Pick Up the Mandu

Aug 04

My mom makes the best mandu. For those unaware, mandu is a Korean dumpling that closely resembles gyoza. Mom’s mandu are so freaking tasty — she makes them big and stuffs them full of meat and veggies. I can easily polish off an entire platter of the stuff (all while she alternately tells me I’m fat while piling more food onto my plate); it’s like little fried pillows of crack.

My sister recently visited Michigan with her kids for 10 days. The night before she was scheduled to fly back to Seattle, my mom called me.

Me: “Hello?”

Mom: Hi honeyyyyy!”

Me: Hey Mom, what’s up?”

Mom: “You want some mandu?”

Me: “Huh?”

Mom: “I make mandu. I freeze some, give to Mia and she bring in her suitcase. She take some, give you some!”

Though you may find this weird, this is something my mom has done all too often. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve served as an unwilling courier between my sister and my mom. Mia would send frozen crab or fish with me (packed in dry ice), and I’d have to lug it to the airport and through Michigan to deliver it to my mom, and Mom would respond by sending me home with a ton of clothes and crap for my nephews as well as a few frozen bags of corn or salsa. I always hated being a pack mule, so the idea of my sister in this role for once made me happy. (Plus, as aforementioned, my mom’s mandu is delicious.)

Me: “Sure, that’s fine.”

Mom: “Okay, good. She get in midnight. I tell her to call you when she get in. You meet her halfway from airport to her house and she give you mandu.”

Me: “Wait, what?” I’m not going to meet my sister in some back alley at 12:30 am for a mandu exchange. This isn’t a drug deal, for crying out loud.

Mom: “Yeah, you get the mandu from her.”

Me: “Why can’t I just get them from her later?”

Mom: “Noooooo, you got to pick up the mandu! Her boyfriend gonna eat ’em all up!”

Me, sighing: “Okay, I’ll get the mandu.”

I didn’t get the mandu. By the time my sister flew in, it was late and I was asleep. I wasn’t going to stay up for the hand-off like I was some Harry Potter fanatic waiting for the midnight showing of Deathly Hallows 2. Mia obviously has a freezer at home, so I’d just get them from her later.

A week after my sister got back, I talked to my mom again.

Mom: “You pick up the mandu?”

Me: “Not yet.”

Mom: “Oh my gahhhh, why not?”

Me: “I’m trying to coordinate schedules with Mia.”

Mom: “You better go pick up the mandu! Mommy slave in kitchen alllllll night making the mandu. I up until two in the morning making!”

Me: “I’ll pick up the mandu! Geez!”

A couple weeks after that, my nephew ended up in the hospital with appendicitis. Mom called me that weekend.

Mom: “You visit Zac in hospital?”

Me: “Not yet.”

Mom: “That’s okay. You can visit him at home. Go over there and he’ll be so  happy to see his aunt.”

Me: “Yeah, that would be nice.”

Mom: “…and you can pick up the mandu!”

So if I’m understanding correctly, “picking up the mandu” is a close second behind “making sure my nephew is okay.” This mandu is reeeeally important to her.

This past weekend, I talked to my mom again. Unsurprisingly, she brought up my utter failure as a mandu picker-upper.

Mom: “You pick up the mandu yet?”

Me: “No. Every time I talk to Mia about going out to dinner at this Korean restaurant and then stopping by her place to pick up the mandu, she says she’ll get back to me with dates but then never does.”

Mom: “Who cares about dinner? Just go over there and get the mandu! You try coordinate schedule and she don’t do it, so forget dinner and just go over there, say hello, and pick up the mandu.”

Me: “Yeah, I guess I’ll just have to do that.”

Mom, angry: “Her boyfriend gonna eat ’em all up!”

Me: “I know, you keep saying that.” As if my sister is dating a Pacman-esque creature who is incapable of restraint. I know Mom’s mandu are good, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to a grown man who can probably refrain from eating someone else’s food.

Me: “…by the way, you know it’s my birthday next Saturday, right?”

Mom: “I know.”

Me: “…and do you know how old I’m turning?” I know how this will end, but I have to try.

Mom: “…uh…twen-tee seh-ven?” She will never, ever get my age right.

Me, sighing: “I’m 27 now. I’ll be 28.”

Mom: “Twen-tee eight?! Oh my gahhhhh. If I send you card Monday, will it come by Saturday?”

Me: I would imagine so.”

Mom: “Good. I send card. I sent card for Zac’s birthday (my nephew’s birthday is three days before mine). You get him anything yet?”

Me: “Not yet.”

Mom: “That’s okay. You go over to house, say ‘Happy birthday Zac,’ then pick up the mandu and leave.”

Me, laughing hard: “Okay, I will.” That’ll show him I care!

For the record, no, I still haven’t picked up the mandu yet.  If I don’t get it by this weekend, I imagine my birthday phone call will include no less than three references to it.


  1. I thought that was some weird, old joke:

    (Q) What’s a mandu?

    (A) Whatever his wife tells him to.

    It’s an old joke, so it’s of course both sexist AND culturally insensitive. I don’t make the rules.

  2. It is interesting to know other culture. I am always fascinated by how the Koreans are able to make those kimchi, I want to get my hands on the mandu now!

  3. Lucy Kumuhone /

    Your stories are hilarious! My mom is exactly the same but she’s a lot more bitter and angry for a little lady.

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