Citizens – Pelmeni are dumplings consisting of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough, which originated in Siberia and quickly spread all over the former Soviet Union.
The word pelmeni is derived from pel’n’an’ (пельнянь) – literally “ear bread” in the native Finno-Ugric Komi and Udmurt languages.
It is unclear when pelmeni entered the cuisines of the indigenous Siberian people and when they first appeared in Russian cuisine.
One theory suggests pelmeni, or stuffed boiled dumplings in general, originated in Siberia, possibly a simplified adaptation of the Chinese Wonton (in some dialects, it is called Bāomiàn “包面”). Pelmeni are a particularly good means of quickly preserving meat during the long Siberian winter, especially eliminating the need to feed livestock during the long winter months.
The dough is made from flour and water, sometimes adding a small portion of eggs.
The filling can be minced meat (pork, lamb, beef, or any other kind of meat), fish, or mushrooms. The mixing together of different kinds of meat is also popular. The traditional Udmurt recipe requires a mixture of 45% beef, 35% mutton, and 20% pork – I use my own meat blend and proportions, of course.
Pelmeni in Perm (west of the Ural Mountains) are often filled with mushrooms, onions, and turnips instead of meat. Various spices, such as black pepper and onions, are mixed into the filling.
In Siberia, pelmeni are traditionally frozen outdoors in the winter and treated as preserved food. Hunters or explorers heading into the taiga would carry sacks of frozen pelmeni with their provisions as easily cooked, nonperishable food.
Pelmeni can be stored frozen for a long time and they are prepared immediately before eating by boiling in salted water until they float, and then two to five minutes more.
Regional differences exist in the boiling of pelmeni. In the Urals, they are always boiled in water, while in Siberia they are boiled in salted water or sometimes meat or chicken broth.
The cooked pelmeni are served on their own or topped with melted butter or smetana (sour cream). Mustard, horseradish, tomato sauce, and vinegar are popular, as well. The Russian émigré community in Australia, most of whom originally traveled through China, generally adds soy sauce, as do the people of the Russian Far East.
Making these is much easier with a pelmeni mold – they can be purchased on Amazon here.
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