Манты (manti) are steamed dumplings consisting of ground meat and spices in an unleavened pastry shell. Манты are a popular dish across Central Asia, Pakistan, Northern China, Turkey, and Russia.
They are considered native to Central Asia, but are also thought to have descended from a still-older Chinese dish.
Почему они носят такое название?
It is likely that the recipe originated with the Uighurs in China, who have long prepared a dish called “mantau,” a name which, in their language, means “bread prepared in steam.”
In modern Chinese cooking, mantau still exist. Today, they are usually prepared without filling, although evidence exists that this was not always the case and that they were perhaps once something more similar to the modern Chinese boazi, which is closer to modern манты. Wherever it originated, the food spread quickly among the traditionally equestrian peoples of Central Asia, who would carry sacks of frozen or dried манты with them as a quick meal to prepare when they stopped to rest on their journeys.
The Mongols consider манты a national dish, although in the Mongol language they are called “buuz.” The Mongols also have a meatless version which they refer to as “mantuun buuz,” which sounds like it could be a mixed version of the two Chinese names “mantau” and “boazi.”
Манты are eaten in Turkey as well, although the Turks often refer to them as “tatar bureks,” with “burek” being a Turkish fried or baked stuffed pastry, but “Tatar” being an equestrian people native to southern Siberia. In Irkutsk in southeastern Russia, they are known by the native Buryat name of “позы” (pozi), which is quite similar the Chinese name “boazi.” Most Central Asians, and Russians, however, consistently refer to the food with some variation of the name “манты.”
Как правильно есть манты?
Eating манты requires some skill. The reasons for this are two fold. First, манты tend to be large, the average size ranging from that of a large egg to something slightly smaller than a hockey puck. Students in Kyrgyzstan have reported seeing them as big as a man’s fist. In many countries, they are eaten with the hands, although with the slick, loose pasta shell outside and the temperature of the meat inside, this can be a tricky process.
Second, and most importantly, as the манты cook, their shells catch the “juice” of the meat inside. Especially in the case of large манты and in the case of манты made from particularly fatty meat (many Central Asian chefs will actually add lard to the recipe), the reservoir inside can be sizeable. Experienced eaters will bite a hole in one side and drink the liquid quickly as their first move. Inexperienced eaters may need to find a good laundry detergent after their meal to get the stains out of their shirts.
While the most obvious solution to this might be to simply cut the dumpling into parts with a knife and fork on the plate, there are several arguments against this. First, it’s not traditional. Second, this often results in separate bites of shell and meat, and significant loss of juice; the flavor of the манты comes largely from the mixing of these elements.
One common technique is to stab the манты with a fork, dip it in the sauce of your choice, and eat it in several bites from the fork.
In Mongolia, манты (buuz) are often eaten for holidays such as the New Year celebration. In much of European Russia, they are eaten largely at home (they do not often occur in restaurants) as a more exotic (and simpler) version of пельмени (pelmeni).
In Irkutsk, there is a certain passion for the local позы, which are served at small, often greasy-spoon establishments which specialize in them. Such an establishment is called a “позная” (poznaya).
The relatively simple and hearty манты can be eaten with a variety of condiments. Russians seem to prefer sour cream, butter, chopped onions, vinegar, pepper, mayonnaise, fresh dill, spring onions, and/or fresh cilantro in various combinations. Soy sauce, chili sauce, crushed garlic, and even mustard are also not uncommon, especially among the more southern peoples of Russia and the peoples of Central Asia.
Как правильно готовить манты?
Манты differ from пельмени (pelmeni) primarily in shape and size. While the ingredients can be exactly the same, манты are, on average, at least twice as large as пельмени. While пельмени have a circular “ear” shape, манты can usually resemble small pucks or even little bricks. They can be oblong with a frilly and elaborate binding or square-ish and sealed with blockish “X.” The позы of Irkutsk earn their separate name by the fact that they are always marked by a hole left in the top while манты are tightly sealed.
Connoisseurs of манты will also insist that the meat should be chopped and never ground, as is most common with пельмени or a good American burger. While the meat for пельмени is almost always seasoned with salt, pepper, and ground onion, the meat for манты might also be seasoned with coriander, coriander seeds, or even various vegetables such pumpkin, cabbage, potato, carrots or other additions. Some cultures make meatless манты that feature only vegetables. Pumpkin manti are common in many areas in the fall and potato manti can fill the belly even if your pocket is quite empty.
These “extras,” however, are seldom used by Russians, who most often use meat prepared the same way as for пельмени and will often scoff at the addition of any vegetable besides onion.
Манты are prepared in a special steamer known as a “мантоварка” (mantovarka) or, more affectionately, as a “мантышница” (mantishnitsa). It can also be called by its more general, but less frequently used name, “каскан” (kaskan). This device couples a pot for boiling water with several porous tiers above it and a tight lid on top. These can be found in America at shops specializing in Chinese foods. You can also easily find these online. There are also sleek electronic steamers out there – although it is the standard metal version that you find in most Russian and Central Asian households, many of them decades old.
The tiers should be lightly greased with vegetable oil and the манты should be placed so that they do not touch. This will prevent them from sticking to the pan or each other and thus tearing when they are removed or separated.
On a final note – it is also interesting that the singular of манты, which is “мант” (mant), is so seldom used in Russian that many Russians don’t even know it exists. If to refer to a singular мант, the colloquial and affectionate “мантушка” (mantushka) is more frequently used, but still a relative rarity. “Мантушка” is also used to refer to a restaurant specializing in манты and occasionally as a term of endearment, particularly as referring to a young child.
|Киргизские манты||Kyrgyz Manty|
Grease the boiler trays with vegetable oil.
|Манты по-русски||Russian Manty|
Our Favorite manti Videos
This made-for-the-Internet commercial is for a brand of frozen manti that can be bought in stores in Russia. The brand is “У Палыча,” (“From Palich;” Palich is a Russian patronymic). This Samara-based company is well-known in European Russia for high-quality, reasonably-priced prepared Russian traditional foods: everything from cakes to salads to drinks. Note in this video the clearly documented process of “sticking” the мант together, as well as the size of the манты the company makes and sells.
Lastly, this a Voice of America newspiece on a Russian/Kazakh restaurant opened in Washington DC in 2009. They serve, among many other dishes, манты, which are discussed as part of this Russian-langauge video.