Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Failed Manti

Every summer Doug and I make a point of cooking as much of our frozen foods as possible. In the coastal south, tropical conditions can cause power-outages that mean losing those treasures packed tightly in the freezer.

After rummaging through the freezer shelves, I found a partial package of wonton wraps, and a half pound package of ground lamb. What to make? Manti, of course!

I’d never made manti before, but have always enjoyed it at church bazaars - except for the time when they topped it with vanilla yogurt instead of plain! AWFUL!

Here's what I did to make Short-cut Manti:

For the dough:
I figured the wonton wraps would work well and save me time from making dough from scratch. The recipe called for dough squares that are 2- inches by 2- inches. The wonton wraps were 3- inch squares, so I rolled each one out to four-inch squares making it paper-thin, then cut each into 2-inch squares - a very muscle-building activity. OK, so it wasn’t too time-saving, but at least I didn’t have to make the dough!

The filling was easy.
Defrost the meat in the microwave. Mix in 1 medium onion, finely minced, salt, black pepper, Aleppo red pepper, and coriander to taste. Cook in a little olive oil until onions are tender, and meat is browned. Drain any excess grease. Cool until ready to use.

Shaping the manti.
I spread a little water on the edges of each dough square to act as “glue” to hold the dough together when cooking. After placing about ½ teaspoon of the cooled filling in the center of the dough, I shaped each piece according to the directions in Alice Antreassian’s cookbook, “Armenian Cooking Today” - “lift up and pinch together neighboring corners to form a canoe”.

The shaped manti were placed in a greased baking pan, and baked for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. The bottoms were supposed to be golden brown and the tops just lightly browned.
The final step was to heat the manti in broth for another 10 or so minutes, and top with a dollop of plain - or garlic-enhanced yogurt.

Something went very wrong.
The timer went off, and I went to retrieve the manti from the oven. Much to my dismay, I found a pan of overly-toasted manti. I wanted to discard my failed attempt, but I could hear my mother's voice in the background warning me not to. (With our limited dental plan, I knew Doug and I wouldn't want eat these,  and risk chipping our teeth.)

I didn't throw them away, as I was tempted to do. Instead I wrapped them and placed them in the refrigerator. Turns out, over-baked manti makes a pleasant little munchy snack - once they've softened up a bit. Plain yogurt for dipping  helps, too.

What did I learn from this?
1. Wonton wraps don’t need to bake for 30 minutes.
2. Sometimes shortcuts aren't very short.
3. Throwing away food is forbidden.

Will I ever try to make manti again? Sure, but not until I gain strength back in my arms from rolling all of those wonton wraps.


  1. It's so sad when something doesn't turn out right! I'd love to see what it looks like when you do get the right baking time. My mom wouldn't have let me throw it away either!

  2. I love a cook who admits the occasional failure! It builds trust.

  3. Hi folks, you should check my latest blog. There's a little surprise there for you.

  4. Dear Mom Chef,
    How kind of you for mentioning The Armenian Kitchen on your website! (
    Many Thanks from one Armenian to another.

  5. I have been wanting to make manti for YEARS; so anything I can read about somebody else's attempts is good; so now I am benefitting from your experience with the wonton wrappers, thanks Robyn!

  6. I'm glad you can learn from my mistake(s)!Manti will definitely work with the wonton wrappers; they simply need to be watched carefully while baking.

  7. Manti is one of my favorite foods, and we've always used wonton wrappers as a shortcut (the thought of rolling dough that thin terrifies me). I don't usually cook the meat beforehand though, I just cut the wonton wrapper into quarters and then put a bit of raw meat in each 'canoe'. The meat cooks right along with the wontons. I'm pretty sure I bake at 350 for 25-30 mins, although I usually just eyeball it (we like them a little crunchy so they hold up in the chicken broth!). Better luck next time!

  8. Thanks for the tip! Next time I have the ambition to make manti, I'll try the raw meat mixture for the filling....and, will definitely bake it at a lower temp. while watching it more closely.

  9. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  10. Thanks, Rick. Your comment is much appreciated!

