Sini Manti (Armenian Baked Lamb Manti) Recipe
[Photographs: Andrew Janjigian]
Manti are meat-filled dumplings common to many Central and West Asian cuisines. At their most basic, they are parcels of spiced ground lamb or beef surrounded by a thin wheat dough wrapper, and they’re typically steamed or boiled. The word “manti” is etymologically linked to mandu in Korean, mantou in Chinese, and manju in Japanese, illustrating the far-flung history of the dish, which is thought to have been carried from East to West Asia by Mongols traveling the Silk Road.
Armenian manti, sometimes called “sini manti,” are a variation in which the dumplings—tiny, canoe-shaped, and open-faced, in this case—are baked until crisp and then served in a tomato-infused meat broth, finished with a dollop of yogurt, minced garlic, and a sprinkling of Aleppo pepper and sumac powder. To me, this the ultimate manti, since the combination of flavors and textures is unparalleled: crunchy-crisp dumplings, their corners softened gently by the hot, aromatic broth, paired with the cool, tart yogurt, all of it brightened by lightly spicy, fruity, and tart garnishes.
Up until a few years ago, eating manti was a Christmas Eve ritual for my extended Armenian family. For weeks before the holiday, the women in the family would gather together on weekends in my Aunt Esther’s kitchen to roll, fill, shape, and bake the tiny dumplings, which would then be frozen in advance of the Christmas Eve meal. Hours and hours (and hours) of work went into making enough manti to feed a few dozen people a meal they’d been looking forward to eating all year long. And then it would be over, and we’d all have to wait another year to enjoy the dish.
Sadly, as schedules grew busier and people grew older, we let this ritual fall by the wayside. I use “we” here, though in truth the decision was never up to me or any of the other men in my family, since we never participated in the work of making manti ourselves. When the women of our clan decided that they no longer had the time or energy to make manti for Christmas Eve, it was a sad, but entirely understandable moment, given the labor involved.
Which is why I wanted to create a manti recipe for you here, to bring our family tradition back, even if only in recipe form. I used my Aunt Esther’s manti recipe as the inspiration and starting point for my own. I’ve streamlined her process slightly by turning to labor- and time-saving tools like a pasta roller and pressure cooker, and I’ve taken liberties with the dough formula a little, but for the most part I’ve tried to remain true to the spirit of her recipe, and the result.
As with all filled dumplings, manti are best made in a group setting, where the jobs of rolling, cutting, filling, and shaping can be shared among many people. For the time being, that’s obviously not an option, but I can say that during many rounds of recipe testing my wife and I had no problem making many hundreds of manti all on our own, just the two of us. Nor did we have any problem eating them all ourselves.
Why It Works
- Tomato paste, garlic, chicken stock, and a single lamb shank makes for a rich, bold-flavored broth for the manti, and using a pressure cooker means it’s ready in less than an hour.
- Butter and egg yolk yields a crisp-tender, easy-to-roll out manti dough.
- Using a pasta machine makes quick work of rolling the manti dough into a uniform thickness and dimensions, though the recipe has been formulated to work when hand-rolled as well.
- Manti-making is a labor-intensive process, but there’s lots of make-ahead potential here. The dumplings and the broth both freeze well for weeks, and the broth, dough, and filling can be made and held for a day in the fridge before use.
What’s New On Serious Eats
- For the Broth:
- 1 pound (450g) lamb shanks or lamb neck slices
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided; if using table salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight
- 1 quart (960ml) homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken stock
- 5 medium garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 1/4 cup (60g) tomato paste
- For the Dough:
- 280 grams (about 10 ounces; 2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (135ml) water (add extra 1 teaspoon (5ml) if rolling dough by hand)
- 1 large egg yolk (15g)
- For the Manti Filling:
- 1 small onion (about 6 ounces; 170g), peeled and quartered
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon (6g) fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or an additional 1 teaspoon paprika; see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 ounces (170g) ground lamb or 85% lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- For the Yogurt-Garlic Sauce:
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups (450g) Greek yogurt
- For Serving:
- 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper (or paprika or gochugaru; see notes)
- 2 teaspoons ground sumac
For the Broth: Sprinkle lamb evenly on all sides with 1 teaspoon salt and place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Combine lamb, chicken stock, garlic, tomato paste, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a pressure cooker, and stir to combine. Seal pressure cooker, and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat, if using a stovetop model, or by setting to pressure-cooker mode on an electric multi-cooker. Cook at high pressure for 40 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure (if using a stovetop pressure cooker; electric ones will automatically regulate the heat and pressure level).
Depressurize cooker using the quick-release method, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into clean heatproof container, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; add water as needed to yield a total 3 cups (700ml) broth. Season with additional salt to taste. Transfer lamb to cutting board and set broth aside to cool to room temperature. When broth has cooled, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. When lamb is cool enough to handle, separate meat from bones in large pieces; set meat aside and discard bones.
