Don’t you just love a good dumpling? Comfort food at its best! Tender, doughy outsides surrounding a flavorful filling. Yumm!
Nearly every culture has its own version (or versions) of a dumpling. Some are sweet, like the Austrian and German apricot dumplings, or the Arabic Qatayef, a type of stuffed pancake, often filled with a sweet cheese or cream. While some are savory, like the Polish pierogi, or the Argentine empanada. They come steamed, boiled, fried, baked, and even frozen. And they are loved by pretty much everyone around the globe!
This particular dumpling, called mantu, comes to us from Afghanistan.
A bit of mantu + Afghan food culture history
Afghanistan, located at the heart of the ancient Silk Road trading routes, has been influenced by the food cultures of the Far East, India, Persia, and the Mediterranean. Mantu, with their wonton wrappers, spiced meat filling, and seasoned yogurt sauce, deliciously demonstrate how different food cultures can beautifully combine into heavenly dishes.
Records of mantu date back at least to the Turkic and Mongol horsemen of Central Asia, who are said to have carried frozen mantu with them during cold winter journeys and boiled them in pots over campfires for a tasty and warming meal. Today, mantu are extremely popular throughout Afghanistan. The savory little dumplings are often served for celebrations, but can also be found at many markets and street vendors.
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A few mantu making tips
While my version of mantu is on the simple side, putting the dumplings together can be rather time-consuming. Stuffing and folding the wrappers is best done while sitting at the table with a good friend or two, and maybe a glass of wine or three.
Or if there are kids around your house, this may be a perfect job to delegate. Or, if you’re more like me, you’ll just stand around the kitchen stuffing and folding, while munching on a spoonful of filling from time to time, while watching your favorite food TV show. 😉
When wrapping the mantu, use your finger or a brush to slightly moisten the edges of the wrapper, then pinch two opposite corners together.
Pinch the final two corners together to form a cute little packet, then steam in a single layer. Deliciousness just waiting to happen!
If you are making the mantu for a party, you can prepare the meat filling and the yogurt sauce a day or two ahead of time. I’ve also had success holding the steamed mantu in a warm oven – just be sure to keep them covered with a piece of lightly oiled foil so they don’t dry out.
Onions are a significant ingredient in this recipe for mantu – it has almost equal parts beef and onion. I’m sure you’ll notice the onion is added raw to the filling mixture, giving the dish a strong onion flavor. If you would like to curb the raw oniony-ness a bit, feel free to cook the onions along with the beef. I used white onions, but red or yellow would work just as well.
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Afghan Mantu – savory beef & onion filled dumplings
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