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What are Pelmeni?

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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Pelmeni are traditional Russian dumplings, which are said to have originated in Siberia. Similar to Chinese dumplings, pelmeni consist of ground meat and minced onion wrapped in thin dough. These dumplings are usually made from scratch in large batches and traditionally include the whole family in the making. Though they can now be bought frozen at local Russian grocery stores, pre-made pelmeni are considered "bachelor food."

Originally, pelmeni were made by the female members of the family, frozen, and carried by hunters on winter expeditions. When the hunters camped for the night, they would melt snow over cook fires and boil some of the pelmeni for their nightly meals. Even in modern times, it is still a matter of pride for the female members of a Russian household to make pelmeni from scratch.

Pelmeni is made with both ground beef and pork. The two meats are mixed together in equal parts and combined with diced or minced onions. In Russia, beef and pork mixtures are sold in local grocery stores and are often easier to find than pure ground beef or ground pork. The filling mixture also includes salt and pepper. Some recipes may add garlic to the meat filling, but garlic is not a traditional ingredient.

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Dough is made from flour, eggs, and water. Flour is first sifted, and then an indentation is made in the top of the flour mound, into which the eggs are cracked. The dough is kneaded as water is gradually added. After all the water is added, the dough is covered and left to sit for half an hour. Dough can also be made in a bread maker.

Traditionally, dough is rolled into a long tube, usually called a snake, that is approximately 1 inch (2.54 cm) in diameter. Then, inch long pieces are cut from the snake and rolled into thin circles. Pelmeni molds are also available to speed this process. When rolling dough, both the work surface and the rolling pin should be floured to prevent sticking.

Small portions of meat filling are placed in the center of each dough circle and then the dough is folded over and pinched together. Finally, the corners are turned inward until they overlap, making a plump circle. To cook, the dumplings are placed in lightly salted water and boiled until they float to the top. Traditionally, 100-150 pelmeni are made at a time, but only a portion of those are cooked. The rest are frozen for later use.

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