Full manti

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!

The view from Sabirtarsi’s fifth-floor restaurant

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.

My task was to roll out the manti dough. Someone to get me out of trouble worked nearby. She only had to drop what she was doing two or three times before the dough was thin enough to cut.

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.

Forming the dough and meat mixture into sealed, properly shaped “ravioli” proved exacting in the extreme.
After several rather awkward attempts, my manti was pronounced “very good”. After almost an hour of practice, I’d turned out a paltry handful of the little fellows, but managed to achieve at least one “perfect!” from my laughing mentor.

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

Sabirtarşi street stand is known for İçli Köfte, which gets top billing in Culinary Backstreets as Istanbul’s “number one street food.” They are very good indeed, but the manti served in the restaurant upstairs gets its fair share of kudos from satisfied diners. I had the good fortune to give both specialties a try.

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!


  1. What an awesome experience to have! My Turkish hubby keeps sending me to the mother in law for cooking lessons but think she has given up with me now. She just gives me the food to take back home with me!

    • I was completely blown away by the food in Istanbul, and so happy to be invited into the kitchen for a turn a pinching dough to make manti. Am equally happy I don’t have to do this in quantities to serve a crowd…Lucky you to have a MIL who gifts you with fab Turkish food. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!


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