Outside of the hype, City Bites takes you to the places that have weathered the trends and will still be here when pulled pork and cronuts are as fashionable as apricot chicken. This time, Mandoo is on the menu.
Ki Dong Ra, owner and dumpling master at Mandoo, is the only person on ground who is capable of making their signature dumpling, the mandu. At times he has staff help to hand roll the dough using a small wooden roller, but all of the filling and shaping is left to the master.
This iconic Bank Street eatery still happily hosts a line out the door most lunch times and even with a modest seating area there is never any pressure to rush. The small space allows customers a comfortable view of Ra, filling dumplings behind a Perspex partition at the back of the store.
He works as necessary and with opening hours extending from lunch through to dinner you can find him prepping through the afternoon, lining steam trays with freshly filled mandu.
Options for the fillings are pork, chicken, vegetarian or kimchi. These can be eaten either steamed, fried or added to a noodle soup or hotpot. If dumplings aren’t your preference, there are generously portioned bowls of bibimbap on offer.
But the real star is the mandu, which Ra learned to create in his home country of South Korea. As guests are seated, they are set up with stainless steel chopsticks, the famed chili soy dipping sauce and a jar of house pickles to accompany. Korean cuisine is notorious for its side dishes but Mandoo are modest offering quality over quantity.
The steamed or fried dumplings are served with a scoop of mashed potato and a side salad of dressed baby lettuce leaves.
Consuming the dish is up to the imagination, eat all items separately or mix them together. Just make sure to dunk everything in to the savoury red-flecked dipping sauce.
The sauce is called ‘choganjang’ and is made with a base of soy, vinegar, sesame, sliced shallots and a speciality red chili pepper mix called gochugaru. You may know it best as the red colour and spice that flavours kimchi.
If refreshments are required, jumbo mugs of green tea can be ordered for just three dollars. The mismatched cups wouldn’t look out of place in a chemist gift shop and the tea arrives at 100 degrees on the dot.
Thankfully it has a full flavour and is a great digestive after a plate of dumplings. Order it first and drink it last. With no sign of expanding supply but a ravishing demand, it’s easy to see that product is valued over profit.
Service, food quality, location and price are all consistently at a high standard. Though sometimes the line can become dauntingly long, it’s worth the wait.
Mandoo Korean Dumplings 3/26 Bank St, Adelaide SA 5000 Open Monday to Friday, 11:30am – 9pm, Saturday, 12pm – 9pm. Closed Sundays.