The Dumplings of Central Asia

If you have ever been to China or to your local Chinese food restaurant, you know what a dumpling is. While dumplings differ depending on what region the come from, you know what the basics are; meat, vegetables, dough, steam. Central Asia has their own version of dumplings called Mante. Anywhere you go in the region, the people will claim that Mante’s roots lie in their culture and history. Though mante is not the national food in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan (a meat and noodle dish called Besh Barmak is), it is still a large part of the diet. Mante is made at least once a week in village homes, along with a variation of the recipe called Oromo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(left to right) Steamed mante and baked oromo.

If you don’t live in a village, or are unable to take a trip to visit locals, you can order mante at almost every cafe or ethnic street food vendor. After 2 years of living with my Kyrgyz host family and observing the technique of mante making, I finally decided to document the process. Because the process of making mante, oromo, and baked oromo are all very similar, I will be touching on how to make all three from the same base dough and filling. You will need a tiered steamer for the mante and oromo, and/or an oven for the baked oromo.

The recipe begins with the making of the dough. This is a rather simple dough recipe and you might see some similarities to a pizza dough, minus the yeast. Be forewarned, Central Asian families are large and the cooking portion is made with the intent of feeding a family of eight for the next three meals. If your plan is just to feed a family of four for one meal, I suggest cutting the recipe in, at least, half.

Dough:
4 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 tbsp salt

Filling:
5 onions
8 potatoes
4 big bunches of scallions
3 eggs (cooked; scrambled)
Salt & Pepper
2 tbsp Oil

Directions:

1. Knead the dough until it is hard and holds strongly together.

2. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

3. Chop onions, potatoes, scallions, and cooked eggs. Pieces should be very small.

4. Mix together in a big bowl.

5. Add salt, pepper and oil.

6. Mix together well

7.  Back to the dough; After 15 minutes, knead again. The dough should be tough, not sticky. If it is sticky, add flour and knead more.

8. Cut the dough into three sections.

9. Take one section and roll out very flat. (Think thinner than thin crust pizza)

The first 9 steps are the same across the three recipes. After step 9, continue to follow the directions below, depending on your desired recipe.

My host mother working the dough.

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Directions (cont.):

Mante:

10. Fold dough every 4 inches, back and forth.

11. Once dough is folded, cut every 4 inches.

12. Take one 4 inch folded section and push others aside.

13. Unfold the section and, again, cut every 4 inches. At the end of this process, you will have 4×4 inch square sections of dough.

14. Repeat this process for the other folded sections.

15. When all squares are cut, take one square and put a small heap of filling inside (about 2-3 tbsp).

16. Add 1 teaspoon of oil on top of filling on dough square.

17. To fold into a dumpling, take all four corners and press together in the center. Take the outer points and press together on the sides. The finished dumpling should have three points; both sides and one in the center.

19. Put a little oil on the bottom of the dumpling and place in the steamer. (The bottom part of the steam pot should be filled with 20. water. Water should not touch the dumplings.)

21. Repeat for the remaining squares.

22. Repeat steps 10-21 for the other two sections of dough.

23. Steam the dumplings on medium heat for 45 minutes- 1 hour

A few folded mante pieces and two in the process.

Don’t fret if you don’t have a cast iron pot to steam them in! It tastes great from the stove toot!

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Oromo (baked or steamed):
10. Take 1/3 cup of oil and spread it across the rolled out dough.
11. Sprinkle the filling on the oiled dough.
12. Roll/fold the dough in 4 inch sections (forward only).

Spreading the oil and the potato mixture.

Steamed:
13. Once the dough is rolled/folded up, place on tiered steamer, shaping around the center ring.

14. Steam the oromo on medium heat for 45 minutes- 1 hour.

OR.

Baked:
13. Grease a pan and place the oromo on the pan in a loose circle.

14. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Ready for the oven!

Enjoy either recipe plain or with spicy sauce! My favorite is the baked version, fresh out of the oven, with a bit of Sriracha on the side!

 

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