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Russian National Dish of Pelmeni aka Dumplings
August 15, 2018 16:48


Modern Russian cuisine cannot be imagined without dumplings (pelmeni in Russian), this age-old traditional dish. They have long been rooted in the Russian cuisine and culture. This is a hearty and tasty dish, convenient to cook and store.
The invention of this dish is a disputed matter. Indeed, various peoples over the world have similar dough dishes with meat stuffing. These are Uzbek manti, Georgian khinkali, Jewish kreplah, and Chinese yu-pao. The shape of this dish varies from country to country, as well as its traditional filling, which is very diverse.

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The History of Dumplings’ Origin in Russia

It is believed that the Chinese version of this dish got to Russian Siberia and the Urals in the 15th century approximately. It is not yet known exactly who brought dumplings to the inhabitants of this area. Some researchers believe that this was the Komi people, whereas others assume it was the Tatar nation.

True or not, the fact is that dumplings are ideal for the conditions of the Siberian climate: due to those long frosts, dumplings could be stored all winter through, taken on camping and hiking, etc.


The Origin of the Word “Pelmeni” 
For a long time pelmeni were a traditional dish of the dwellers of Siberia and the Urals. Dumplings were the main and central course of every festive dinner there. In other parts of Russia, similar "patties" with meat stuffing were made as well, but called differently. Their shape, size and filling also varied from one region to another.

It was not before the 19th century that this ancient dish got the general name of "pelmeni". After the abolition of serfdom and the development of the road network, the people in Russia started travelling more and establish closer ties between different regions. Thus, various cultural traditions came to mix and blend.
It is believed that the word "pelmeni" is of Finno-Ugric origin, though still remains unknown, which language exactly it came from. Initially it sounded like “pel-nyan’”, 

which translates as "bread ear" or "ear from dough". Most likely, it was along the "Siberian 

Route", with the exiles and Cossacks that pelnyans came to the Russian settlers of Siberia, where they turned into “pelmeni”.

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How Pelmeni are Made in Russia 

So, how are these famous dumplings made, after all? Pieces of thick dough are rolled into thin rounds, stuffed with minced meat or sometimes fish and the edges are joined together. If you put cottage cheese inside instead of meat, you will get no less popular vareniki. There happen to be even rare sweet vareniki with berries.

Initially, the indigenous Uralians adhered to dumpling filling of three types of meat in a strict proportion: lamb, pork and beef. The Tatars began to use only lamb for the filling, and the Russian chose the combination of beef and pork. However, meat of wild animals - elk, deer, bear and others – could be used as well. Dumplings can also be stuffed with chicken or poultry, potatoes, cabbage, etc.

Pelmeni Traditions
It is believed that dumplings were a ritual dish for the ancient population of the Ural Mountains. Therefore, the recipes and methods of preparation were strictly observed at all times. However, when adopted by various peoples, the dish changed its taste accordingly.

The Siberian tradition was to make the pelmeni at a whole family sitting. This makes sense as they had to be prepared a lot in advance, for the long winter.

Another established tradition was to serve dumplings for guests in a single large bowl. This symbolized the unity of everyone at the table. But if the owner served dumplings to each guest separately, it could be regarded as a desire to get rid of the guests as soon as possible. 
There is also a tradition to add little symbolical things inside the dumplings and tell fortunes based on what one happened to find in their portions.
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Sources: https://schci.ru 


Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Cuisine Dumplings Gourmet Tours   

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