Happy Lunar New Year! (Late but still counts?)
Lunar New Year snuck up on me sort of quickly this year. Though I knew it was sometime this week, I didn’t think of it ’til the Chinese girl wasn’t at work. (I mentally slapped my forehead — I could have TOTALLY cashed in on a day off work! Unpaid, but still.) Luckily I was prepared. My brother and I visited my mom this past weekend, and she made sure we both left with a bag of frozen homemade dumplings. While it’s not uncommon for me to leave Flushing with armfuls of free Korean food, these dumplings had a special purpose. They were for this soup.
Koreans eat this dumpling soup – mandoo gook – on New Years Day for good luck. (I assume that last part; isn’t every asian custom for good luck?) Supposedly you can wander into any restaurant in Manhattan’s Korea-Town and they’ll offer it to you for free on this day. My mom prepared mandoo gook for me and my brother this past weekend as well, perhaps in an attempt to ensure that we’ll at least have some remnants of it in our bellies by the New Year, in case we don’t make the soup ourselves.
Armed with the memory of how the soup tasted a few days ago – as well as a brief post-work phone conversation with my mom in which I could only make out certain cooking terms – I was able to throw together the mandoo gook, or at least a close approximation. It was a snap! Really, the only thing slightly daunting about this recipe might be finding the right Korean beef dumplings, but Trader Joe’s frozen dumplings – or any other scallion-y type – should work just fine.
Korean Dumpling Soup / Mandoo Gook
6 cups of water
1 beef bouillion cube
1 large or 2 small potatoes, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
3 scallions, sliced into diagonal strips
1 piece of ginger, about half the size of your thumb
10-15 frozen beef dumplings for boiling
1/2 tsp sesame oil
plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
Bring the water and bouillion to a boil in a large heavy pot. Add the potatoes, garlic, and some white pieces of scallion. Grate the ginger over the pot. Carefully add the dumplings to the broth. Drizzle the sesame oil over the dumplings and stir. After the potatoes and dumplings are cooked through, add the green scallions, plus salt and pepper to taste.
– Korean people eat this soup year-round, too.
– When my mom makes this soup, there’s something decidedly – yet subtly – beefy about the broth but it’s clear. The beefiness is most likely from the few bits of beef my mom adds, but since I didn’t have bits of beef around the kitchen I used a single bouillion cube. Basically, I wanted to add beefy essence while still keeping the broth as clear as possible. Be prepared to use a lot of salt.
– I like using a microplane zester for the ginger.
– Oil came up in the phone conversation with my mom, though I couldn’t place where in the recipe she’d add it. One might think that you saute the vegetables in the oil first, and then add the broth, but the vegetables in the soup normally have a softer, more boiled flavor, and they’re certainly not browned at all. Though I just added the sesame oil to the soup near the end almost as an afterthought, I did find that that teensy bit imparted a nice richness to the broth.
– This recipe made enough servings for my gluttonous self, my boyfriend, and one extra container for my gluttonous self to bring to work for lunch the next day. I don’t plan to do a lot of recipes here, but when I do I probably won’t be listing number of servings because I don’t want to give away what a fatty I am.