Jay Z was on and Moss, my 9 year old, and I were making our version of the Korean dumplings called mandu. A little dumpling folding. A little dancing around the kitchen. Repeat. I love a Sunday night.

I recently wrote a story for San Francisco magazine about the fact that Moss is turning into a food snob before my eyes. Sometimes he does things that are cringe-worthy (like the day he refused to eat chocolate pudding due to some of weird elitist idea about Jell-O—what?), but, not so secretly, I’m encouraging this whole food obsession. It actually fills me with immense pride that I can show him how to chop things properly and he pays attention. I love that when we came home from our last trip to Mexico, he begged to try to make panuchos, something I would never have attempted myself (and four hours into it, was reminded of why). His excitement about cooking refreshes mine. We are bonding—we are attached. I feel like shouting out, “Hey, this genetic thing is working!”

Which is how we ended up making mandu. Chino has been in need of a good vegetarian dumpling and I decided to try my hand at it. So there Moss and I were, chopping and chopping: Napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms and green onions and cilantro. A pile of slippery glass noodles went under the knife, as did some kimchee, bleeding copious amount of gochujang (otherwise known as Korean chile paste and easily remembered if you think of it as go-to-john).

All that was left to deal with was the tofu. Mandu are traditionally made with ground pork and I was hoping to emulate it with tofu which I’d read is somewhat possible to do if you freeze it, thaw it, and press out the water. So on top of a poor, innocent little block of firm tofu, Moss and I balanced a pot and then added our hefty tortilla press for good measure. Every now and again, Moss took pleasure in applying his entire body weight to the lot of it, trying to eek out just a bit more water.

Tofu crumbled and incorporated, we gave the filling a quick toss in a hot wok—just enough to keep it from being raw. Then we took out the round pot sticker wrappers that I’d bought at Duc Loi, one of my favorite markets, and starting filling them, folding them into two shapes: some to boil and some to fry like pot stickers.

When it was time to eat, Silas, my 13 year old, whose culinary prowess and interest begins and ends with cinnamon toast, pried himself away from a FIFA video game to grace us with his presence. In the spirit of big brother domination, Silas has started using Moss like a short order cook, requesting a different type of egg preparation every morning before school. Now used to this service, he tends to sidle up to the kitchen counter with a bit of a swagger, like he’s a cowboy at a saloon—or a diner who feels he owns the restaurant.

At Chino, we decided to serve a version of these mandu steamed and tossed in a shallow pool of hot, kimchee-flavored broth (come in to try them out). But at home that night, the kids and I loved the mandu fried up like potstickers the most. They were crispy, creamy, and flushed our face with the heat from the kimchee. Even Silas, who has no interest in vegetarianism, happily inhaled them.


These dumplings are best with a little dipping sauce made of soy, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and minced scallions. Add some chile sauce like Sriracha if desired. If you really want to make them vegetarian, take care that your kimchee doesn’t have shrimp paste in it. Makes plenty, like at least 40 (i.e. I forgot to count)

2 ½ cups chopped fresh shiitakes
½ cup chopped cooked glass noodles
½ cup chopped green onion (white and green part)
½ cup chopped cilantro
3 cups minced Napa cabbage
1 cup pressed and drained kimchee, chopped
2 cups crumbled tofu (frozen, thawed, and drained kimchee)

3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce or to taste
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
kosher salt to taste
pinch of sugar
package of round pot sticker wrappers

In a large bowl, toss together the filling ingredients.

In a wok or large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. When hot, add the filling and cook, tossing, for a minute. Season with the soy, sesame, Shaoxing, (red pepper paste, optional), salt and sugar. Taste and adjust as necessary. Remove from the heat and place the filling to cool in a bowl.

To assemble the dumplings, place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. (Make sure not to overfill, or the dumplings may come apart in cooking.) Dip your fingertip in a bit of water and trace the edge of the wrapper. To fold your dumplings, take a look at Andrea Nguyen’s video here. For boiled dumplings, form them into Nguyen’s “big hugs.” For pan-frying, try the “pea pod.”

To fry the dumplings, heat a few tablespoons of canola oil in a heavy, flat-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Working in batches so as not to crowd, place the dumplings on their flat side in a single layer in the pan and fry until pale golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Add ½ cup water and cover. Cook until until the water has been absorbed and the bottoms are crisp and brown, about another 7 minutes. Remove lid and let the steam out. Cook for another minute or so. Serve with dipping sauce.

To boil the dumplings, add them, without crowding, to a pot of boiling water. When the water has returned to a boil, cook the dumplings for about five more minutes or until the wrapper is cooked through but not mushy. Remove from the pot using a strainer. Repeat. Serve with dipping sauce.