For the Dough: Place flour and salt in food processor bowl and pulse twice to combine. Add butter and process until fully incorporated, 10 to 20 seconds. Add water (adding extra 1 teaspoon (5ml) water if rolling dough by hand) and egg yolk and process until dough ball starts to form and mixture looks pebbly, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter; return food processor bowl to base, but don’t clean it. Knead dough until uniform in texture (dough will remain slightly rough in texture), 15 to 30 seconds. Form dough into a 4-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and set aside to rest on countertop for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours (or transfer to refrigerator for up to 24 hours).
For the Manti Filling: Meanwhile, in now-empty food processor, place onion, garlic, parsley, paprika, allspice, Aleppo pepper, salt, and pepper and process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 15 seconds. Break up ground lamb into small pieces, add to food processor, and pulse to combine, 8 to 10 one-second pulses (do not over-process, as this will make the filling chewy and bouncy rather than tender). Transfer filling to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed (mixture may be made up to 24 hours in advance).
To Roll the Dough and Bake Manti: Set oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Using a pastry brush, coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with 1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil each and set aside.
Dust countertop lightly with flour. Unwrap rested dough and cut into quarters. Set one quarter on work surface and re-wrap remaining dough. Using rolling pin and fingers, flatten and stretch dough to 5- by 4-inch oval that is 1/4 inch thick. If using pasta roller, proceed to step 8. If rolling dough by hand, roll dough into 12- x 8 1/16-inch rectangle using a rolling pin. Cut dough in half lengthwise to yield two 12- x 4-inch sheets. Cut each strip into seven 1 3/4-inch-wide strips. Divide each strip in half crosswise into two 1 1/4-inch squares; each sheet of dough should yield at least 28 squares. Proceed to step 13.
Set pasta roller to widest setting and pass dough 3 times through the machine lengthwise at this setting.
Place dough on lightly floured work surface. Fold both ends in so that they meet at the center of the dough, and then fold the dough in half where the end points meet, trying not to incorporate too much air into the folds. Using rolling pin and fingers, flatten and stretch dough to 6- by 3-inch rectangle that is 1/4 inch thick. Pass through the rollers lengthwise 3 additional times.
Narrow the setting by 1 notch and pass dough 3 times through the machine at this setting.
Narrow the setting by 1 notch and pass dough twice through the machine at this setting. Continue passing the dough through the rollers, reducing the thickness by 1 setting each time until it measures about 24 x 3 x 1/16 inches (setting 5 on a Marcato Atlas pasta roller). It should now be very delicate and elastic to the touch, and slightly translucent.
Transfer rolled dough to lightly floured work surface, and lightly coat both sides of dough with flour to prevent sticking. Using pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or sharp knife, cut sheet crosswise into fourteen 1 3/4-inch-wide strips. Divide each strip in half crosswise into two 1 1/2- by 1 3/4-inch strips; each sheet of dough should yield at least 28 strips.
Using 1/8 teaspoon measuring spoon, place scant 1/4 teaspoon ball of meat filling in center of each strip of dough.
Working one at a time, using lightly floured hands and fingertips, lift strip of dough in hands and fold in half loosely over filling lengthwise. Pinch sides of dough together, working your way toward filling to enclose it (do not seal dough across top and do not push ball of filling up and out of dumpling). Place manti on lightly floured counter and then gently pinch ends between fingers to form flat-bottomed, stable canoe shape. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining strips of dough. Using fingertips, gently press meat filling into manti to make them flush with top of dough.
Repeat steps 7 through 14 with another quarter of dough (if rolling by hand, repeat steps 7, 13, and 14).
Place baking sheet of manti in oven and bake until lightly and evenly golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
While first tray of manti bakes, repeat steps 7 through 14 with remaining 2 quarters of dough, followed by step 16 to bake and cool remaining manti (cooled manti can be transferred to zipper lock freezer bags and frozen for up to 3 weeks). Once all manti are baked, adjust oven racks so that one is in upper-middle position, the other is in lower-middle position, and lower oven temperature to 325°F (165°C).
For the Yogurt-Garlic Sauce: Using a fork, mash garlic and salt to a rough paste on cutting board. Combine yogurt and garlic mixture in small bowl and whisk until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
To Finish and Serve Manti: In large saucepan, bring broth to boil over high heat. Add reserved lamb pieces, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover.
Return both baking sheets of manti to oven and bake until manti are golden brown and heated through, 15 to 20 minutes (20 to 25 if starting with frozen manti).
Add about 1/2 cup (120ml) hot broth to individual serving bowls. Place 15 to 20 manti in broth and top with 3 to 4 tablespoons yogurt-garlic sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper and sumac each. Serve immediately. (Lamb pieces reheated in the broth are meant to be served as a treat with any remaining manti.)
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