One of Russian cuisine’s most famous dishes is pelmeni. Pelmeni are minced meat filled dumplings wrapped in a thin dough and cooked by boiling in water. Various meats may be used for the filling in Pelmeni, such as ground beef, chicken, lamb, or pork.
The origin of Pelmeni is somewhat of a mystery, however there are a few different theories. Ural and Siberia claim to be the origin of Pelmeni, yet some believe the Mongols brought the dumplings over to Siberia. Others believe pelmeni were invented by the Chinese.
Whoever in fact invented pelmeni was likely figuring out an efficient way to preserve meat through the winter. And they were really on to something! These dumplings freeze very well so long as you take proper precautions to prevent freezer burn. And so the Siberians would take several days to prepare pelmeni and freeze them through the cold harsh winters. Since you needn’t thaw out pelmeni prior to cooking, they are a quick tasty meal from freezer to plate.
Many countries have their own special variations of pelmeni, or dumplings. Ukrainians have vareniky, the Polish have pierogies, Chinese have jiaozi, and other types of dumplings are popular in middle eastern countries like Kazakhstan and Turkey. The idea of stuffing dough with minced meat and other ingredients is indeed a wonderful thing and pretty universal.
Many people who are not familiar with Russian and Ukrainian cuisine often mistake pelmeni, vareniky, and pierogies for one and the same. First of all, vareniky and pelmeni are prepared with an extremely thin dough. The dough is as thin as possible. The second distinction is that Pelmeni are stuffed with strictly minced meat filling while vareniky and pierogies can have potato, vegetables, and even sweet fillings like cherries (brings back memories of grandma).
Now you are a brave soul if you’re considering making some delicious pelmeni from scratch. I’m not going to lie to you here: it is a grueling task. Perhaps the most time consuming dish I can think of. I remember the days my entire family would stand around the table helping mom with pelmeni from scratch. Mom would knead, cut, and roll out the dough, dad would prep the meat filling, my brother would place a dollop of meat filling onto each dough film and I would tightly press together edges of the filled dough to make a delightful little dumpling.
Today there are brilliant tools that can help you make the tough preparation of pelmeni a bit easier. You may use a mixer with dough attachment rather than kneading the dough by hand! And today there are even molds for pelmeni that you can purchase.
Speaking of purchases, delicious prepared prepackaged frozen pelmeni can be found at a European market ready to boil and devour! Since pelmeni freeze so brilliantly, I must say these store bought pelmeni are quite scrumptious. However nothing beats a homemade Russian meal from scratch, nothing! And the good news is, once you’ve worked your butt off preparing these little bastards you can freeze a bunch and have a quick dinner whenever you please.
I can’t wait to share this beef pelmeni recipe with you, and I’m so excited to have you try this for yourself. This dough is thin and light, and the beef filling juicy and flavorful!
What You Need:
For the dough:
1 cup warm water
1 large egg
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
For the filling:
2 lb angus ground beef
3 garlic cloves
Salt & pepper to taste
Bunch of dill
In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add whisked egg and slowly add the warm water while pulsing. Use dough hook to knead the dough and transfer to a bowl. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. You may also do this without a food processor, however it will take longer as you must knead the dough by hand for approximately fifteen minutes. It’s hard work!
Now we move on to our meat filling. It’s important for the onions to be either grated or minced in a food processor because the juice from the onion is important for the filling. It’s not enough to simply chop the onions by hand. Use a garlic press to mash the garlic cloves. Combine angus ground beef, onions, garlic, chopped dill, salt and pepper together and your meat filling is ready!
And for the fun part! Get the entire family in on this because honestly making homemade pelmeni is not a single person kind of task! So as previously mentioned there are molds for pelmeni you can purchase, but today let’s go old school and make these little dumplings by hand.
Separate the dough into quarters; it’ll be easier to work with. Take one quarter of dough out on a floured surface, and don’t forget to cover the remaining dough as it will dry out if left uncovered. You may use cling wrap and a clean kitchen towel to cover the dough.
Roll out the dough into a long log shape and use a sharp knife to cut one 1 1/2 inch sized chunks off. Flour each side of the chunk of dough. Then roll out into a flat 2 inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Add meat filling, pinch edges of dough firmly to form a potsticker shape. Bring the ends of the pelmen together and pinch to form a little dumpling.
Soon we will feast on the delicious fruits of our labor! Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add bay leaf and add the pelmeni. You don’t want to overcrowd the pot so cook about 15 pelmeni at a time. Once the pelmeni have risen to the top they are almost done. In total, you must boil pelmeni for approximately 10 minutes or so because you must remember, the inside filling is raw meat.
Sift pelmeni out with a large spoon and add to a huge bowl. Drizzle with melted butter. I recall my mom and grandma throwing pelmeni around in a bowl with butter to cover each dumpling. I was always astonished at how high the pelmeni flew into the air!
Traditionally, pelmeni are served with a touch of vinegar and sour cream. My husband loves pelmeni with a side of ketchup but I load up the sour cream, and we sprinkle fresh chopped dill on top for garnish. Pelmeni are considered the main course, so you can add some tasty zakuski, or appetizers, to your table for some fun. Caviar, pickles or lightly salted cucumbers, pickled tomatoes and fresh salad are great additions to pelmeni.
Last but not least, be sure to freeze the remaining pelmeni in a freezer safe bag and thank your family and friends for helping you with the preparation! The next time you’re craving pelmeni, take them out of the freezer, and boil just as you would freshly made pelmeni- that’s right no need to thaw them out! And just one more suggestion- to add even more depth to these dumplings, boil them first and then fry until golden brown in a buttered skillet!
I hope that you’ve either completed this grueling task or you’ve been convinced that it’s worth the end result! Enjoy these one of a kind Russian pelmeni!