Making Mantu (Tajik Dumplings)

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About: TasteofSarband is a graduate student pursuing her Ph.D. in International Relations. She loves learning, as well as teaching other people new lessons and skills. She has been blessed to become part of a war...

Noted frequently in printed literature and across the internet, Tajik recipes are difficult to find. I aim to remedy this by providing instructions for my favorite Tajik food, courtesy of my mother-in-law.

When asked about their comfort foods, many Tajiks fondly think back to mantu made by their mothers. A full, layered mantu steaming pot is an impressive sight towering on the kitchen stove, though the dumplings may also be cooked in an electric or bamboo steamer.

Savory, juicy lamb (or beef) parceled in delicate dough and steamed creates a nostalgic and filling meal that is eaten at home or at the bazaar. Mantu may be enjoyed with sour cream or eaten by itself. It may take some time and patience to make mantu—especially when learning how to seal the wrapping—but the results are well worth it.

Step 1: Step 1: Gather Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 1.5 lbs. beef or lamb
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon priprava blend (see below)
  • neutral oil

Priprava Blend

This spice mixture can be found in a variety of
recipes, from stuffed peppers to pilaf. Traditionally called priprava (Russian for ‘spice’), this
mix includes chili pepper, yet varies in the spice intensity. This recipe makes enough spice mix to store in a small container to add to recipes throughout this book.

  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix the dried spices in a bowl until well incorporated. Store in an airtight container for up to six months.

Step 2: Step 2: Making the Dough

Blend the water, egg, and two cups of flour in a bowl. Add the remaining cup of flour in ¼ cup amounts until the dough is incorporated, being careful not to make the dough too sticky. Rub flour on the outside, then let sit in warm place while preparing the filling.

Step 3: Step 3: Preparing the Filling

Dice the onion and beef/lamb into ½ inch cubes. Mix in a bowl, adding the pepper, salt, and priprava.

Step 4: Step 4: Rolling and Filling Dough

Break the dough into fist-sized balls. Roll the balls into sheets with a rolling pin until 1/8 inch thick. Cut the sheets into three-inch squares.

Take the squares and stretch them out by hand to prepare for the filling. You will want to make sure the squares are thin to ensure they do not become too chewy after steaming.

Drop spoonfuls of the filling mixture into the center of the square. To seal the dumplings you may or may not need water to dampen the corners (properly mixed dough should be sticky enough to not require water).

Step 5: Step 5: Shaping the Mantu

To fold the mantu, bring two opposite corners together in the center and pinch them shut.

Bring the opposite corners together over the first two and pinch them together. You will now have four new corners created.

Take two adjacent corners and pinch them together, leaving an open gap along the edges (creating an ‘eye’ between the filling and pinched corners). Take the remaining two corners and pinch them together.

Step 6: Step 6: Steaming the Mantu

Note for Steaming the Mantu:
You will need a steamer to cook the mantu. A traditional Tajik steamer has multiple layers stacked on top of one another, but you can cook individual layers as well in an instant pot, single-layer steamer, or bamboo steamer. Rub oil over the steamer layers to keep the mantu from sticking to the surface.

Place the dumplings on the steamer layer, taking care to space the mantu so they are not touching each other.

Fill the bottom layer of the steamer with 1 1/2 inches of water.

Heat the steamer on the stovetop over high heat. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to medium. Steam the mantu for the following times based on the steamer used:

  • Multi-layer steamer: 45 minutes
  • Single-layer steamer: 20 minutes
  • Instant pot: 7 minutes pressure cook, followed by quick steam release

Step 7: Step 7: Enjoy!

Serve mantu on a decorative plate with sour cream, vinegar, or butter on the side as potential toppings.

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    6 Discussions

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    randofo

    3 months ago

    Those look good. I can't say I've ever had Tajik food.

    1 reply
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    TasteofSarbandrandofo

    Reply 3 months ago

    It is a really interesting culinary culture. Tajikistan spent 70 years in the Soviet Union, where political leadership tried to standardize ("Russify") food across all the member states. There has been a lot of post-independence effort in Tajikistan to rediscover their culinary heritage.

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    MarianaR27

    Question 3 months ago on Step 7

    Hello, what type of flour do you use? wheat or rice? Thanks, looks delicious.

    1 answer
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    TasteofSarbandMarianaR27

    Answer 3 months ago

    I've only ever used wheat, but I bet rice flour would work as a great gluten-free alternative (given it is used in a lot of asian dumplings and noodles). I am not sure how that would affect the steaming time though...

    Now you've got me thinking of all the different kinds of dough bases the recipe could be adapted for! :)

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    Auroris

    Question 3 months ago

    I love this dish.. yummy! How you got so transparent dough? Looks great.

    1 answer
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    TasteofSarbandAuroris

    Answer 3 months ago

    Hi! I'd say two things contribute most: really rolling thin dough (which is a dangerous game unto itself!), and steaming a long time. A multi-layer steamer requires a longer steaming time, up to twice as long as a one or two layer steamer. This really affects the dough at the bottom layers, creating a clarifying effect.