Dumplings are a universally-beloved dish the world over, and while we usually think of ravioli as the meat-filled pasta of choice, elsewhere in the world they default to gyoza, jiaozi and manti.
Manti have made a fascinating culinary journey, starting with the Mongols and migrating to the Ottoman Empire in Turkey and from there spreading all across the Caucasus region and into the Silk Road nations of Central Asia.
The Uyghur (We-jer) of the steppes of far northwest China’s Xinjiang province make perhaps my favorite version of manti (called manta there).
The Uyghurs form a large part of the population of Xinjiang, their food therefore dominated the region. Uyghur food is characterized by mutton, beef, camel (solely bactrian), chicken, goose, carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggplant, celery, various dairy foods, and fruits. A Uyghur-style breakfast is tea with home-baked bread, smetana, olives, honey, raisins, and almonds. Uyghurs like to treat guests with tea, nan, and fruit before the main dishes are ready. Most Uyghur foods are eaten with chopsticks, a custom that was adopted from Han Chinese culture in the 19th century.
Many Uyghur dishes are also found among other ethnic groups in Central Asia, and their food also shows Chinese influence.
This particular recipe combines strong Chinese influences with Central Asian spices to create a truly delicious result. The Uyghur are Muslim nomads, so their manta are lamb or mutton-based as opposed to the typical Asian use of pork or beef.
My version are Kawa Manta, combining pumpkin or butternut squash with lamb, lamb fat (for extra juiciness) plus onion, carrot and spices. I also crafted a killer dipping sauce flavored Xinjiang-style to serve with them (or just use a simple chili paste/vinegar dip, which is traditional).
Citizens – this recipe will wow your palate and is quite easy to make if you purchase pre-made wonton wrappers. Try this taste of the Silk Road and you’ll be as hooked as I am! 🙂
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