Healthy and Sane

PFB C#4: Let’s make pelmeni!

October 9th, 2010 · 37 Comments · Uncategorized

As always, I must start this post by thanking you for voting for me to advance to round 4 of Project Food Blog. I worked really hard on the Luxury Dinner challenge but was humbled when I saw my competition. There are so many talented hosts and hostesses out there! I was nervous but you came through for me (the judges obviously enjoyed my dinner post as well) and I’m in the top 100. Woohoo!! (Seriously, I started texting everyone I knew with the good news when I saw a little trophy next to my last post)! So with your help I’m here with the post for the next round and I’m REALLY excited about it.

Challenge 4 is all about educational step-by-step photos. We could make absolutely anything as long as the pictures guided the reader through the process. I love how much flexibility there is in each challenge. I wanted to do something that most people haven’t tried before or were intimidated to attempt and so the idea of making pelmeni was born. :)

In case you are unfamiliar with what that is – pelmeni (which by the way is plural – a single version is a pelmen’ (<– soft “n”) but you never eat just one 😉 ) are Russian meat-filled dumplings. The most traditional Siberian version is filled with a mixture of half pork, half beef. Other parts of the former Soviet Union have their own versions (some even have bear meat!! Ick! 😯 ).

I grew up in Moldova at a time when shelves at grocery stores were bare (and I mean, empty – nothing) and rumors of a shipment of meat, flour, or sugar (etc.) brought crowds to stores hours before they opened. Sometimes we were rewarded for the long hours in line with the ability to purchase said item; sometimes we went home empty handed. Yet, at every special occasion or even any time someone dropped by to say hello, a huge feast with every food imaginable was served (people got creative, shopped at farmers markets, even took trips to different towns to find foods that could be frozen or made into something else) and pelmeni were always part of the spread. Pelmeni were a big part of my childhood and are definitely comfort food to me.

So for challenge #4 I decided to invite my mom over and finally learn how to make them… Ready to learn with me? [Btw, this is a really good step-by-step tutorial for making any kind of dumpling from scratch!]

For the dough:


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 70 grams of butter
  • 1 cup ice water
  • pinch of salt


Let’s get going!

Combine flour and 1 egg:


Add butter (cutting it into little pieces will help with incorporating it into the mixture)


Add a pinch of salt – like so:


Now add the water, hold some of it.


With the hook attachment, let your Kitchen Aid do the mixing for you; add the rest of the water if needed (you’ll see if your dough is too dry and there is still flour that won’t incorporate).


Here is what the dough looks like – it’s pretty silky to the touch.


Now, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. This will help the gluten to develop (i.e. your dough will be smoother with less air pockets if you cut into it).


While the dough is resting, prepare your meat filling.


  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • (traditionally) 1 small onion, pureed in food processor (I didn’t use this – you all know why 😉 )
  • salt and pepper to taste


Combine your 2 kinds of meat (and pureed onions, if using) with your hands (<– the easiest “tool”).


Add salt and pepper to taste – we added about 1T. Voila, your filling is done!


Time to make the dumplings! :mrgreen:

Flour your surface:


Cut the dough into about 8 pieces…


… work with 1 ball at a time, covering the rest so they won’t dry out.


Roll the dough out – work from the middle out. This dough is pretty dry and flexible and quite easy to work with.


Roll each dough ball as thinly as possible.



Cut 4″ circles out of the dough – you can use a fancy cookie cutter or a glass with sharp edges like we did (how Alton Brown of us 😉 )


All right, so there are many different shapes you can form the dumplings into. My mom learned this very pretty version when she was little. I think the pictures should explain this process better than words…



Pinch a corner…


Pinch one side of the dumpling…


… and connect it to the other side:








Pinch the last corner together:


Pretty, no?


Make a few and then boil them for 7 minutes to taste (this is the only way to know for sure whether you added enough salt). Don’t forget to salt the water!!


While your dumplings are boiling, pour yourself a glass of wine. You deserve it! :)


[After tasting the first round, we added a bit more salt and also added more salt to the water – the dough will be bland if you don’t add enough salt.] Now, let’s make more dumplings!!


My mom’s dumpling shape is very pretty, but I wanted to make something even easier! Here is how you make the traditional Siberian shape.

Pinch the 2 sides together all around:


Yes, just like that.


Now, connect the 2 bottom corners together…


Done! Such little cuties and seriously SO easy to make!!


We flew from there. I made the ones on the left, my mom made the ones on the right (btw, this recipe makes about 100 dumplings, this is just some of them).


After you’ve used up all your dough and filling – and are ready to eat – boil yourself a serving! (Again 7 minutes when they’re fresh – boil water, add dumplings – do not overcrowd the pot! – let it come to boil again and then start your 7-minute timer).


Enjoy a nice big bowl of pelmeni with your choice of sauce! [The Georgian satsebeli (spicy tomato) sauce is delicious (can be found in Russian stores); I also like it with just tomato paste. Sour cream is probably the most popular accompaniment and adds a nice creaminess to these meaty beauties :) ]


Mmm, a little taste of childhood in my (very grown-up) home. 😀


If you’re not eating the whole batch, these freeze great! Just freeze them flat on a cookie sheet or a plate overnight and transfer to a freezer bag the next day. They cook in 8 minutes from frozen – perfect for a busy night (and you’ll know you’ll still be eating real food you made yourself!).


I was SO happy to finally learn this. Seriously, so easy and so delicious. You can use other fillings – pelmeni’s cousin is vereniki which use the same dough but have vegetarian fillings like mashed potato and mushrooms or cabbage (or really anything you choose to make it with). Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope you learned something here and try making this some day!

