A few years ago I produced a TV food segment about manti — tiny, meat-filled Turkish dumplings. As the chef herself said, “It is not easy making the manti. This is occasional food.”
She wasn’t kidding. After making the dough, she rolled it out and cut out squares the size of a postage stamp. Each square was dabbed with the meat filling, and the four corners of the dough were pinched together to form a star shape. The process was laborious, to say the least; she had to crimp dozens of manti just to make enough for a few servings.
It was right then that I realized I would never, ever, under any circumstance, be making manti at home.
(They were a marvel, incidentally. We ate a full meal after shooting, and I’ll always remember those delicate, little dumplings.)
I hadn’t eaten manti since that day, until a recent dinner at Woodley Park’s Afghan Grill.
In Afghan cuisine, the dumplings are called mantoo. They’re basically the same idea, only larger, the size of ravioli.
Afghan Grill knocks them out of the park.
Everything is working here; the lightness of the meat filling, and the red sauce with a drizzle of garlicky yogurt sauce. But it’s really all about the bite of that dough — soft and pillowy, yet 100% al dente. You can taste the care that goes into making each one.
I imagine mantoo are slightly easier to make than manti, since they’re about five times bigger. Nevertheless, I’m leaving these dumplings to the professionals. When a chef says they are “occasional food,” I’m taking her word for it.
One last thing: when you’re at Afghan Grill, try the dessert of vanilla ice cream with cardamom, almonds and rose water. Trust me.
2309 Calvert St. NW