Along with Tteokguk, a soup made with sliced rice cakes, another Korean people’s traditional New Year’s signature dish is mandu (dumpling, gyoza or wonton).
It is a Korean dish with a particularly long history that was considered so delicious that it was even able to pacify the wrath of the gods.
Mandu is made by wrapping a meat and vegetable filling with circle-shaped pieces of dough.
In particular, it is a long tradition for Korean family members to gather around the table to make mandu in preparation for the New Year’s feast, inheriting a mantra “To have a prettier baby, you should make a good shape of mandu.”
Flour dough is rolled out and cut into circular pieces, each of which is filled with a meat and vegetable filling.
Mandu is also a special treat made for banquets or ancestral worship rituals and is usually enjoyed in the long winter months.
Mandu boiled in clear beef soup is called mandut guk, and steamed mandu without soup is either kimchi mandu(filled with kimchi), or koki mandu(filled with beef or pork).
Mandu was originally a Chinese dish said to have been invented by Zhuge Liang.
On the return home after his Southern Campaign, Zhuge Liang was met by strong winds and a torrential river that prevented him from crossing.
People told him that he had angered the river spirit and that he would have to throw 49 heads into the river to guarantee safe passage.
However, unable to take innocent lives, Zhuge Liang molded dough into the shape of a human head, filled it with beef and mutton, and presented it as an offering to the river spirit.
Shortly after, the river became calm once more.
The locals believed that the river had been calmed by the food offered by Zhuge Liang and began calling it mantou, or “head that deceives.”
This head-shaped mandu spread to the northern regions and eventually became one of the most popular Chinese foods.
Mandu was later brought to Korea and Japan, becoming a favorite delicacy of all three East Asian countries.