Lunch’er Dan L Reports: Daheen Wang Mandoo is Taking on Bunch, Not Mandoo Bar
Got this report the other day from Lunch’er Dan L. about Daheen Wang Mandoo, the newish Korean bao place on 32nd btw. 5+6th.
With Bunch opening last fall and Daheen Wang Mandoo opening earlier this year, wang mandoo are taking K-Town by storm. For the uninitiated, just what are wang mandoo? They’re basically the Korean version of the more familiar Chinese baozi, which are fluffy steamed buns stuff with goodies inside. They are not to be confused with mool mandoo, which are basically the Korean version of Chinese jiaozi (aka dumplings), or goon mandoo, which are just the fried version of mool mandoo, similar to how Chinese guotie are just the fried version of jiaozi. So for example, although neighbors Mandoo Bar and Daheen Wang Mandoo look like they should be mortal enemies, Daheen’s true enemy is Bunch, which is directly across the street in Food Gallery 32.
I think there is a lot to like about wang mandoo for the typical Midtown Luncher. They are cheap and filling, two obvious plusses. They also retain interior heat pretty well, so they travel well. And if your lunching gets delayed for some reason, they’re still decent after they lose their heat. They’re not very messy, so you can even eat them while walking down the street. They don’t need to be prepared to order, so there is no waiting involved in picking them up. You can buy as many of them as you like, so you can always match your lunch quantity to your hunger level. But of course, none of that means you will actually like them. Personally, I do. I actually like them better than baozi because of their jumbo size and the variety of stuff that gets chopped up and stuffed in there, especially the chopped up bits of clear noodles.
But does Daheen Wang Mandoo have the goods? Early ML comments were pretty negative, which is a bit surprising since there is already a Daheen Wang Mandoo in Flushing which is pretty successful. (And it should go without saying that crappy Korean food is going to have a hard time thriving out in Flushing.) Let’s check it out:
The classic pork mandoo was the weakest of the group. The filling didn’t really adhere to itself as well as it should. It fell all over the place when I ripped the mandoo open for the purpose of the picture above. The flavoring was also underwhelming. They gave me a container of soy sauce with my takeout order, and I actually ended up using some of it, which is a pretty bad sign since the only food I *ever* put soy sauce on is sushi.
The kimchi mandoo was better. There was a lot more flavor and it kept itself together.
Although the shrimp mandoo was good, it didn’t really have a whole lot of shrimp flavor. But on the other hand, it *does* have shrimp in it and doesn’t cost extra, so I can’t really complain. I haven’t yet brought myself to try the pizza mandoo.
Unlike Bunch, Daheen Wang Mandoo sells a lot more than just wang mandoo, and I was hoping that there would be other ML-friendly items. With bibimbap starting at $12.50 and vegetable ramen at $11.25, the non-mandoo prices are not ML-friendly. Frankly, those prices are just not going to fly in this part of town during lunchtime. There *is* a prominently featured item listed simply as Buns (Steamed Buns Braised Pork Belly) at $7.50, so I ordered it… for research.
You get two of these and a small slaw salad in one order. Unfortunately, it’s more like an appetizer than a meal. It’s decent, but nothing special, and it took a surprisingly long time to make. They use a small amount of only the lean part of the pork belly, which visits the griddle before it visits the sandwich. The mantou (the bun part) was nothing special. The most significant component was the sauce, which is a bit difficult to describe but sort of reminded me of the interior of a crab cake, minus the crab.
So the big question is who has the better wang mandoo, Bunch or Daheen? I think that they are close enough in quality that reasonable minds can differ. In fact, I think that the particular flavor that you choose at each place plays a bigger role in your enjoyment level than which place you go to. Also, the Bunch buns seem to have a bit more fluffiness to them, which may or may not be a positive for you. However, the crucial difference is that Daheen is only $2 a piece, while Bunch is $2.50. (And both include tax!) It’s only 50 cents but for such a cheap item, that is actually a huge difference. For a mere $6, you can definitely get a satisfying meal out of Daheen.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s a delicious wang mandoo for a mere $2. Nuff said.
- Give me lots of filling and minimal breading please.
- I refuse to eat pink bread. (Bunch’s wang mandoo come in crazy colors.)
- I like pork belly buns but I refuse to eat the fatty party. (Then get the “Buns” here.)
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- No thanks. I prefer Chinese baozi.
- I’m willing to pay for a little more fluff in my buns.
Daheen Wang Mandoo, 2 W 32nd St, (212) 510-7332