These tasty Uzbek steamed dumplings are called Manti in Uzbekistan. Manti, ‘Manty‘ or ‘Mantu‘ is a true nomad dish. Manti typically consists of large dumplings stuffed with juicy meat & onion filling, then steamed in a special metal multi-layered Uzbek steaming pot, called kaskan. The recipe first came to Central Asia from China and then spread across to Russia and other European countries that formed their own variations. At first glance, Manti might appear a bit daunting to make but don’t let first impressions intimidate you. It may not be the easiest of recipes but it’s definitely worth the time and effort.
Don’t Confuse Uzbek Manti with Turkish Manti
Uzbek Manti is often confused with the Turkish Manti which are tiny boiled dumplings topped with browned butter, a caramelized tomato sauce, and then garlic infused greek yoghurt. In Uzbekistan, these smaller dumplings are called ‘Chuchvara’ or ‘Pelmeni’ (in Russian) and are frequently added to soups. So, in this case, we are talking about the Uzbek Manti, not the Turkish one. Uzbek Manti is a much larger dumpling that can slightly vary in size and shape but more often fit nicely into the palm of your hand.
The Ancient Dough Rolling Technique
Traditionally, you would need a long Uzbek rolling pin to roll the dough. Uzbek women would normally divide the dough into 2 balls, 1 is put back into the bowl and covered while they work with the other. Working with 2 halves means more dough to roll out at one time, which requires a longer rolling pin and more skill and practice. The dough is rolled out on a lightly floured surface until it is paper thin, sometimes extending up to a 1-metre diameter circle.
There is a special technique to the rolling where Uzbeks use the rolling pin to roll up all the dough from one end to the other. During this process they stretch the dough out from the centre of the rolling pin outwards, ‘while still rolling’. This results in the circle round getting larger and the dough thinner. It’s also easier for them to turn the dough around while it is wrapped around the rolling pin, this results in an even rolling throughout. The method requires a lot of flour dusting during the unfolding process, to prevent the dough from sticking.
When the dough is super thin, the circle is then folded back and forth into a very long rectangle shape like a Chinese fan. They then cut strips about every 5-6cm with a sharp knife, unfold the strips and stack them up. The strips will all be at different lengths so they make sure the strips all start at one end before cutting again about every 5-6cm to form equal squares.
This video by our favourite Uzbek youtuber ‘Cool Daddy‘ shows a really good demonstration of rolling out the dough by Uzbek professionals. The dough rolling starts at 1:42 in the video and at 3:22 you will see the strips and square cutting.
In the video they are actually preparing khanum, which is a bit different to manti because of the filling, however, the method and cooking process is exactly the same.
Newbies to Uzbek cooking will not be able to complete this method easily. So, I find that dividing the dough into 4 balls will give a smaller and more manageable amount to work with. Uzbek rolling pins are not always easy to come by so a smaller rolling pin will work fine this way.
Uzbek Manti Fillings
There are multiple delicious fillings for Uzbek Manti. Most of the time this recipe is made with a combination of succulent lamb meat, lamb fat and onion filling. The more onion you add to any of the below fillings, the juicier it will be. The types of fillings available may vary depending on the season, however, all fillings are flavoured with the same combination of spices. Spices used, include crushed cumin seed, crushed coriander seed, and salt and pepper to taste.
Lamb & Onion Filling
The secret to this lamb filling is that the lamb is not minced, instead, it is cut into small little cubes, the fat is also cubed, and the onion is cut into small but visible slices. This creates a unique texture and increased juices. Lamb is more often used for this type of filling because it takes less time to cook and soften.
Minced Beef or Mutton, Potato & Onion Filling
Uzbek-style manti can also be filled with minced meat, and this is the filling we are using for our recipe today. The minced meat stuffing is often made of mutton or beef, onions and potato. The potato and onion are usually diced small and then combined with the spices.
Chicken, Pumpkin & Onion Filling
This delicious chicken filling is made with boneless or minced chicken. The boneless chicken is diced into small pieces and the pumpkin is peeled and diced into roughly the same size. The onion is quartered and then sliced, then it is all mixed together with the spices and fat. You can use lamb fat, butter or a little oil, the main purpose of this is to add some extra moisture to the filling as chicken doesn’t release the same amount of fats as red meat and chicken breast can be slightly dry. In more recent varieties of chicken fillings, there have been mushrooms added with potato instead of pumpkin.