  11. Oops, I meant to write "Thanks, RICH". Sorry for the typo.

  12. wow !!! can't believe it.. does anyone cook the old fashion traditional way anymore?? I have gone through so many links for the recipe for manti, it seems a bunch of odares are out there cooking !!! wonton wraps??? of all my 54 yrs, of life I have never heard of it, my grandmother would roll in her grave... i make it quit often at home, but am on vacation and family wants some.I have an wonderful cook book I had gotton from the church in fresno,CA same as the one my mother had as a young wife. I am proud of the scratches I put on the table, I enjoy making my dough and rolling especially when my arms hurt and ache, I guess what I am saying is I'm proud to be an Armenian, full blooded, and to teach my children the same way, with heart.. well my search continues. enjoy !!

  13. well I hit the wrong key again. my name is sharon der bedrosian not anonymous

  14. Sharon, I hear you loud and clear! Not everyone has the time or inclination to make dough from scratch...personally, I find dough-making to be therapeutic.
    If you can be patient, I promise to post another recipe for manti using homemade dough.

  15. yes we make manti the old fashioned way and are making a day of it next week

  16. it isnt hard just better with 2 people. My son and I have it down to a science now. Learned from my grandmother. Easy but labor intensive. Can't get that taste anywhere else, though!!

  17. My Step Grandmother and Aunt made Manti using large pasta shells. I wouldn't know how it compared to the authentic dough since it was the only Manti I ever had, but it was amazing. They were first generation full blooded Armenian women-but modern, and cutting corners but bringing the flavors to us younger generations was perfectly okay with us!! I really want to try it to make it. II found this blog because I'm craving some Armenian food. Mmmm...

  18. A brilliant idea using pasta shells! This would work nicely with the small-sized shells, too, making it look more like the size of manti. Thanks for the tip.

  19. You couldn't get the crunch when baking them using shells. I don't know what the problem is with making the dough and rolling it out. It is SO easy!!!

  20. Are these also called Mante by any chance? Great blog!


  21. I suppose so, Gabriela. Recipe spellings and pronunciations vary according to region and dialect. Glad you like our blog!

  22. I live in palm beach county. Can you please tell me if there are any Armenian restaurants in the area?
    Thank you, fg

  23. Hello, neighbor! We live in PB county, too!
    There is one Armenian-owned restaurant that I know of, Boca Skewers, near Mizner Park in Boca Raton. (Closed on Sundays) There is also an Armenian-Russian place called the Hollywood Grill right on the Broadwalk (not boardwalk) on Hollywood beach, south of Fort Lauderdale. They serve luleh kebab as well as other kebabs, and basturma is on the menu, too. The ocean view is pretty awesome as long as you sit facing it. This place is very casual and partly open-air.
    And, there's a Middle Eastern place near downtown WPB called, Leila.
    Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, please email me:

  24. This might be considered heresy, but I make "instant mante" by browning one pound of ground lamb or beef with one finely sliced onion, minced parsley, and salt, pepper and garlic. Then I set the mixture aside and start boiling 4 cups of chicken broth.

    Once the broth starts boiling I toss in some small pasta shells.... maybe half of a one pound box... and the meat mixture. When the pasta gets tender, it is ready to serve.

    Important note.... the hot mante soup must be topped with cold plain yoghurt and finely ground sumac. Then eat immediately.

    It's not authentic but it is easy, and you will like the flavor.

  25. Marty, that sounds like a great way to make manti without the tedious work. I do a simplified version of kufteh (see recipe for kufteh - deconstructed) when I crave it but don't have the time to prepare the actual recipe.

  26. I too had a failed manti episode using wanton skins! However, I was boiling mine, not baking them... the wonton skins fell apart and stuck all over the others. Total disaster! I mean, it was yummy, but it did NOT look like it was supposed to... Live and learn I suppose!

