Manti or mante is a traditional Armenian dish; the closest Lebanese or Syrian equivalent to manti is shish barak, yet they are definitely not the same!
To make manti, you need the patience of an angel or (in my case) willing helpers; there were four of us filling these tiny little boats of dough with meat. These tiny parcels are then roasted dry till they take on a golden color; they get then drenched in a simple sauce till the pasta soaks it up, then served with a yogurt sauce dimpled with red pepper or sumac. I found some shortcuts along the way that I will share, but I would definitely not use commercial wonton wrappers and stick to homemade pasta dough.
Found a special rolling pin in Beirut called mantimatic; however, any restaurant supply outlet in the US or kitchen supply store sells a pasta cutter shaped like an accordeon where the blades can be adjusted (widened or narrowed) at will. This would make it easier to cut even ribbons in one roll, then turn the other way at a 90 degree angle and cut them again to make perfect squares (see picture below)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE DOUGH: Two recipes are available and common; either make a pasta dough with eggs and flour or a simple dough with flour and water. I picked the pasta dough because the dough stays moist and is then easier to pinch the little boats shut at both ends.
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup water
INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING:
1/2 pound ground lamb (or beef or both)
1 small onion, shredded or grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp red pepper powder or paprika
pinch black pepper
2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup oil or melted butter to brush on the mantis
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SAUCE:
2 cups water or beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon red pepper paste (can use a few drops of tabasco sauce instead or red chili sauce)
pinch of salt and black pepper and paprika
2 cups yogurt
1/2 tsp garlic paste with salt
1 tablespoon red pepper powder (Aleppo pepper) or sumac or a few drops of chili sauce
1. Combine the meat with the spices and grated onion and parsley; set aside in a bowl covered in the fridge.
2. Make the manti dough; place in a mixer bowl the flour, salt, eggs, spices and start the machine; add the water and oil until the dough is smooth, moist but firm. Roll it up in plastic wrap, set it aside for one hour or two. When ready to make the manti, roll it out as thin as possible and cut it into small squares, about 1″X1″. Place 1/2 tsp of meat filling on each square and pinch both ends simultaneously so that the dumpling looks like a tiny boat. Grease a pan and place each manti side by side on the pan. Gently brush the top of the manti with the melted butter or oil (or spray oil on the surface)
3. Preheat the oven to 350F and roast the mantis until they take on a golden color; meanwhile, heat the water, red pepper paste and tomato paste which will be used to baste the manti, making sure the mixture is almost boiling; pour the sauce all over the manti and reinsert in the oven. Leave in the oven for about 10 minutes or so or until the manti have absorbed the sauce almost entirely. Meanwhile, whip the yogurt and garlic with a fork till smooth and pour into a saucer to serve alongside.
4. Serve with yogurt and a dash of red pepper powder or sumac or a few drops of chili sauce on top of the yogurt sauce.
NOTE: When making the manti dough, a little more a little less flour or water can be used; the idea is to get the dough moist but firm; when rolling it out, sprinkle the counter with some flour if it sticks too much.