mandu was very crispy, and had a nice oily taste to the dough.
Inside the mandu was lots of pepper and pork, with some seasonings added to it.
The flavour of the filling was quite nice, and the spiceness was at a wonderful level of heat, just enough to leave a burning sensation for a little while after each crispy dough pocket.
While I was eating the pepper mandu, the meat mandu arrived.
The ten, ornately shaped dumplings were waiting on the tray for me.
Again, I picked one up and used the sauce to add some extra flavour to the meat mandu.
The fillings were a bit similar to the pepper mandu, with some green onions inside and the meat mixture, but minus the spicy peppers.
The dough was well cooked and was soft and a bit sticky.
The meat filling was nice but could have used a bit more seasoning to add some extra taste to the meat mandu.
One thing I found interesting is that the Zzangoo restaurant did not add glass noodles to the dumplings which is a common addition here in South Korea. I do like this addition, as it adds a bit of extra texture and flavour to the mandu.
In the end, I finished off the 20 mandu, and I have to say that I really preferred the pepper mandu. The crispiness and extra flavour that the oil adds, plus the spiciness of the filling made for a tasty treat.