I believe my brother and sister would agree–Manti is a family favourite. My grandmother would spend all day baking these little morsels of joy and we would devour them. I can still hear her laughing and saying, “Chor, chor mi udek!” (“Don’t eat them all dry, dry!”) The traditional way to serve these baked dumplings is in a hot yogurt and chicken broth with mint. We usually couldn’t wait for this soup to be prepared and we would eat Manti like popcorn. Manti would never last in our home. This recipe I’m sharing with you all today is very special and the spices are exactly what my grandmother flavoured her meat with. It is divine. I’m happy to share with you her steps to make Armenian (Ainteb-style) Manti meat dumplings.
My grandmother was born is Ainteb, Turkey and she was forced to flee to Aleppo, Syria once her father, a tailor, was kidnapped and killed by Ottoman forces during the Armenian genocide. These dumplings are in the traditional style from her birthplace Ainteb, Turkey. I remember travelling to Armenia looking everywhere for Manti, only to be disappointed! This isn’t something you traditionally find on Armenian menus in our motherland. This dish is special for diasporic Armenians who make it slightly different based on the preferences of their country. Some Armenians boil Manti and add them to a tomato broth and some add warm chicken broth and a dollop of yogurt and spices on top.
I love mine baked crispy with tangy yogurt and of course in a hot yogurt and chicken broth with mint. However you like yours, I know you have a sentimental spot in your heart for how your beloved grandparent makes it. In a future post, I will share the recipe for the tan abour, (yogurt broth). In the meantime, I hope you have the opportunity to try making this at home.
Ingredients for Armenian Ainteb Manti
Manti dough is as simple as it gets–flour, oil, water and salt. The trick for perfect dough is to pour in just enough water and just enough oil. When your ‘atchkee tchapov’ (or eyeballing skills) are broken, I recommend just under a 1/4 cup of oil and just under a cup of water. The dough should not be too wet and not too dry so that you can roll it out nice and thinly. You will add just enough water so that the dough no longer sticks to you hands while kneading. Once you’ve mixed the dough ingredients, let the dough rest in a ball under a towel while you mix up the meat.
I always use lean ground beef to make Manti. I find that extra lean gets too dry before the dough is cooked to the crispness I like. I’ve never used lamb before, but I’ve heard it is also used instead of beef. To the lean ground beef, my grandmother always added a generous tablespoon of seasoned tomato sauce. I usually have a jar of spaghetti sauce or leftover pizza sauce in the fridge from making the kids dinner. This is perfect to add to the meat for moisture and flavour. Also an important note is to chop the onion as small as possible.
Rolling and Cutting Dough
After the dough has rested and your filling is mixed, it’s time to roll out your Manti dough. Flour your surface and your dough ball. Roll out the dough very thinly (see image above). The dough should be just a few millimeters thick.
I use a measuring tape to mark and cut my dumplings at 1 1/2 inches to form squares. Use a pizza cutter to cut straight lines horizontally then vertically to form uniform squares. You will be left with a few edge pieces, so have a small glass of water nearby and you can easily join two edges by wetting and pressing them to form a square. I demonstrate this in the video.
Filling and Shaping Manti
Grad a handful of your meat mixture and pull off a 1/2 teaspoon size piece and roll between your fingers to form a small ball. Place each ball into the middle of your squares. After you’ve filled the squares, take one and fold up the sides and tap the meat down gently so that the meat doesn’t bulge out. I use three fingers on each end of the bow-tie to gently pinch and push down simultaneously to form the Manti. You can see how I do this in the video. Continue until all Manti is formed! Another labour of love accomplished. I appreciate why my grandmother wanted us to savour each bite and not devour them since this does take an exceptionally long time. It’s great to make Armenian Manti with company over to help.
Making Armenian Ainteb Manti
Arrange dumplings in an oiled tray and bake for approximately 25 minutes at 350 degrees until edges have browned. Serve with yogurt or in yogurt soup. Անուշ Ըլլայ!
Armenian Ainteb-Style Manti / Meat Dumplings
Make delicious, authentic Armenian Ainteb-Style Manti (traditional meat dumpling) just like grandma used to make. You can eat these as is, with yogurt or in a hot yogurt and chicken broth soup with dried mint. It's a family favourite!
- 2 cups of flour
- 1/4 cup (a little less) olive oil
- 1 cup (a little less) water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- flour for rolling/kneading as needed
- olive oil for baking tray
- 1 pound of lean ground beef
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 heaping tablespoon seasoned tomato sauce
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
Mix dough ingredients and knead by hand on floured surface. Dough should not stick to hand.
Form a ball and allow to rest covered with plastic wrap and towel. Prepare meat filling.
Mix together meat, onion, tomato sauce and seasonings. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Flour surface and dough ball and roll out dough until just a few millimeters thick.
With a measuring tape or ruler, cut out 1 1/2 inch squares with a pizza cutter.
Stick edge pieces together with a bit of water along the edge to help stick.
Add a small ball of meat to the middle of each square.
Fold up sides, tap meat gently to tuck inside pocket and press down to form a bow-tie shape.
Align dumplings closely in an oiled tray.
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes and edges have nicely browned.
I like my Manti crispy so that when I add it to the soup it doesn't get soggy. I like baking mine until they are nice and crisp, however you can make yours softer if you prefer. Enjoy plain, with yogurt and paprika/Aleppo pepper or in soup.