Mantu

Mantu is a dumpling. The dish is served in a lot of Turkic cuisine with slight differences in preparation with each region. In Afghanistan it is filled with lamb and beef and served with a yogurt and tomato sauce. I am excited to make this recipe as it is one of my favorite appetizers from Kabul, an Afghan restaurant I often went to.

The recipe I found called for wonton wraps. I wasn’t certain if this was authentic, but with more research found that there is a lot of Asian influences in Afghanistan cuisine due to the boarder of China and Afghanistan being apart of the silk road. The origin of mantu is not so clear; there is a belief that it was created by Uyghur Turks living in China and was introduced to the middle east by traveling Turks and Mongols during the 13th century. They are believed to have been carrying frozen or dry dumplings that they could cook over a fire. Just so you know, non-cooked Mantu do freeze well. The other theory is that they originated in the middle east and were spread to Asia through the silk road. Either way the wonton wrapper is likely the correct wrapper.

Preparing the meat for the filling was simple. Getting the wonton stuffed was a bit of a learning experience:

    • Lesson 1: Don’t over fill the wonton.

Mine were constantly breaking as I was giving generous scoops. 

    • Lesson 2: Finely chop the onions.

I did a rough chop on my onions, thinking it wouldn’t matter but the some of the larger pieces would break the wrapper.

    • Lesson 3: Before you put the filling in the wrapper, dip your finger in water and wet the four edges of the wonton wrapper.

I kept forgetting this step and getting to get the wrapper to close is impossible with out water. Once the stuffing was on the wrapper it was awkward to get the edges wet.

    • Lesson 4: Buy extra wonton wrappers

I bought my wrappers in Japan town, but I can’t read Japanese so I didn’t know how many were in a package. I bought two just in case.  This was about the only thing I did right in the process.  With all my mistakes I used all the wrappers and still ended up with 60 dumplings to cook.

    • Lesson 5: Keep the made mantu under damp paper towel until ready to steam.

After the first 15 dumplings I noticed that the earlier ones were starting to dry out. I quickly dampened paper towels and covered them.

 

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After they were all stuffed I steamed them in batches. The first batch I steamed for 30 minutes and the meat came out dry. The second batch I steamed for 20 minutes and it was much better, but still a little dry.  I found a hint that the meat was not originally cooked and that it may be better to not cook the meat all the way and let the steaming finish the rest.

A lot of the recipes called for mixed frozen vegetables in the tomato sauce. For some reason, this didn’t seem right to me. I saw a few recipes with yellow split peas. I read on Wikipedia that the split peas are more common in Afghanistan and one of the differentiating characteristics of their mantu.

The split peas soaked for 2 hours and then I cooked them for 30 minutes. The peas were still very crunchy, so I added more water and cooked for another 30 minutes. It was a bit better texture, but the sauce was too watery. I cooked that down for 20 more minutes and it seemed to come out better.

The result was just … good. The flavors were there, but the dryness of the meat made them less yummy than Kabul’s. I am not a big fan of the split pea texture, so would probably do the mixed vegetables next time. The yogurt sauce was delicious, but that was fairly straight forward to make. I forgot to dust the top with with mint and cayenne which may have made a difference. I will probably just go to the restaurant rather than make this again.

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Recipes

Mantu

Original recipe can be found here

Ingredients For Mantu Dumplings
  • 1/2 lb Ground Beef
  • 1/2 lb Ground Lamb
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Cloves Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • Wonton Wrappers, at least 60 (more if you haven’t made dumplings before)
  • Cooking spray
  • dried mint
  • cayenne pepper
Ingredients for Mixed Vegetable Sauce
  • 1 cup yellow split peas
  • 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 2 Cloves, Garlic, Minced
  • 3 Tablespoon, Tomato Paste
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 Teaspoon, Turmeric
  • 1/4 Teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt, Black Pepper, to taste
Yogurt Mixture
  • 1 c plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Mantu Cooking Instructions
  1. Heat pan over a medium heat and add garlic, ground beef, Turmeric, coriander and salt. Cook until the meat is half-way cooked for about 10 minutes. Add black pepper and remove from heat.
  2. Combine one cup of raw minced onions to the meat and let it cool down to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
  3. Dip your finger in water and dampen all edges on the wonton wrap.
  4. Place approximately 1/2 tablespoon of the cooled ground beef and onion mixture onto each wonton wrap. Fold over first two opposite ends of the wanton wrap and followed by other two ends to enclose dumplings. Press the edges tightly to seal together.
  5. Cover completed mantu with a damp paper towel and Continue the same stuffing process with the remaining wraps.
  6. Take the racks out of the steamer dish. Add water to the dish, cover and bring to boil. Spray cooking spray on the bottom of the steamer racks  to prevent sticking and place the dumplings on top, leaving some room in between each dumpling so they don’t stick together. Once the water has come to a boil, place the racks filled with dumplings back on to the steamer dish. Cover lid and cook for approximately 20 minutes.
Tomato Sauce Cooking Instructions
  1. Soak peas for 2 hours.
  2. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for about 6 minutes or until soft. Add garlic, turmeric and cumin; saute for 2 more minutes.
  3. Add Tomatoes,  Tomato paste, Peas, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat and cook for 1 hour. If sauce is too soupy remove lid and reduce.
Yogurt Mixture Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
Serving Instructions
  1. When the dumplings have cooked, add a thin layer of the yogurt mixture to a large serving plate.
  2. Place the steamed dumplings on top.
  3. Pour some more of the yogurt mixture on top of the dumplings and coat everything with the the vegetable sauce.
  4. Garnish with dried mint and a little bit of cayenne pepper.
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