What’s Cookin’ – Manti (Armenian Soup With Meat Filled Noodle Canoes)

In my post, Three women who helped shape my world view, I talked about an Armenian woman, who everyone referred to as Gram, that I knew in my early 20s.  I listened to her stories while sitting and working with her in her kitchen.

Moving to Boston from the Midwest, I had my first real exposure to different cultures and different cuisines.  I had yogurt for the first time and stuffed grape leaves and paklava (the Armenian version of Greek baklava) and many, many other unique dishes.  I attended a church that had services in Armenian.  I also got to experience many other ethnic group cuisines and cultures living in close proximity to the city of Boston and all that it offered with just a simple walk up the street to hop on the bus or subway.

I fell in love with the Armenian dishes prepared by Gram, and have had hand written copies of them in my recipe box for all of these years.

After talking about her in my previous post, I dug out some of the old recipes that I haven’t made in years.  One of my favorites is a soup called Manti that is a broth filled with little meat filled dough pinched into the shape of canoes.

Gram used to spend an entire day making a gigantic batch of Manti noodles which she then froze.  You could easily make one bowl or many by simply adjusting the amount of broth and throwing in the appropriate number of handfuls of the frozen noodles.

The bottom line is that it takes a little bit of time to prepare the meat filled noodle canoes, but making the actual soup only takes a few minutes.

I have taken Gram’s recipe and reduced it to a reasonable sized batch and broken it down into the various steps.  I also adapted it to use a stand mixer for kneading, but, of course, Gram kneaded all of her dough by hand.

While almost every nationality has its own version of a dumpling or meat filled dough soup, this version is one that I find unique and so, so good.  It’s really worth the effort to make it.

It reminds me of the years I lived in Boston as a young woman traveling the city often on  my own and having new and wonderful experiences and learning lots of new things.

Funny how food can trigger so many memories.

 The first step is to prepare the dough.  Measure all of the dough ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low until combined.  Using medium low speed, knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Remove the dough from the bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before rolling.

You will see in the picture that I left the dough on the counter and covered it with a bowl.  Normally, I would put the dough into a bowl and cover it with a towel, but Gram always just left it on the table, where she had kneaded it by hand, and covered it with a bowl until she was ready to roll it out.  So that is what I did as my personal tribute to her.


While the dough is resting, prepare the meat filling by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl.  I used my impeccably clean hands to combine well.  Also, Gram always used hamburger to make her Manti, but many recipes call for lamb or a combination so I included that note in my version.

This is really the hardest part, and it does take a little bit of time.  Roll out the dough into a rectangular shape.  You can see that I really ended up with large oval.  Not to worry, I used every scrap of dough just like Gram used to do.

Gram also used a large wooden broomstick handle for her rolling pin and had a yardstick which she used for measuring and scoring.  Necessity is the mother of invention and her kitchen included lots of items that were re-purposed for her needs.  Oh, and no one ever touched these items to use them for what they were originally intended.

The trick to using up all of the dough and the meat is to divide the dough and the meat mixture into 2 pieces.  After rolling out each half and scoring, dab each square of dough until you have used up all the meat.  Gram used to make 1″ squares of dough, but other recipes say to make 1½” or 2″ pieces.  I like the smaller pieces, but larger pieces would take less time.  I think it’s just personal preference.

Gram used to just pile all of the meat filled noodle canoes onto one big sheet pan and dollop several large pieces of shortening on top.  She baked them until they were very golden brown.  Other recipes do this step a little differently and have you baking only until lightly golden brown.  This is also personal preference because in the end the dough will be cooked by boiling in the soup broth.

At this point, Gram would put the cooled noodles into freezer bags to make soup at a later time.  My adapted recipe makes enough for two 4-serving meals or one 8-serving meal.  I divided the noodles into two freezer bags.  The noodles do not have to be thawed prior to making the soup.  They can be boiled to doneness directly from the freezer.

To make the soup, you will need some chicken broth, a little tomato paste, and some plain yogurt for topping.  The yogurt is optional, but I love the tangy creaminess it imparts to the broth.  Please make sure you use unflavored, unsweetened plain yogurt.

Actually making the soup is the easy part.  Add the broth and tomato paste to a large saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat.  Add the meat filled noodles and bring back to a low boil.  Cook until the noodles are tender (like pasta) for about 4 to 6 minutes (or longer if you made bigger noodle pieces).

A bowl of Manti (pronounced mun-tah) Soup.  A walk down memory lane.


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5 Responses to What’s Cookin’ – Manti (Armenian Soup With Meat Filled Noodle Canoes)

  1. Pingback: What’s Cookin’ – Lahmajoon (Armenian Pizza) | Mama's Empty Nest

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