Pelmeni are the Russian version of dumplings and their national dish although it is now popular in most Eastern European kitchens. They are a pastry dumpling that is filled with a seasoned, ground meat and wrapped in a pasta like dough. They are then boiled and served with sour cream or vinegar.
What is the origin of pelmeni?
While pelmeni is considered the heart of Russian cuisine, it is still unclear as to the exact place of origin. The first discovery of dumplings hail from ancient Greece, but the Ural region seems to be the origin of pelmeni. Another theory suggests Siberia also lays claim to them with the possibility of it being an adaptation of the Chinese jiaozi.
However, it is not clear when it first entered the cuisines of the indigenous Siberian people or the Russian kitchens. One theory even suggests that pelmeni were carried by the Mongols to Siberia and the Urals, and from there, they were slowly introduced to the Eastern European food culture.
The word pelmeni is derived from pel’n’an’ translated to “ear bread” in the native Finno-Ugric Komi and Udmurt languages. These stuffed and boiled dumplings became especially popular by Russian hunters as it was a good way of preserving meat during the long Siberian winters.
This way of preserving meat was especially welcomed as it helped eliminate the need to feed livestock during winter. Because of this, contrary to pelmeni being of Uralic origins, it was very much influenced by the Siberian way of cooking.
The Russian pelmeni recipe may be reminiscent of Chinese dumplings and Italian ravioli as they too are made of ground meat wrapped in an unleavened dough and boiled. Traditionally, their filling is made of beef, pork and lamb. However, in today’s kitchens, ti is possible to find beef and pork mixed together, or beef alone and even ground chicken.
When the dumplings are filled with anything else but meat such as potato, cheese or even mushrooms, they are not called pelmeni but vareniki and they come from Ukraine. Pelmeni belong to the family of dumplings and are related to the Polish pierogi.
When referring to pierogi, no matter the shape and size or filling, it is usually considered a type of Eastern European dumpling. Pelmeni, however, are similar to Mongolian bansh, Chinese jiaozi or Chinese hundun. The main difference among pelmeni, varenyky and pierogi is the thickness of the dough.
The fillings in pelmeni are usually raw, while the filling in vareniki and pierogi are usually precooked. Another difference in the fillings are that pelmeni are never sweet, while varenki and polish pierogi can sometimes be sweet.
Pelmeni can be kept frozen for several months. Generously dust them with flour on the outside in their raw form, place them in the freezer until they harden, then store them in a plastic storage bag to freeze until ready to use.
They are the go-to dish in many Russian kitchens, for people making a quick dinner on busy days. While the best pelmeni are homemade, they can be time consuming to make. This is the reason why they are often made at home for big celebrations like New Year.
The choice of sauce for pelmeni is as important as the filling. The main topping is sour cream with diluted vinegar. The leftovers can be fried and served with butter the next day.
In modern Russia and Ukraine, as well as in the Baltic states and Poland, store-bought pelmeni are considered a kind of convenience food and are associated with students’ or bachelors’ lifestyles, much like instant ramen.
Packets of frozen pelmeni are usually labeled “Siberian pelmeni” because of the Siberian practice of storing and transporting them in frozen form. This version can be found in Russian and Ukrainian food stores, as well as Russian communities around the world.
Pelmeni (пельмени) is a traditional Russian dish originating from the Urals, that is made from a kind of ravioli stuffed with ground meat or fish.
- 5 cups flour sifted
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup warm water or more (at 97 F / 36 ° C)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ lb lean beef ground
- ½ lb pork minced
- 1 egg
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- Black pepper freshly ground
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons smetana or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon sweet vinegar slightly warm
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- Black peppercorns
- Place the ground meat in a salad bowl.
- Add the onion and garlic cloves in a food processor, mix them until obtaining a smooth paste, then mix with the meat.
- Add cold water and knead for 3 minutes.
- Set aside in the refrigerator.
Mix 2 cups (250 g) flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Dig a well in the center of the flour and add the egg, then gently pour in the water while kneading at medium speed.
- Gradually add the rest of the flour while kneading until obtaining a homogeneous dough.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough with the hands until getting a smooth and elastic ball, if not, knead again. If the dough sticks too much to the hands, add a little flour, if on the contrary it is too dry, add a little water.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Roll the dough into balls the size of a large fist and knead each ball on a floured surface.
- Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough balls into a round shape. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, sprinkle it with a little flour.
- Roll out each ball of dough to a thickness of ⅛ inch or 3 mm (no more).
- Cut discs about 2½ inches (6 cm) in diameter.
- Place a teaspoon of stuffing in the center of each dough circle, fold the disc into a half-moon and seal the edges well to enclose the meat.
- Then join the two points and pinch.
- In a large saucepan over a high heat, bring a large amount of water to a boil. Add salt, oil, bay leaves and a few black peppercorns.
- Immerse the pelmeni in small quantities to prevent them from sticking to each other or to the bottom of the pan, and stir them gently.
- When the pelmeni rise to the surface of the water, lower the heat and cook them for around 3 to 4 minutes.
- In order to check if the pelmeni are ready, take one, cut it in half, and, if the stuffing is gray, they are ready.
- Serve the hot pelmeni and add the butter, smetana, sweet vinegar and sprinkle with chopped dill.