wang mandu, Joong Boo

I’ve been remiss in failing to report on the great leap forward in the state of the dumpling in this town, which has come thanks to the wang mandoo stand outside Joong Boo Market* in Avondale. Wang mandoo (aka mandu), or king dumplings, are a ubiquitous street food in South Korea, though they’re a specialty of the North Korean province of Hwanghae, and are probably descended from Chinese baozi. You know about those: steamed (rather than boiled or fried) clouds of white puffy dough encasing some sort of sweet or savory filling.

You know when you get on a train and there’s someone on board who’s eating fried chicken, filling the car with a greasy perfume that’s at once appetizing and disgusting? That wouldn’t be such a common nuisance if we had more wang mandoo stands in walking proximity to el stations as they do in Seoul. This one, though enticingly located just a few blocks north of the Belmont Blue Line station, is set in front of the market’s entrance, more convenient to the parking lot than the street. Since January it’s become common to see shoppers roaming the store’s cramped aisles clutching these fist-sized dumplings, filling their faces while filling their carts. Of the three varieties my favorite is the kimchi, which holds a concentrated, spicy, funky mix of fermented cabbage, pork, and clear sweet potato noodles. The straight pork version is a milder, but still tasty, variant of that with some greenery involved, and the black rice/red bean dumpling is a purpled, sweet version filled with a paste of almost Nutella-like color and texture.

They’re stuffed, pleated, and steamed on-site then served piping hot to lines that threaten to disrupt the already hopelessly chaotic traffic flow in the angled, constipated parking lot. At $2 apiece they’re deceptively light looking, yet almost dangerously filling, which makes me wonder if they’ve had a negative impact on impulse buying inside the store. They’re some of the most persuasive impulse buys in town. It’s become impossible for me to go inside without buying a few every time I visit, unless I promise myself to buy them when I leave.

Joong Boo Market, 3333 N. Kimball, 774-478-5566

*Super H Mart also has a wang mandoo stand