I first tasted manti in Uzbekistan, several thousand kilometers along the Silk Road from Istanbul. Later, at a restaurant in Bishkek, a healthy dose of chili paste sent out to our table by the chef took a plate of plump Kyrgyz manti to a level nothing short of sublime. Image my delight to discover Turks have their own version(s) of manti, too. Thank you Silk Road!
Sabirtarşi on Istanbul’s Istiklal Cadessi serves a light, Karseri-style manti. Tiny packets filled with bits of seasoned lamb are popped into boiling water for a very few minutes, then served with a dressing of yogurt, thyme, tomato-pepper paste and sumac. My husband and I enjoyed plates of manti at a window table overlooking Istiklal Cadessi.
After lunch, I was delighted when owner Mustafa Topçuoğlu offered to let me have a lesson on making manti, then and there.
Mustafas’s sister and two other staffers made a place for me at a small table, and after I washed up and donned an apron, set me to work.
Making manti, harder than it looks
There are four stages to making manti, and thanks to my time at Sabirtarşi, I have now “mastered” three of them:
Steps 1 & 2. Prepare the dough for rolling, and meat mixture for filling the manti.
The dough had been mixed and kneaded and the meat mixture prepared before I joined the party. Skip to Step 3.
Step 3. Roll the dough into very thin, elastic disk about one meter in diameter.
This took a few iterations, and more than one demonstration of dough-bashing technique, with generous dustings of flour to keep things from getting sticky. The main thing I learned here was to be assertive, to really whap the dough with the meter-long rolling pin. It was a relief when the dough was pronounced ready to cut!
Step 4. Cut the dough into ribbons, then squares. Very small squares.
I rolled the thin circle of dough into a loose cigar shape, and cut it into 2-centimeter slices. Individual coils were then laid out together, and cut into squares. Here, from Honest Cooking, is Allison Block’s recipe for Kaseri manti, illustrated. She uses a handy ravioli cutter, which is no doubt more precise than my slash technique.
Step 5. Stuff the tiny squares with seasoned ground meat, and seal into packets.
After all this, it is time to put water on the boil, drop the manti in for a few minutes, dress with yogurt and herbs. Enjoy!
Sabirtarşi, a family enterprise
To see the experts at work, check out this video from The Guardian (3:04)!
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My thanks to Mustafa and the staff at Sabirtarşi for putting up with my woefully inadequate pasta-forming talents—and a shout-out to Ansel Mullins of Istanbul Eats for introducing me to Mustafa in the first place!