Pel’meni Recipes 

Though it was born in the far frozen reaches of the tiga, Pel’meni warms hearts and tummies all over Russia and the

picture of a woman holding a steaming plate of Russian dumplings.

Russian poster promoting Pel’meni

countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union.  It’s Russia’s answer to fast food; real workers chow down at pelmennaya (pel’meni parlors). Pel’meni is food for the masses, but not mass-produced.  No canned pel’meni by Chef Boyar.  Students of Russian history may remember the boyars were the landed gentry class during Moscow’s formative years.

In permafrost regions, pel’meni were made in quantity, frozen and stored outdoors in sacks slung high away from dogs or other scavangers, then cooked as needed.  We can imitate those resourceful Siberian cooks by freezing the pel’meni on a tray and putting them in resealable freezer bags or containers to be cooked later.  Pel’meni can also be prepared and served immediately, but purists insist that pel’meni should be frozen before cooking.

In the old days — and probably in remote areas of Siberia today — cooks just took a frozen haunch and shaved or scraped off the meat needed for a batch of pel’meni.  The traditional horsemeat filling might be difficult to find, or to stomach now.  Modern Russians use ground beef, lamb and pork or mushrooms for the pel’meni filling.

Recipe #1:

Larissa Davidyuk’s Pel’meni

Larissa was my hostess in Moscow.  A scientist, she was unemployed when I visited her in the mid-1990’s.

Make an egg pasta dough.

3 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 cup cold water

Using a mixer with bread hooks or food processer, blend four and salt, add egg, then add water gradually until dough forms a ball.  Transfer to a floured surface and knead about 2 minutes until smooth.  Cover and let stand for 1/2 hour.

[This Pel’meni dough recipe is adapted from  Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen & John Welchman, Workman Publishing, N.Y. 1990.]

Meat filling: Mix of 1/3 pound each ground lamb, beef and pork.  Mix with salt, pepper, 2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic and the 1/2 cup minced whites of scallions.

Roll out the dough appx. 1/8″ thick. Cut circles with a glass. Place small spoonful of filling on the dough. Fold over and pinch closed.  Bring ends together.

Boil water.  Cook the pel’meni in boiling water until they rise in the water, then 5-7 minutes more.  Serve with butter or sour cream. Serves 4.

Once in Siberia, I was eager to pursue the quest for pel’meni.  You might even say I was hungry for an authentic local food experience.  The merest taste of those fish heads and bear paws was all I could manage.

In Khabarovsk, a port on the Amur River bordering China, the hunt for ultimate pel’meni took me to Natalya Mamadzhanova, a spirited blond businesswoman turned restauranteur. Last June, she opened V/Gostiakh u Natali, (“As Natalie’s Guest”), a homey little restaurant specializing in Russian food.

Recipe #2:

Natalie’s Pel’meni in Taiga Manner

Make a soft dough.  (see recipe above)

Make the filling:

To 1 pound of ground pork, add 1 large finely chopped onion and 6 chopped cloves of garlic.

Roll out dough to about 1/8″. Make the pel’meni by putting filling on a small circle of dough.  Fold dough over and seal.  Twist ends of half-circle around to form a ring.

Prepare the sauce:  Make a clear soup from meat bones. Put chopped onion, carrot, pepper, tomato and boiled paparnick (collard greens) in a soup kettle.  Cover vegetables with the hot bouillon.  Add sour cream, black pepper and Korean sauce (soy sauce).  Cook, covered, over warm heat, not boiling.

Meanwhile, cook the pel’meni in boiling salted water, about 8 minutes.  Put in a small serving dish and cover with the vegetable sauce.  Add garlic and warm dish on stove. Serves 4-6.

In the cavarnous, heavily curtained dining rooms of what was once The Khabarovsk Intourist Hotel,  Pel’meni is served in a small ceramic pot which has been covered with a crust and baked. The broth is meaty and the pel’meni are bite sized

Recipe #3:

Intourist’s Pel’meni

Intourist provided tourist services, guides, information, reservations and minders for visitors during the Soviet era. Many large city hotels came under the wing of Intourist which was not known for its creativity, flexibility or attention to customer service.  However, their chefs did know how to make Pel-meni.

Meat mixture:  1 lb ground beef, salt, 1 1/2 cups minced onion, fresh ground black pepper.

On a piece of dough the size of a half-dollar piece, place a small amount of meat mixture.  Fold the dough over and press the edges together. Pull the ends around to  make a halo effect around the top.  Cook in boiling water, 5 minutes. Place pel’meni in small serving crock.  Add meat broth. Cover dish with a round of dough and press dough into sides of serving crock.  Bake in oven. Serves 4.

Recipe #4:

Sveta Gridin lives in Petropovlosk-Kamchatsky, a port on Kamchatka. She was a college student when I met her nearly 20 years ago. Though she is typically Russian in her devotion to family and spouse, her demanding class schedule means pel’meni making is tied to special occasions. I sampled Sveta’s pel’meni at a farewell party she gave for an American graduate student.  Her pel’meni are larger, more like meat dumplings and the cooking broth and vegetables form part of the meal.

Here is Sveta Gridin’s recipe for Pel’meni:

Filling: grind together 1 to 1-1/2 lb meat, 4-5 small onions, and salt and pepper.Dough: Mix 3 cups flour, 1 cup milk, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 eggs. Knead and refrigerate.  Roll into log 3/4″ thick and cut into 1/2″ slices.  Press or roll into circles 1 1/2″ diameter, 1/4″ thick.

Make the Pel’meni: Place small tsp of meat in center of each rolled dough circle.  Pinch closed.  Place on a floured cooking sheet.  Boil water with chopped carrot, cabbage, salt and bay leaf.  Remove vegetables with slotted spoon. Drop pel’meni into the boiling vegetable water and cook for 10 min.  Serve with butter.  The broth becomes the soup course and the vegetables are served on the side.

A version of these recipes appeared in the Culinary Historians of Washington newsletter.

  1. Reblogged this on sleeping with lenin and commented:
    Pelmeni Recipes and some culture too – bon appétit

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