These open-face little meat boats are baked and toasted, making the wrapper crunchy, and meat smoky. The rich homemade beef broth permeates the dumpling: just enough to soften, but doesn’t make it soggy, while elevating the filling. Dollops of yogurt, infused with garlic, add another flavor dimension to this dish.
What are dumplings?
Almost all cultures have meat or vegetable-filled dumplings, You can see the dumplings in different shapes and forms across the world:
They are all so unique and distinct, they must have shared the same origin.
Legend has it that the dumplings were invented by Zhang Zhongjing, during the Han Dynasty sometime between 206 BC to 220 AD. Being a healer-physician, Zhang Zhongjing created meat and herb-loaded little bite-size morsels wrapped in dough, to help people alleviate the frostbites from the harsh winter cold.
What’s an Armenian Manti?
Armenian manti, mostly known as Kayseri manti is one of the popular dishes in Gamirk and Western Armenia. Gamirk, and its major city Kayseri, has fundamental and historic importance for us Armenians.
The name Gamirk was derived from Biblical Gomer/Gamer, mentioned in Genesis 10. Gamer was the father of Torgomh who settled in the area and was considered the ancestor of Armenian and other Caucasian people. The area was an important and major Armenian center since biblical times.
The old and forgotten name of the city of Kayseri was Mshak. This ancient settlement was founded by the governor Mshak who was appointed by Aram, the legendary patriarch of Armenians (hence the name of Armenian). The area became a melting pot as the Armenian language prevailed and unified all the local tribes. As it is recorded in ancient literature, the area gained the name Protin Armenia (First Armenia). Later during the Roman Empire, the town of Mshak got its name Kayseri after Caesar Augustus.
As for the dish itself, it is most likely an adaptation of the Chinese dumpling, which came into Armenia during the Tatar-Mongol invasion. The Tatar-Mongol nomadic hordes carried the supply of bread and meat in the form of dumplings which were light and transportable.
Sini manti, tava manti, lik manti are different names used for Armenian manti.
The dish is prepared for special occasions and take literally a village to make it. The young girls would help prepare, assemble, cook as well as act as hostesses.
Even though there are two main components, a dough made with wheat flour, and seasoned ground meat, both can be prepared ahead of time. Be sure you have the patience of a saint, or the helping hands or family or friends to assemble these tiny parcels.
First the dough needs to be rolled as thin as possible without tearing it. Next the sheet of dough is cut into 1.5 inch squares, although some people make them smaller. The knife does a great job, but I like to use a small ravioli rolling cutter. Just roll over the thin sheets, and it cuts precise 1.6×1.6 inch squares.
After the squares are cut, a little meat is placed in the center, and ready for shaping into boats. Just pinch from both ends making little boats, with meat showing from the opening on top.
After arranging on a baking tray, drizzle melted butter over the meat and roast them in a oven. The butter will help with browning and enhance the flavor.
There are different versions how to serve manti.
One version suggests serving manti morsels in a broth, like Zhang Zhongjing’s healing dumplings, topped with a dollop of garlic-yogurt sauce.
For the other versions (like sini manti, which means manti on a tray), you arrange the uncooked manti in a decorative sun-ray pattern; once baked, you pour hot broth over the toasted boats and serve.
Manti – Armenian Boat Dumplings
- 2 cups all-purpose flour plus extra if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- ~1 cup water
- 750 g meat
- 200 g onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 100 g Melted butter
- 1 lbs Beef short ribs or beef bones
- 1 small onion/leeks
- 4 cups water
- Parsley stems
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper
- 1 cup yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic
Making the Dough
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Make a well in the center and crack the egg in the middle. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Gradually pour the water (you might not need the whole cup) and knead the dough. Add water and/or flour. Make the flour your last addition. Cover with towel and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.2 cups all-purpose flour plus extra if needed, 1 egg, ~1 cup water
- Brown the ribs in a medium cooking pot1 lbs Beef short ribs or beef bones
- Add roughly chopped onions/leeks and cook for a minute.1 small onion/leeks
- Pour a boiling water and add the parsley stems. Season with salt and pepper and cook or an hour on a slow heat.4 cups water, Parsley stems
Making the Filling
- Grind the mead and onion together. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.750 g meat, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 small onion/leeks, 1 teaspoon salt
- Roll the dough into thin rectangle sheet. Cut the sheet into 1 1/2 inch square pieces. Put a dollop of the meat filling and close the dough from sides in a boat shape exposing the meat in the middle.
- Arrange on a backing sheet and drizzle with melted butter.100 g Melted butter
- Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Pour a couple of ladles of beef broth over the Manti, about half way through cooking – covering the dumplings, and continue to bake until the juices are sizzling.
- Serve with dollop of yogurt sauce and parsley.