(Central Asian steamed meat dumplings)
Manti are a core item in the cuisine of most of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia and were likely first created deep in the interior of the continent. Uzbeks, Turmen, Tadjiks and Kazakhs all enjoy these large, dense and chewy dumplings filled with a simple seasoned meat and onion mixture.
From the Central Asia, manti spread east and became Korean mandu, Japanese gyoza, Chinese jiaozi and Tibetan momos. To the west, the Turks, Georgians and Armenians also took them up with gusto, each tweaking the recipe and form to local preferences.
Central Asians sometimes boil or fry their manti, but the cooking method of choice is usually steaming. Freshly filled dumplings are lined up in a large, multi-layered steamer pot called a mantovarka and steamed over boiling water or stock until cooked through and tender.
Manti are typically served with a garlicky yogurt sauce or a splash of vinegar and a sprinkling of red chile powder or black pepper.
There is no one way to fold manti — each region and even every family have their own favorite style. The method described below is common in Uzbekistan, but feel free to fold as you wish.
Makes 25 to 30 manti
- Flour -- 2 cups
- Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Egg -- 1
- Water -- 1/4 cup
- Lamb or beef, cubed -- 1 pound
- Onions, minced -- 2
- Ground cumin -- 2 teaspoons
- Salt and pepper -- to season
- Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg and water. Use a fork to beat the egg and water slowly into the flour, adding more water if needed to bring all the ingredients together in a soft yet firm dough
- Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and supple, 5 to 6 minutes. Cover and set aside for about 30 minutes to relax the dough.
- Place the meat into a food processor and pulse it until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess. Alternatively, you can chop the meat finely by hand with a knife or put it through the coarse blade of a meat grinder.
- In a large bowl, mix together the chopped meat and the remaining ingredients for the filling.
- Cut the dough into two portions. Roll one portion out into a rough square about 1/8-inch thick. Let rest for 2 or 3 minutes, and then use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 3 or 4-inch squares. Sprinkle each square with a little flour and stack aside as you repeat with the remaining dough.
- To make each manti, place around 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of a square. Brush the edges of the square with a little water. Pull two opposite corners up and pinch them together. Bring the remaining two corners up to the center and pinch all together. Then pinch together the seams to seal in the meat filling. Finally, pinch the two new corners on one side together. Then pinch together the new corners on the other side. Repeat with the remaining squares and filling.
- Place the manti in a steaming rack or basket, cover and steam over boiling water for around 30 to 40 minutes.
- Serve hot or at room temperature with thick yogurt and simple tomato salad. Have some cider or malt vinegar on hand so diners can drizzle a little over their dumplings if they like before devouring them.
- Meat: You can substitute horsemeat or goat for the lamb. You'll get the best results if you grind or chop your own meat. Of course, you'll save time using ground lamb or beef from your butcher, but just make sure the meat is at least 20 percent fat or your manti will be tough and dry.
- Pumpkin manti: Particularly popular in Uzbekistan. Add 1 cup of peeled and diced or grated pumpkin or other winter squash to the meat filling.
- Other cooking methods: Manti can also be boiled gently in salted water or stock. Alternatively, they can be pan fried in hot fat until golden brown and cooked through.
- Freezing: Manti freeze well. Make up a double, triple or quadruple batch with friends. Eat some and freeze the rest. Line them up on baking sheets and pop them in the freezer until they are frozen through. Then transfer them to freezer bags to store for up to 4 months. You can steam them directly from the frozen state.