PS – voting for challenge 4 begins Monday at 9am PSTuse the link on the widget on top left to vote for me if you enjoyed this post and would like to support me. I’m currently in Maine with no real internet access (blogging this from a coffee shop to which we drove for 30 minutes just to make this post happen!) but will be back in a few days to answer comments and emails and of course share more recipes with you! Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!! 😀

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37 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Clarice

    Elina I love this post! I didn’t know you grew up in Moldova. I only learned about this country a few years ago from a friend of mine who spent time in Bulgaria. Good luck; glad you made it to this round.

  • #2 - Liz

    Great post, Elina! I love that you chose something that is so personal to you, and this was a fantastic tutorial. I always shy away from anything that requires rolling out dough but have been wanting to make my own dumplings for a while now. Seeing this makes it seem like it isn’t as hard as I was imagining!

    • #3 - Elina

      Liz, this dough really isn’t hard to work with and it’s so satisfying at the end! :)

  • #4 - Tiffany

    Yum! Now I want dumplings.

  • #5 - annie

    omg i love dumplings! you do it so well! I only know how to make the round ones. so jealous!

  • #6 - Carly

    These look AWESOME!!! I love that you had your mom teach YOU something for this challenge, instead of yous simply teaching your readers. I’m sure it made it more fun for the both of you :) Now I want to make some dumplings!

  • #8 - maria @ Chasing the Now

    I loved this post and your photos. Sounds easy, but also fun. I will definitely vote for you this round!

  • #9 - Katie @ The Small Boston Kitchen

    Look at you go!! I love all the pictures you took and this recipe looks great, reminds me of pierogies! Good luck in the next round, I’m rooting for you!

    • #10 - Elina

      Katie – I think it is similar. We call pierogis something else but the images online definitely look the same :)

  • #11 - Lauren at KeepItSweet

    this is a great post and i love the story behind it

  • #12 - Shannon

    very similar to pierogies :) and what a great step by step montage!! love it :)

  • #13 - Michelle

    Great job Elina! I love that you used some of the tips from KAF too! You’ve got my vote and so proud that you’ve made it this far!

  • #14 - Jenny

    Those look yummy! I love that you chose a recipe that is obviously close to your heart. Well done! You have my vote :-)

  • #15 - DessertForTwo

    Congrats on making it to round 4!

    I loved hearing about your childhood. Feel free to share more :)

  • #16 - One Healthy Apple

    Fabulous job! My mom walked me through making piroshki a couple of times and I’m still intimidated of them, but love the experience of making them together. I’m voting for this one for obvious reasons!

    Congrats on advancing too!

  • #18 - Marina

    This reminds me of my childhood too – my mom, grandma and I would make hundreds at a time. I’m glad there is such a personal story behind your challenge entry. Voting now!

  • #19 - Amelia from Z Tasty Life

    great “pinching” instructions!!!

  • #20 - Kelly

    Congrats on advancing. These look so delicious.

  • #21 - Jen @ Tiny Urban Kitchen

    Great job! And congrats on making it this far!

    Ha ha, I ALMOST did my post on homemade Asian dumplings but decided at the last minute to try something I’d never done before. I also had no idea you were from Moldova. Love how we’re learning new things about each other through these posts!

  • #24 - sippitysup

    I have never had these, but am now obsessed with them. Yum and beautiful. GREG

  • #25 - Rachael

    I love this! I spent about eight months trekking across Eastern Europe, Russia and Siberia interviewing folks about their experiences in the 40’s and 50’s and every location had it’s own version of pelmeni. Thanks for taking us back to your roots!

    • #26 - Elina

      Wow, Rachel – that sounds like such an interesting experience. Maybe if you make these, it will bring you right back to that trip… food has a tendency to do that :)

  • #27 - MelissaNibbles

    I love the step by step pictures. These look amazing.

  • #28 - Lizzy

    I love the photos and the step by step instructions- makes it look easy (even though I am sure it’s not.) Is that sauce spicy? It looks delicious! What Russian store do you recommend- I know there is one right on Beacon and Washington.

    • #29 - Elina

      Lizzy – yes, the sauce is a little spicy (it’s SO good!). I don’t frequent Russian stores but my parents’ favorites are Baza in Newton and Bazar in Allston. :)

  • #30 - Whit @ Amuse Bouche

    those are gorgeous and you made it look easy!

  • #31 - Notes from the Fatty File

    These look delicious but I really loved the story telling in this post, too. I’d love to hear more about your childhood in Moldova.

  • #32 - Megan

    These remind me of pierogi and potstickers. I learned how to make pierogi from my aunt a few years ago, and I just cut squares of dough and pincedh them together, but I may try cutting out circles next time. I bet they’d be so much prettier. And the pleating your mom did reminds me of when I made potstickers. I think it’s so great that you learned this and taught us all in one go.

  • #33 - riceandwheat

    Wonderful post! I love dumplings of all shapes and sizes and these actually look a lot like the Asian dumplings I usually make, but I bet they taste deliciously different – I can’t wait to try them.

  • #34 - Kerstin

    I love all your pictures – what a fun project! Voted of course :)

  • #35 - anncoo

    Great post! voted you :)

  • #36 - Julie @ Willow Bird Baking

    I love that the dish you chose is a personal one, and that you shared that about your childhood with us. It made the dish more meaningful for me! You have a vote from me!

    My own post is a romp through croissant making that’s filled with humor, exhaustion, and a little bit of popstar glamor. Come see if you’d like :)