Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What do you eat for Thanksgiving in Crimea?

Pumpkin manti of course!  Peace Corps Volunteer Barb Weiser shares this post about making pumpkin manti with her neighbor Lenura in preparation for a Peace Corps Thanksgiving that combined American and Crimean traditions.  Thanks Barb and Lenura!

For my contribution to the dinner, I asked Lenura to help me make pumpkin filled manti, a Crimean Tatar dish. Of course, it was really the other way around—she made them and I helped—mostly folding the manti into their intricate little shapes. Manti are a steamed dumpling or ravioli, traditionally filled with meat but sometimes with pumpkin and onions as we did this time, or other fillings. The real art to making manti is the crust. Composed of only flour and water and a small amount of salt, it is rolled out to a thin crust.

I was amazed how quickly Lenura was able to take a ball of dough and turn it into a perfectly round, very large and thin crust, ready to be cut into squares for the filling. Folding the manti into the proper shape with the filling inside is a precise maneuver, but easy to master—even I was able to learn it!
Then the manti are placed onto stacking trays in a stove top steamer (brought from Uzbekistan—it was Neshet’s mother’s) and 30 minutes later you have beautiful delicious steamed manti, usually served with a dollop of butter or sour cream.
Correction:  I had earlier posted a recipe here that didn't quite reflect Lenura's.  Barb's comment below sent me further afield on the Internet to  discover that the manti Lenura made is perhaps a combination of two fascinating traditions.  Turkish manti have an egg dough and are boiled, like Ukrainian pelmeni or its many variations, but the steamed manti with no egg in the dough is from Central Asia, most often described as from Uzbekistan.   And of course, that combination reflects the Crimean Tatars' history of origins, deportation and return. 

You can find a recipe for lamb-filled manti, steamed with no egg in the dough, on the food blog, Anna's Recipe Box.  Anna describes Uzbek food as the food she grew up with and includes recipes for other Uzbek foods as well.  Sopressata, another food blog, also has a recipe for Uzbek dumplings, with an egg in the dough and fried.  But she also describes how to make a pumpkin filling for you to try.

Across time and across space, we make recipes our own and family food traditions continually evolve.  The museum person in me, who thinks about artifacts, sees so much, so many stories embedded in that simple steamer,  brought home to Crimea by Lenura's mother-in-law.  Thanks again Barb, for sharing!


  1. I think that recipe is for making the traditional meat filled Ukrainian dumplings called pelmeni. The dough has egg in it, they are smaller and half moon shaped, and are boiled, not steamed. I wonder why they called it manti?

  2. Hi Linda,
    Thanks for linking to my blog. Uzbeks have pumpkin manti also, though I've never tried them, we were a strictly meat-based household. LOL. And as Barb suggested, manti are steamed and pelmeni are boiled. Though, if you have leftovers, it's perfectly normal to see someone fry them up in a skillet as a way to heat them up for the next meal (the pelmeni, not manti). Also, the Korean population in Uzbekistan has twist on the traditional pelmeni - they're tiny. The pelmeni Koreans of Uzbekistan make are about the size of a quarter or a large thumb, which makes them about half the size of the traditional ones.

  3. Hi Anna--thanks so much--so interesting about the Korean pelmeni--a fascinating variation. And it was great to find your blog--as you can see from here it's been a great process to learn more about food from this part of the world as neither Sarah nor I are Ukrainian. Thanks again!