For those of you looking for amazing Korean food in Washington, DC, you’re welcome in advance. Seriously though, if you haven’t tried Mandu yet, you’re high key missing out. Founded by chef owners Danny and Yesoon Lee, this power mother & son duo have been crankin’ out amazing eats in the district since 2006.
They’ve been winning “Best Korean” in the Washington City Paper annually since 2010, and it’s not hard to see why. And in case you were wondering, yes, this is chef Danny Lee from ChiKo AND Anju – ’nuff said. So, who’s ready to visit Mandu and get their nom on?
You honestly can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, but we’re gonna highlight some of our personal favorites so you have some recommendations to go by. Apps are a must here, especially since there are so many delicious dishes to choose from.
Start your meal off with an order of their Mandu (aka Korean dumplings)! Mandu at mandu? Duh, that’s a no-brainer right there. Choose from beef & pork, shrimp or veggie, and get ’em steamed or pan-fried. They’re all crazy yum in their own right so we say get ALL the proteins, and get ’em all fried. Expect a crispy exterior with juicy filling that explodes with flavor.
Other scrumptious options include their Dotori Muk Salad and Hwe. The former’s an acorn jelly that’s served with heirloom tomato, mama lee’s pickles, and soy vinaigrette, while the latter’s a Korean scallop crudo served with dongchimi (radish water kimchi) brine, shiso oil and puffed quinoa.
For your main, we highly recommend their Soon Doobu (tofu stew) and Gaji Bokum (sautéed eggplant). Notice how we wrote “and” and not “or”? Both entrees were absolutely incredible, and you can treat the eggplant as a banchan of sorts.
Banchan in Korean means side dish, and you typically get an array of them to enjoy with your meal so think of the gaji as a BIG banchan for all intents and purposes. Hey, 2020 sucks, the least you can do is treat yourself and eat well. Are we right or are we right?
Our shot doesn’t do this dish justice, but it was honestly one of the yummiest noms we’ve had all year. Made with roasted eggplant, pork belly and chewy rice cakes, this was the epitome of comfort food. What’s even crazier is that we got it with gluten-free rice cakes, and it was STILL delicious! The textures were out of this world, and we loved that it was on the more garlicky side.
The Soon Doobu stew was everything we wanted in a Soon Doobu stew. If you haven’t tried this dish yet, you need to change that stat because it’s one of THE most popular staples in Korean cuisine. Made with soft tofu, shrimp, scallops, clams and soft egg, this soup had a great kick to it. Not a crazy burn-a-hole in your stomach kind of kick, but the flavorful kind that brings a smile to your face and makes you think about rainbows, butterflies, and all things beautiful in the world.
Enjoy it with rice and your gaji bokum for an unforgettable meal that will leave you completely and utterly satisfied. Just make sure you save room for dessert because their Kkwabaegi will straight up change your life.
This twisted donut was nothing short of magical. Kkwabaegi can be found in any Korean bakery, and it’s a popular street food that continues to flourish due to its immense popularity. It’s coated in cinnamon sugar, and Mandu serves it with ricotta cream and peach goodness for all your dipping needs. Words can’t even begin to describe how good this dessert was. It’s a must try, along with any of the MILKCULT gelato or sorbets available.
For more on DC eats, check out this tab, and keep an eye out for more coming your way. We update the Nomtastic Foods blog several times a week so there’s always something new to see. Until next time, friends – eat all the things!