As a kid Mantou was the kind of dish that made me love being Afghan and to this day I can’t help but get giddy when I see mantou at a party. It’s the perfect combination of ground beef dumplings, topped with a thick creamy yogurt and a delicious vegetable sauce. Perhaps it’s because I like pasta, because Mantou reminds me of a perfect pasta dish. I think a reason why Afghans love mantou so much is really in the process and occasions it is prepared for. Mantou is typically prepared for parties and special events, and therefore requires many hands in helping stuff each dumping. I always remember feeling like an adult when I was about fourteen and my mom and aunt had me help them stuff mantou for a party. Mantou can easily be associated by many Afghans with an afternoon spent with family in the kitchen as everyone pitches in to help make a favorite dish. That by itself brings back such warm feelings around this time-consuming dish.
Ingredients for Filling:
-2 lbs Ground Beef
-3 medium onions finely minced
-1 Package of square wonton wrappers
-Oil for coating the steamer and Mantou
-2 cloves Garlic
-Salt, pepper, coriander for seasoning the ground beef
1- ) Place the ground beef in a skillet and cook for about half an hour. It’s important to cook the ground beef for the mixture; some people fail to cook the ground beef which results in the filling turning into bland meatballs inside the dumplings. Make sure to stir and break up the ground beef so it’s not chunky but finely grounded. Once cooked remove ground beef from heat.
2- ) Place the ground beef in a sift or drainer in order to get rid of the oil in the ground beef. Just press down the ground beef gently so the excess oil is removed.
3- ) Take three medium onions and finely mince by hand or preferably in a food processor.
2- ) Mix the ground beef and finely minced onion. Onion is key in this dish because while you really can’t taste the onion, it gives flavor to the ground beef and also makes the dumplings less heavy. When eating the mantou you don’t really taste or notice the onions, but it’s important to have a ratio of about 60-40 with forty percent of the mixture being onions. Mix this with the ground black pepper, salt, and ½ teaspoon of minced garlic just to flavor the mixture.
3- ) Open your package of mantou dough (wonton wrappers). Dab your finger in a bowl of water and dab water on the edges of the square. Place about a teaspoon of mixture inside of the dough. Now fold over a corner of the dough and press down the edges so you create a wide triangle with the dough.
4- ) Next take the two edges of the dough and bring together in the back, you can use a little water and press the ends together.
5- ) Once all of the mantou have been filled, take out your steamer. Fill the bottom pot half way full with water and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, grease the pots that the mantou will be cooked in with oil.
6- ) Once water is boiling, take a bowl of oil. Place the mantou one by one into the pot in the steamer. Then brush each mantou with oil so they are all coated with oil. Dampen two paper towels with water and place on top of the mantou.
7- ) Place the lid onto the steamer and let the mantou steam for about forty five minutes. If you check on the mantou and it looks like the mantou are soggy, don’t get nervous this just happens in the cooking process. Just cover the steamer and let the mantou cooked until the dumplings feel firm like pasta.
(Since the mantou is prepared in a “steaming” method, make sure during the cooking time steam is coming out of the steamer. This sounds silly but it’s a reminder to check that your heat is on medium and high enough so that the mantou steams properly. )
-Mantou is topped with a vegetable Kurma of usually lentils or kidney beans. I like both, but prefer kidney beans. The cooking method to both is very similar. For mantou with both Kurmas your goal is to have a nice tomato sauce, and should not be cooked too dry where there is not enough sauce.
Dal-Nakhod (Yellow Split Peas)
1- ) Take one cup of Dal Nakhod and soak in water for about fifteen minutes.
2- ) Finely mince one large onion. Place in skillet with oil and ½ clove of minced garlic. Fry onions until a light brown color.
3- ) Add drained Dal-Nakhod (Yellow Split Peas) and 1 cup of boiled water to the onions. Stir and let it come to boil.
4- ) Once the Dal-Nakhod is at a boil, there may be foam at the top of the water. Gently spoon out the foam from the water.
5- ) Once you have removed the foam, add one can tomato paste, one teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon or less of black pepper, and a small pinch of finely ground cardamom. Add about two more cups of boiled water and let this all simmer on medium for about twenty minutes with lid on.
Check Dal-Nakhod while cooking, if it’s too dry and there is not enough water add ½ cup of boiled water, but don’t put too much water you just need it to cook the yellow split peas.
6- ) After about twenty minutes your Dal-Nakhod should be cooked and soft. By that time the water should be absorbed by the Dal-Nakhod and there should be oil at top with a nice tomato sauce. If the Dal-Nakhod appears too watery, put the temperature at low and let it cook with lid off until the oil comes to the top.
The Lubya (Kidney Beans) should have a nice Kurma (sauce) and not be too dry. If you feel there is not enough Kurma (sauce) you can add a little bit of boiled water to the Kurma and let it simmer.
1- ) Finely mince one large onion. Place in skillet with a little oil and 1/2 clove of minced garlic. Let the onion brown to a light brown color.
2- ) Once onions have browned, add half can tomato paste and one can of tomato sauce. Bring this to a simmer for about 10 minutes so your sauce begins to develop. Add kidney beans drained with about 1/3 cup of boiled water. Season with salt and pepper. Let this simmer for about half an hour so your sauce thickens.
-Have about two cups of Chakkah ready.
Once Mantou is prepared, take out a big serving platter. Spread a layer of chakkah on the serving platter. Then place the mantou on top of the chakkah. Top the mantou with spoonfuls of Chakkah all over, but make sure you don’t overdo it with the chakkah. Sprinkle dried mint on top of the chakkah. And for the final step take large spoonfuls of the Lubya or Dal-Nakhod and pour on top of the mantou. You should be able to see the mantou dumplings underneath the sauces. The dish is ready to serve warm. (I will share a guilty-pleasure, mantou tastes amazing as a leftover as well, I have been guilty of eating mantou cold the next day straight of the fridge, it’s like a messy taste of heaven.