Outside Mandoo, there is a queue of people waiting for a table to become free. Through the windows, customers can been seen tucking into plates of mandu and steaming hotpots surrounded by collections of side dishes. Eating here looks ceremonial.
Mandu are Korean-style dumplings that are traditionally served with kimchi – Korean fermented vegetables.
Inside, Ra can be seen at work rolling and shaping the dough for the mandu and filling each dumpling ready to be steamed or fried by Lee in the kitchen behind him. Since opening, he has made more than 2 million mandu – an average day sees him produce around 1000.
In a former life in Korea, Ra ran a food production factory near Seoul. After Lee and Ra’s children came to Australia to learn English, they convinced their parents to come out here and start a restaurant.
“I learnt to make mandu from a mandu master, but I had to beg him three times and promise not to open a shop in Korea before he agreed [to teach me],” says Ra.
“So for three months I spent 12 hours every day learning how to make mandu.”
The mandu dough is made with flour and water, “but the quantities are very important”. Ra kneads and rolls the elastic dough before cutting it into small pieces for the dumplings, which are each filled with a mixture of minced pork or chicken, glass noodles, kimchi and finely chopped tofu, mushrooms and vegetables.
Each mandu order is complemented by jar of pickled cucumber and cabbage and a dish of soy sauce with chilli and sesame seeds for dipping. Ra and Lee take each Sunday off to rest and make fresh batches of kimchi and new jars of pickles.
Each day Ra and Lee prepare fresh ingredients for the dumplings, so on a particularly busy day it’s not unusual for Mandoo to close early after selling out.
Favourite dish: Fried pork dumplings ($15). Eight crisp golden parcels of minced pork are served with a scoop of mashed potato and a pile of mayonnaise-dressed salad greens. Leave the mashed potato and salad and get stuck into the mandu with the dipping sauce and pickles while they’re hot.
Other dishes: Steamed pork, chicken, kimchi and vegetable dumplings ($14); fried pork, chicken and vegetable dumplings ($15); bi-bim-mandoo – fried crescent-shaped vegetable dumplings ($16); Kimchi hotpot – serves two to three people and includes four types of dumplings, kimchi, tofu, pork, mushrooms, glass noodles and side dishes ($55); dumpling soup ($15); udon – noodle bowl with fried tofu, egg, vegetables and fish stock ($14), and bi-bim-bab – beef or vegetable bowl served with rice, egg, soup and spicy chilli paste ($15).
Something sweet/to drink: Dessert wasn’t listed on the menu, nor was anything mentioned by the staff, but a steaming mug of sweet citron tea ($4) did the job. Lee and Ra make the citron tea from fresh yuzu fruit which they import from Korea. The peel of the fruit is thinly sliced, combined with honey and prepared like marmalade, which is then mixed with warm water (or cool water in the warmer months) to make a delicious drink. Green tea ($3) and red ginseng tea ($6) are also available.
23 Bank Street, Adelaide, 8231 3303.
Open Monday to Friday 11.30am til 9pm (or until sold out), Saturday 12pm til 9pm (or until sold out).
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