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          Korean Food Storytelling

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          • 요약설명 A Special Dish that Dates Back to Goryeo Dynasty

          Mandu (dumplings) is made by placing a filling of ground meat and vegetables onto a round, thinly rolled wrapper and sealing the edges. They were initially prepared for ancestral rites or banquets and enjoyed as a special dish for the cold of winter. Mandu boiled in beef broth is called Manduguk (dumpling soup); Mandu steamed and served without broth is called Jjin-mandu (steamed dumplings); and Mandu served in chilled beef broth is called Pyeonsu (summer dumplings).

          Invented by an Ingenious Military Strategist
          Mandu is a Chinese dish attributed to Zhuge Liang.* When Zhuge Liang was returning to his homeland after the conquering the southern regions, he and his troops were prevented from crossing a river by strong currents and high winds. He was advised that the god of the river was expressing his anger, and they would be allowed to safely cross the river if 49 human heads were offered as a sacrifice Mititary Strategist. Zhuge Liang refused to sacrifice innocent people and instead made balls of wheat dough stuffed with beef and mutton in the shape of human heads. He offered them to the god of the river, and before too long, the river became calm. The people of southern China came to believe that the offering of Zhuge Liang appeased the river god, and they gave it the name of Mandu, which means ‘deceptive head.’ Another theory claims that mandu means ‘heads in south China.’ Either way, after that event, the dumplings in the shape of human heads spread to the northern regions and became one of the most representative Chinese dishes. It also spread to Korea and Japan, and now dumplings are enjoyed in all three countries.

          Mandu, Much Loved by the Goryeo People
          When discussing the origin of Korean dumplings, a famous folk song called ‘Ssanghwajeom’ (dumpling shop) from the Goryeo Dynasty is frequently mentioned. The song describes how a group of Uighurs arrived and opened dumpling shops, and how the people of the day greatly enjoyed the dish. However, the lyrics of the song are somewhat suggestive. One verse from the song can be translated as ‘A woman went to the dumpling shop to buy some dumplings. The Mongolian owner grabbed her hand. If this story gets around, I’ll assume that you, the errand boy, spread it. If this gets around, other women will want to go there to sleep with the owner. The place the woman lay down was really cozy and packed.’ Some people refer to the song and joke that the Mongol who opened the dumpling shop in Gaeseong (the capital of the Goryeo Dynasty) in 1279 during the rule of King Chungryeol may have been the first foreign direct investor in Korea.

          * Zhuge Liang (181–234) was a military strategist and statesman from the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history. Zhuge Liang helped Liu Bei to totally defeat Cao Cao’s forces in an alliance with Sun Quan at the battle known as the ‘Battle of Red Cliffs.’

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