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).
Their 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! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
4 cups flour
1 egg white
1 tsp salt
1 lb very finely chopped or ground lamb
⅓ cup minced butternut squash
1 Tbsp minced lamb fat
½ cup minced onions
1 small cooked carrot, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, roughly ground in a spice grinder
½ teaspoon each of salt, pepper, and sugar
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp minced fresh cilantro
Mix flour, egg white, salt and a cup of warm water and knead until smooth. Let this dough rest for an hour, then roll the dough into logs about ¾ inch diameter on a cutting board thinly coated with flour.
Cut the logs into ½ inch-long pieces. Flatten each piece into 3-inch-wide circles. The center of the pieces should be a bit thicker than its edges (if you don’t want to go to the trouble, just buy ready-made round wonton skins and use those instead).
Mix meat, squash, fat, onions, carrots, cumin seeds, and the salt, pepper, and sugar. Put a tablespoon of this mixture in the center of the dough, wet the edges (can use water or the yolk).
Fold the dough over in a semicircle. Close the dumpling by pleating and pinching the edges, meeting at the top. Twist the top of the dough to seal firmly.
Moisten the tops of the manti and sprinkle sesame sees on them, pat them slightly so they stick.
Place them in a multi-tired, oiled tray steamer or bamboo steamer. Steam for 25-30 minutes.
If you have further dumplings to cook, remember to oil the trays each time, otherwise they will stick to the tray and rip apart.
Sprinkle the steamed dumplings with minced coriander.
Serve with the Hirshon Xinjiang-Style Dipping Sauce (or a simple chili paste/vinegar dip, if you prefer):
¼ tsp vegetable oil
¾ tsp chili oil (I prefer Kadoya-Brand Hot Chili Sesame Oil)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
½ tsp black peppercorn
2 scallions minced
3 inch piece of ginger minced (~2 TBL)
4 large garlic cloves minced
1 tsp pulverized golden rock sugar or use light brown sugar instead
¼ cup chicken stock (preferably homemade or use low-salt canned)
⅛ cup Guilin-style chili paste or use whatever Chinese chili paste you prefer
¼ cup Tamari reduced sodium soy sauce
⅓ cup Chinese Sweetened Black vinegar (or use Balsamic)
Hand-mince the scallions, ginger and garlic.
Heat a non-stick pan on medium-high. Toss in spices and stir for about 1 minute or so until just fragrant.
Grind the heated spices into a powder. Put aside.
Add chili oil and vegetable oil into the same unwashed pan. Stir for 30 seconds.
Toss in minced scallions, ginger and sugar for 1 min.
Then toss in garlic (since it burns easier) and all other remaining ingredients plus the ground spices.
Let that cook for 1 minute then remove from heat.
Pour into a glass container and bring to room temp. Cover and chill. Do not serve the same day. Give it a day in the fridge so all the flavors can meld.