  27. When the manti gets too crunch in the oven, you can always add it to a tomato broth (beef stock) and eat it as soup. Crunchy manti in broth! yumm

  28. I have lived in the mid-west for over 30 years and am so pleased to happen upon your website as I was looking for a Monti recipe. I will definitely mark this site as a 'favorite' - Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories of cooking with my Nana out in Los Angeles! Theresa

  29. I love the! I have been visiting your site to get ideas on how to make all of my favorite Armenian dishes. Manti is one of my favorites that I used to make with my grandma growing up. The method that my grandmother used was to pour the tomato broth directly over the toasted manti as soon as she pulled it out of the oven. I plan on making it from scratch this weekend and will post my recipe once I fine tune it. I have tried the wonton paper method several times and it turns out ok but nothing can match up to the from scratch dough! This will be my first attempt so wish me luck! Stay tuned :)

    1. Thank you, Gayane; we appreciate your enthusiasm about our website! We wish you more success than we had making manti and await your results.Good Luck!

  30. Nothing wrong with using Wonton Wrappers!! Makes life easy!! I use egg roll wrappers and cut them to the size I want! However I don't precook the meat just add to the wrapper raw and it will all cook together!!

  31. We used to go to my Aunts, and my mom and my aunt y=would make this all day. we used to put a dime in one and whom ever got it was the winner! yes we all lived! omg how funny!

  32. I use a pasta machine to roll out the dough. Easy!

  33. My mother (Sarah Esralian) might be the "inventor" of short-cut Manti. She discovered this short cut on her own after making it the hard way for years. She made it using Wonton wrappers many years ago, since about 1985 (she passed in 2004 at age 77). I am 65 and have made it this way many years. It is so much faster than rolling out the thin dough.
    Here is a note I sent my friend Hal several years ago:
    Hal; You mentioned those "Armenian meat dumplings" (Manti) look good. Here is how to make them the E-Z way:
    Get the Azumaya Chinese won ton wraps, (12 oz) cost about 2 bucks, maybe $2.29 per package (cheap-o). Take these out of the package and cut them in half, right down the middle. Every store I have been in has them, they are not hard to find. Don't get the real big ones. There are 2 sizes. These say "good for Won Tons".
    Make you meat mixture (really hard, lean hamburger meat (beef or lamb) and diced onions). Take one pound of lean ground beef or lamb (I use 90 % lean) and place in a bowl. Take one small white onion (or one quarter of a big one) and chop it up very fine. The finer the better. Add to meat and mix. I use my hands to mix it. Before you mix, Add one teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (I use fresh ground). Mix up meat and onions set aside.
    Place a small pinch of meat on each half of the egg roll wrappers. I line up 12 of them at a time, get a system going. If you want, have one person place meat on wrappers and another person place in pan. You can fill 2 pans in no time which is plenty for 2 people. I place two small pinches of meat on each wrapper. The size of the meat you place is small about the size of a penny. Pinch them up so it looks like 2 small canoes linked together. Place in a buttered 9 by 13" pan (I use Pyrex or stainless steel pans). Place them all in 2 rows and "squeeze them in" any left over spaces, they need to be close together, all touching. See photo attached.
    Bake at 380 degrees for 22 minutes they will turn golden brown (not too brown). Take out the pans and quickly pour one can of chicken broth until they are almost covered. Place back in oven 10 minutes (this makes them soft). Place in a bowl using a flat spatula (will be wet and soft). My wife Shirley eats them like this. I add a few dollops of plain yogurt which is how most Armenians eat it. Man these are good and simple !! Once you try it, it will become a favorite and it's very simple to make. Refrigerate any leftover and heat up the next day.
    Note: Some people like "dry" Manti. If you do, skip the chicken broth part and eat them dry dipped in yogurt in a side bowl. Armenians call yogurt mixed with a bit of garlic “Madzoon”. YUM !!!
    Tun Hye Es??
    Eye-o !
    Best Regards, Mike (Mourad) Esralian
    Aloha, Oregon

  34. Sigh. Manti has been claimed as authentic when in reality not. Hence the dish coming out "failed" .its a central Asian dish . not armenian, not lebanese, not saudi/Bedouin. Identifying the true origin of the dish will allow one to obtain the proper recipe and ability to cook it well. Good luck.