Siberian Dumplings (Pelmeni)
Pelmeni are a national Eastern European (mainly Russian) dish - usually made with a filling, wrapped in thin dough (made out of flour and eggs, sometimes with milk or water added). The filling can be minced meat: pork, lamb, beef or any other kind of meat can be used and mixing several kinds of it is very common. Fish, cabbage, potato and cheese are also popular options. The traditional Ural recipe requires 45% of beef, 35% of mutton and 20% of pork to make the filling. Often various spices, such as pepper, salt and onions are mixed into the filling as well.
Pelmeni are usually stored frozen and prepared immediately before eating by boiling in water until they float, and then 2-5 minutes more. The resulting dish is served on its own or with butter and/or sour cream (mustard, mayo, tomato sauce, ketchup and vinegar are popular as well). Some recipes suggest frying pelmeni after boiling until they turn golden brown.
Regional differences exist in the making of pelmeni. In the Urals they are always boiled in water, while in Siberia they are boiled in meat broth.
Pelmeni belong to the family of dumplings. They are closely related to Polish pierogi and vareniki - a Ukrainian variety of dumplings with a filling made of mashed potatoes or cottage cheese. They are also similar to Chinese jiaozi and potstickers. The main difference between pelmeni and other kinds of dumplings is in their shape and size - typical pelmen' is roughly spherical and is about 2 to 3 cm in diameter, whereas most other types of dumplings are usually elongated and much larger.
In the United States, the term 'Pierogi' or 'Perogi' is often used to describe all kinds of Eastern European dumplings, regardless of the shape, size or filling.
The origin of pelmeni is not clear, and many versions exist. The most widely accepted one is that they were discovered in the Urals by Russian explorers and pioneers, who found that a similar dish (called pelnyan - literally "bread ear" in the native Komi and Udmurtish language), which consisted of pieces of meat wrapped in very thin bread, was being used by the native people of the region. Consequently, farther west in Poland, pelmeni are called uszka, which also means ears. Another theory is that pelmeni were invented by hunters, who were looking for light, easy-to-prepare and nourishing food to take with them on long hunting trips (besides, pelmeni can be kept frozen for very long periods of time without any loss of quality or flavor, and the water they are boiled in makes a pretty good soup). Yet another theory suggests that pelmeni originated in northwestern China (thus explaining the use of spices such as pepper, which are non-native in Russia and had to be imported). In any case, pelmeni are documented to have already existed in central Russia by the 16th century. In Russia making pelmeni is not only a food preparation process, but also a social event that brings the family closer together since everyone usually participate in the process. Below you will find instructions on how to make pelmeni yourself at home.
Russian Pelmeni (Original Style)
4-6 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups water
½ lbs ground beef
½ lbs ground pork
1 onion (chopped very finely)
½ tbsp Salt
¼ tbsp back pepper
In a large bowl beat eggs. Add salt and water. Stir well then add flour. Blend very well by adding more flour until dough will become really thick and stops sticking to your palms and becomes elastic. Take the dough out of the bowl and keep kneading it on a floured surface until it becomes hard. Cut a piece of it off and form a long string that is about 1” in diameter. Cut this string into many pieces and roll a small circle out of each piece. To prepare a filling combine ground beef and pork along with 1 cup of cold water, diced onion, salt and pepper and stir it all well. By using a teaspoon, place meat stuffing in the middle of every dough circle and pinch its edges of both sides together by folding dough circle right in half. Repeat the exact same procedure with the rest of the dough.
Pelmeni can be boiled in hot salty water and served immediately after they are made or they can be frozen for a very long time and boiled later. Most Russian serve pelmeni with sour cream, vinegar, ketchup or butter.
Other alternatives can be used for filling such as ricotta cheese, sauerkraut, ground turkey or even mush potatoes.