I have a very silly memory of talking to my friend when we were kids. Somehow we got to talking about food and pelmeni in particular. Before we knew it, we got into an argument about who loved them more. (We must have been really hungry). I remember her saying “if there was a pelmen (singular form) the size of that house, I would eat it”. I immediately felt jealous of such a clear and winning claim. I don’t think I came up with anything bigger than a house to prove to her that nobody loved pelmeni more than I did. However, I do remember that both of our moms were making pelmeni for dinner that day, which is probably what started that conversation in the first place.
To go straight to the recipe for Pelmeni: Russian Meat Dumplings, click here.
Now that I am older, I still love pelmeni. Maybe I don’t dream of a house-sized steamy dumpling, filled with juicy meat filling, but I still love them.
Pelmeni making was and still is a long process, so it is always made in very large quantities. They freeze well, cook quickly, and always taste amazing.
What’s in the name?
There are (of course) several resources claiming the name Pelmeni (Пельмени). From Finnish roots to Ural mountains origins, they all seem plausible. I am not a food historian, though reading about Pelmeni origins took me down a fascinating rabbit hole.
What I encountered the most though, was this:
Pel (soft “L” at the end, like in the word “luminous”) means “ear.”
“Men” (soft “N”, also, like in word “menu”) which comes from word “nyan” which means bread or flour. Flour ears!
*Now, a small, but a really interesting detour: in the Kazakh language (official language of Kazakhstan, where I’m from, along with Russian) the word “nan” (similar to above mentioned NYAN) means bread, and then there’s also India’s well known “naan” bread. Isn’t it fascinating?!
If you look into a Pelmeni recipe online, you will find that there are Pelmeni, and then there are Siberian Pelmeni. Siberian Pelmeni are the same as regular, but a bear serves them to you.
I am totally kidding. Much like my Borscht Recipe, there are countless options that are “the real deal”. I’ve seen people say online that Siberian Pelmeni uses chopped meat instead of ground meat in the filling. Or that it has ice water in the dough recipe or in the filling. I am not entirely sure what the answer is so I wouldn’t claim that these are Siberian pelmeni. Although, according to some sources, they could qualify as such since I do add cold water in the dough.
While we are on the subject of that mysterious vast frozen land of Siberia, I wanted to share my connection. My father’s stepdad’s family lives in the big town of Novosibirsk which is in Siberia. I got to visit them when I was in my teens. I have nothing to say except how beautiful it was! And no, they were not serving in one of the camps 🙂 It is a big city, full of life, nature, and history. If you are curious about it, I found an entertaining article going over some of the major points about the region – click here to read it.
Notes about the recipe
If this is your first time making pelmeni – take a little time to practice. Leave out a few circles of dough with filling scooped on top. Place the rest of the filling in the fridge so it won’t go bad while you practice.
If you’ve made pelmeni before – welcome back, comrade. Park your bear and start pelmeni-ing.
Step by step instructions (also included in the recipe card):
- Set up your work station: get a chair, small bowl of water, measuring teaspoon, your filling, and a cutting board or a plate lightly dusted with flour.
- Dip your finger in water and trace the outer edge of the dough circle. It will help seal it. The same technique is used with ravioli and gyoza.
- Place a teaspoon of filling in the center.
- Gently push the filling in with your thumbs to stretch the circle out and fold it over.
- Pinch the edges really well.
- Now you are left with a pierogi or gyoza looking dumpling which means we are half way there.
- Bring two ends together by gently stretching the flat, just sealed side.
- Pinch the edges again to make sure your pelmeni are sealed.
If you need further instruction, I took some pictures to help you along.
You can barely see it in the picture above, but the second circle (top middle) has water around the edge. If you are confused about the last step, I took a closer picture with directions below:
Once you cut the rounds for pelmeni out of it, there is a lot left that can’t be used to pelmeni. I wasn’t about to throw out perfectly good, freshly made, homemade pasta dough. So, even though it didn’t have a name or even a shape, I cooked it as I would any other pasta, and ate it with leftover Italian sausage. It was fantastic! Any nation’s traditional cooking heavily relies on the no-waste ingenuity and this recipe gives you the opportunity to do just that.
If you do freeze them, add a couple of minutes to the cooking time. Whenever I make a stuffed pasta recipe, I always take one out of the boiling water first, to cut through and sample. I suggest you do the same.
Pelmeni – Russian Meat Dumplings
- 2 inch round cutter – you can use a shot glass
- 2 3/4 C all purpose flour + more for dusting
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 C very cold water + more as needed
- 9 oz ground pork
- 9 oz ground beef
- 1/2 C chopped parsley or green onions, or mixture of both
- 1 medium size sweet onion, finely minced
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 small bay leaves
- drizzle of olive oil
Toppings (optional, but highly recommended)
- salted butter
- soue cream
- freshly ground black pepper
- Mix all dough ingredients in a bowl until the dough is soft, elastic, and doesn’t stick to your hands.*Depending on the humidity levels, it may take up to 20 minutes.
- If the dough is too dry, rub a couple of drops of olive oil on your hands and continue kneading.If it’s still dry, do the same but with cold water.Alternate oil and water until it’s soft and elastic.
- If the dough is too runny, dust it with flour and continue kneading.
- Grease a bowl with olive oil, place the dough inside and cover with a lightly damp towel.
- Let your dough rest at room temperature while you prepare the filling: mix all “Filling’ ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.
Rolling out and cutting
- Place the dough on a cutting board and cut in half, and then again. Leave one piece out and put the rest back in a bowl, covered with lightly damp towel.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough until it’s about 12 inch long/wide.
- If it sticks to your hands, dust it lightly with flour. I like to flip mine from time to time to make sure it is not sticking to the table.
- Using a 2 inch round cutter, cut out circles – there should be about 25.
- Set up your “assembly line”: small bowl of water, measuring teaspoon, filling, and a cutting board lightly dusted with flour.
- Dip your finger in water and trace the outer edge – it will help seal it.
- Place a teaspoon of filling in the center.
- Gently push the filling in with your thumbs to stretch the circle out and fold one half over the other.
- Pinch the edges thoroughly.
- Bring two ends together by stretching the flat, sealed side.
- PInch the edges again to make sure your pelmeni are sealed.
- Proceed with the remaining dough. (If you have leftovers, they freeze well).
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil and add salt, bay leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Carefully add pelmeni to boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Take one out and cut to taste it.
- When all pelmeni are cooked, discard the bay leaves, strain, and serve with desired toppings.