It’s winter…time for pelmeni!

In Recipies on December 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm

A meal fit for Soviet hero, Vasily Zaytsev

Pelmeni are pierogi-like Russian equivalents to Ukrainian varnyki, Polish uszka, and Chinese pot-stickers.  They are a daily staple in Siberia and throughout Russia and are the national food of Russia.  They freeze well before cooking and wives of Siberian shepherds and woodcutters make them by the thousands to freeze in the snow for daily eating.

Russians are passionate about their pelmeni and Russian opinions about what makes a good pelmeni are as strong as American opinions on pizza or hamburgers.  The Phyne Dyner sought out the consummate pelmeni recipe and the search became an effort in futility.  Everyone claims their recipe is superior and the Phyne Dyner will likewise claim his as superior to all others.

My recipe uses a “standard” recipe for the wrappers.  I say “standard” because nearly every recipe for the wrappers is based on flour, water, salt, and eggs.  The controversy arises with how much flour goes into the wrapper recipe.

Before we get down to business, a word of warning.  Pelmeni are labour-intensive.  Do not plan on “whipping up” a batch after a day of work…they are a day of work.  This is why Russian women meet up at a friend’s home to make pelmeni over glasses of…vodka.

Another warning!  Pelmeni are not health food.  They are cooked in a rich broth and are usually served with melted butter and sour cream.  Copious amounts of vodka are served with pelmeni.  When I first tried them at the home of my friend Arkadje, a Russian-born Israeli, I asked if the vodka was thought to help offset the risk that comes with the food’s richness.  “No”, Arkadje replied, “It will not help prevent a heart attack.  It will prevent you from worrying about having a heart attack.”

A traditional (meat) pelmeni recipe calls for 50% beef, 30% pork, and 20% mutton.   I make mine with chicken, since I know chickens not to lactate.  But, pelmeni can be made with mixtures of turnips, carrots, potatoes, etc.  I have had some wonderful potato pelmeni (very similar to pierogi) cooked in beet juice (Talk about Russian!).

Folding the pelmeni is a lesson in origami.  I’ve linked a cute video on “pelmeniship” that is hosted by an absolutely charming Siberian…did I mention she is knockout gorgeous?  [Forget those stereotypes from the McCarthy era…Russian women do not all look like old ‘babushkas’.  And the accent?  Mrs. Phyne Dyner is away…I would max out my credit card just to pay the hostess to talk to me about pelmeni or beet greens.]

Okay…set aside a Sunday, buy a bottle of good vodka, invite some friends, and make pelmeni!

Did I mention you need a meat grinder?  You can use pre-ground meats.  But the result is better if you grind the ingredients together.

Meat filling

1 lb chicken breasts (or other meat) cut into strips

2 medium yellow onions

1 TBS dill weed

1 tsp marjoram

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg or ¼ tsp allspice

½ tsp white pepper

¼ tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt


2-4 C flour (making this is a trial and error)

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 C water (some prefer to use milk)


2 qt chicken broth

½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp marjoram

2 tsp dill weed

salt to taste

1 small head of cabbage cut in quarters.

The meat will grind better if it is partially frozen.  Grind half of the meat.  Now grind all of the onion with the meat seasonings.  Then grind the remaining meat.  Place in a bowl and refrigerate while making the dough.

A stand mixer with a dough hook is good to have, but not essential.  Mix all of the wrapper ingredients (using only 2 C of flour to start) and knead for ten minutes.  Keep adding flour until the dough is very elastic and not extremely sticky.  Place in the refrigerator to rest at least 30 minutes.

Mix the broth ingredients in a large saucepan or stockpot.  Bring to a rolling boil and reduce to just above a simmer.

Here’s my adorable new friend showing the process!

I use the ‘snake’ method for making wrappers.  Pull out enough dough to form into a snake, just larger around than your thumb.  Flour your hands and surfaces.  Use a sharp knife to cut the snake into walnut sized portions.  Roll these portions into very thin circles.

Immediately fill the circles with ½ to 1-½ tsp of meat mixture (depends on size of dough circle).  Fold in half and seal the edges.  Now bring the “corners” together and pinch them tight.  Make 10-15 at a time.  Drop into boiling broth and cook for 8 minutes.  When they are nearly done, they will rise to the surface.  Note:  After adding the pelmeni to the broth, gently stir them so they do not stick to the bottom of the pot.  While they are cooking, start rolling/filling another batch.  Remove to a bowl with a bit of the broth.  Keep cooking them until all of the ingredients are used up (about 20-40, depending on size).

Now, gently place the cabbage quarters in the broth and cover.  You can add 1-2 cups of water or stock if the pot has boiled down significantly during the cooking of the pelmeni.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until just softening.  Return the pelmeni to the broth to reheat on low heat for 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls with a bit of broth.  If non-meat or if kosher does not matter, serve with melted butter and sour cream…and LOTS of good vodka!


  1. Yoni: I like your blog very much. Keep up the good word.

    All the best,


    • Thanks for reading, Howard.

      Your wine expertise could be a big part of the Phyne Dyning experience. We’re running 250 unique hits per week, and growing. Best of all, it’s FREE.

      Check us out on Facebook as well!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: