Move over potstickers. A new dumpling is showing up on the dim sum menu. A South Korean food company is spending millions on high-speed mandu machines—with hopes their automated process will take their style of frozen dumpling global.
Potstickers, manti, gyoza, pierogi. Whatever term you use, you’re probably familiar with yummy, sticky, half-moon-shaped, filled dumplings. Most people think they’re part of Asian cuisine. That’s true. However, versions exist in many parts of the world. (See below.) Doughs, cooking methods, and fillings differ from place to place, but most dumplings begin the same way: dough wrapped around filling and then pressed, pinched, or pulled into various shapes.
Mandus are Korean dumplings. Originally, they were the cuisine of Korean royalty. The dumplings are made from buckwheat or wheat flour and stuffed with kimchi, tofu, mushrooms, vegetables, meat, or even fruit.
Making mandus by hand is time-consuming. To be a proper mandu, each dumpling’s edge must be worked into a distinctive “pleated” shape. Some people think mandus look like tiny, segmented crustaceans—minus the legs.
The CJ CheilJedang Corporation hopes to introduce mandus to the world. The company already makes other types of dumplings under the Bibigo brand name. By introducing mandus, CJ officials are striving for a bigger share of the multi-million-dollar frozen dumpling industry.
At a CJ factory in South Korea, few human workers are needed. One worker pulls bad veggies from a conveyor belt before machines wash and chop them. At another station, two workers pick out rotten chives. One more worker makes sure gears and belts run smoothly.
Machines do the rest. One cuts dough into circles. Another drops blobs of filling and closes the dumpling into a crescent shape. Still another presses the traditional pattern onto the dough. Lines of mandu stream out on conveyor belts—100 tons every day.
In an age of computers and so-called “smart devices,” some might think humans could become unnecessary. Yet God places the utmost priority on human life. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Ephesians 2:10) That fact gives purpose to every person’s existence—even if some days feel like you’re riding a conveyor belt.
Selling the world on mandu could prove difficult. Other South Korean exports, such as cars and ships, are struggling. But Cho Gun Ae, the researcher who helped design CJ’s mandu-making machine, is hopeful. As only a pickled cabbage lover would put it, Cho predicts mandu “will be the next kimchi.”