Pelmeni are to Russians what Ravioli are to Italians. A filling, delicious and staple part of the diet. A quick look at the tasty history of pelmeni reveals that these meat filled Russian dumplings are adaptations of the Chines potsticker. Its distinct rounded ear shape is what also sets it apart from Ukraine’s close cousin vareniki or pierogies as they are more commonly known in Eastern Europe.
The name pelmeni comes from the original dish prepared by the indigenous people from the Ural Mountains called Komi. They named the dumplings “pelnyan” which meant ‘little bread ear’ in their native tongue. Today’s pelmeni bear little resemblance to the dish prepared by our ancestors.
Readily available at most ethnic stores and supermarkets pelmeni’s authentic flavor has been lost in the mainstream shuffle. Traditional pelmeni were prepared with dough made of whole wheat and soured over a period of days by fresh whey, and stuffed with meat of wild game. Cooked slowly on an open fire, this dish was hearty, especially during the cold winters. The dumplings could also be prepared for future meals and kept frozen thanks to the winter snow.
Pelmeni are actually the epitome of rustic slow cooking, and enjoying the flavors and textures of seasonal produce. Served with fresh sour cream or yogurt, pelmeni are the essence of Russian soul food.
Pelmeni parties are popping up all over Russia and the world as college students and young professionals travel abroad. While cooking usually means boiling packaged dumplings for 5 minutes, making pelmeni is an entirely different story.
Cooking usually means boiling for about 5 minutes, either in water or clear broth – in which it can later be served. Some recipes suggest frying the pelmeni after cooking until they turn golden brown. Then, once ready, the dumplings are served up with a dollop of sour cream, or sometimes butter, mustard or horseradish.
Our signature pelmeni recipe is below for your cooking pleasure! Schedule a cooking evening with your partner or friends and enjoy home-made pelmeni Enjoy an evening of pelmeni making with your friends over a glass of wine.
It’s fun and definitely home-made!
- 3 c flour
- 1/2 c cold water
- 1 ea egg
- salt to taste
- 1/2 lb minced meat (beef, pork, lamb or mixture of all three)
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Finely chop small onion and place into a bowl with raw minced meat. Use beef, pork, lamb or a combination for the tastiest and most tender meat. You can fresh chopped or dry dill as seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare the dough by mixing three cups of flour, one egg, half a cup of ice cold water, and a pinch of salt in a big bowl.
- Knead well until dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. (You can skill the chilling step if the water you use keeps the dough from sticking to the surface.)
- Take out the chilled dough and divide into several pieces. Roll out the pieces into a thin layer — about 1/8 of an inch or thinner. Take a small shot glass and cut out rounds from the dough. Make sure your surface is lightly floured to prevent sticking.
- Place small mounds of meat filling in the center of the dough and pinch the edges like a dumpling. Make sure there are no openings in the edge and that the meat filling is secure inside the dumpling. You can then bring one edge to the other to make the infamous rounded ear shape. Pinch the end to secure everything in place.
- Boil a large pot of salted water. Carefully drop pelmeni one at a time into the pot. Add a few drops of olive oil to prevent pelmeni from sticking together. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until pelmeni have floated to the top.
- OPTIONAL: You can flash fry the cooked pelmeni in buttered pan until golden brown. They will have a harder, crunchier outside and soft meaty inside. Serve warm topped with fresh sour cream, creme fraische or plain yogurt. Garnish with fresh dill or parsley. You can also serve with butter, mayonnaise, gourmet mustard, vinegar or Russian spicy horseradish.
Let us know what you think of this recipe by leaving a comment below. Garnishes mentioned in this post can be ordered on RussianFoodUSA.com.
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