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Sunday February 26, 2017
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Unexpected Gift



Mandu--stuffed dumpling appetizers--are available steamed or fried, and in meat or vegetarian versions, all skillfully made with the same very light wrapper. I tried pretty much every permutation, and each had its strong points. In the end, I'd let the season decide: the spiced ground beef seasoned with chopped scallions and then fried seems right for winter, whereas the steamed vegetarian dumpling filled with tofu, spinach, bean spouts, and onion was geared to hot weather. As a main course, the delicious mandu guk soup is complex and filling and contains both chewy rice dumplings and meaty mandu, along with shredded beef and a whole egg poached in the clear broth.

I ordered the "big fried calamari" appetizer on the strength of its name alone, wondering: would it be a big batch or a giant squid? It turned out to be both: large rings of squid--about the size of onion rings--breaded and deep-fried and served with a tangy, salty soy-based sauce. They were generally good, although several in the sizable portion were verging on rubbery. The vegetable korokke turned out to be three perfectly formed, hamburger-sized patties of mixed vegetable. Mainly potatoes, it was bland but nicely crunchy with a panko crust.

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