Pumpkin, Onion & Butter Filling
In this vegetarian version, the pumpkin is used as the main ingredient here and is cubed or sliced with the onion, then mixed with the butter/fat and spices. Some people add a little sugar to this mixture but this is optional if you like a slightly more sweetness to the pumpkin.
Potato & Onion Filling
Potato is peeled, cut into matchsticks and mixed with sliced onion, fat and spices. You can leave out the fat and use some oil for another vegetarian version. Some variations will add herbs such as green onion, dill and parsley as well. Paprika and/or red chilli powder can also be added to the seasoning for an extra kick of flavour.
How is Manti Served?
Manti is a main course that in Uzbek tea houses and markets, is commonly served or sold from a large dish, smothered in tomato sauce. If eating it at home with the family, it is still served on a large platter, however, most commonly on its own for each person to help themselves to as many as they feel they can eat. They can then add any additional sides as they please.
Manti side dishes usually consist of sour cream, a homemade tomato sauce, thinly sliced onion rings seasoned with some vinegar, salt and pepper and some freshly chopped herbs such as dill or parsley.
This Uzbek Aubergine Salad will also team well & compliment your Manti.
Note: Traditionally, Uzbeks eat their Manti with their hands, it’s much easier to eat & extra tasty that way because you can keep the juices and filling inside the dumplings and enjoy the full flavour with each bite.
Manti freezes well and you can cook them from frozen. This recipe yields about 40 Manti, so you can cook half and freeze the rest. You will find they make a great weekday dinner in half the time. Or, if you prefer, just half the ingredients to make less.
Some notes to remember before freezing Manti:
- Lay them on parchment paper, or a cheesecloth dusted with some flour before placing them in the freezer. Uncooked Manti can stick to the tray you are freezing them on, making them difficult to remove and causing some to break when trying to pick up.
- Wait for them to freeze on the tray before removing and placing them in a freezer bag (this might take 30-40 min). Don’t bag the Manti into freezer bags before freezing. They will most likely stick & freeze together.
- When steaming the Manti from frozen remember to add to the cooking time accordingly.
Manti – Uzbek Steamed Dumplings
- 1 Rolling Pin
- 1 Steamer
- Prepare the dough first by placing the flour in a bowl. Crack the egg into the middle and mix the salt into the lukewarm water before adding a little at a time while mixing.
- As you add the water and mix it with the flour, the dough will slowly start to form. Remember to scrape up any dough that sticks to the edges, this is easier to do using some of the dough.
- The dough shouldn't be too tough or too soft. Knead the dough to minimize any air bubbles. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and then knead them into balls.
- Cover each ball with a plastic bag or plastic wrap & set aside to rest for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Add the minced meat into a mixing bowl and add the thinly chopped onions, peeled & cubed potatoes & spices. Mix really well until well blended. (Tip: Adding 1 tbsp of cooking oil on top of the spices before mixing helps them blend easier.)
Assembling The Manti
- Lightly dust your clean work surface with some flour and place one dough ball in the centre of your work surface. Pat down the ball with your fingers pressed together to form a flatter circle shape.
- Dust some flour on top of your dough and start to roll it out as thin as possible. (no more than 2-3mm thick).
- Cut the dough into 6 – 8 cm squares with a sharp knife.
- You can further roll the squares to make them thinner if your dough squares are too thick and this will make them into about 10 cm squares.
- Place up to 2 tbsp of the prepared mixture into the centre of each square
- Place a cube of butter or fat on top of the mixture if you haven't mixed it in with the meat.
- Take the 2 opposite corners of the square and press together firmly.
- Then take the remaining opposite corners and press them firmly together as well.
- Then you will be left with 2 side corners, press one side together.
- And then the other side as well. Refer to the images for guidance.
- Note: Put the first lot of manti to cook first to save time, then you can finish making the rest of your manti and place them on an oiled tray to prevent sticking.
- Fill the steamer with the recommended amount of water and bring to a boil, then brush the steamer cylinder (insert/s of the steamer) with some oil for easy removal of the manti when cooked.
- Place the manti on the steamer cylinder and brush them with some cooking oil or melted butter to prevent sticking to each other.
- Place the steamer cylinder with the manti on top of the water pot, cover with the lid and steam-cook for about 40-45 min.
- Remove the cylinder from the steaming pot and place on a cooling mat or tray while removing the manti carefully, being careful not to tear.
- Serve your Manti hot! Manti can be served with a tomato sauce, chopped herbs, and yogurt or sour cream/soured milk.