In a few weeks, we’ll have been writing this blog for four years…and it’s taken until now to write about a Turkish national favourite dish: Mantı. How’s that happened? That’s how life works out sometimes. And also, while we were in Ankara in May, we ate one of the best servings of mantı we’ve ever had, so now seems like as good a time as any to write about it.
We’ve never made our own mantı – it’s a painstaking process for untrained non-nimble fingers, and when you’ve got a good yufkacı just down the road from your house who is always going to do a much better job than we ever will, well let’s just trust the experts. ‘Mantı nights’ have been discussed amongst friends where the idea is we all get together to make our own…that’s yet to happen.
You can see why we leave it to the experts. Kayseri Mantısı is Turkey’s famous mantı, and when we spotted a ‘mantı evi’ (an eatery that specialises in making and serving mantı) while wandering around the Kızılay area of Ankara, that was evening meal sorted.
We’d already had a special, and huge, ciğer şiş earlier in the day, but when we’re travelling around, we get this insatiable urge to sample as many eateries and foods as possible. There always seems to be a little more room somewhere for more food if the urge takes us. In Eskişehir, we’d eaten çiğ börek, köfte and piyaz, more köfte, kokoreç…and more börek…and now we were about to eat mantı. Time to move the belts down a notch!
These photos are not from the mantı evi we ate at. The one we chose was just a bit further along the road but this one had its production line on display to entice customers…and was very convenient for passers-by like us with cameras.
The mantı dough is rolled out into a huge, thin sheet. The sheets are then scored vertically and horizontally to make (roughly) 2 cm squares. And then, as you can see above, tiny pieces of minced meat filling are placed in the centre of each square. Each square is then pinched together, edge to edge, to form a little, sealed parcel.
The mantı is then boiled and served as above, topped with yoghurt and chilli-infused olive oil. A sprinkling of mint and sumac garnished our serving in Ankara. And we were happy: Mantı can go from yum to glum so easily if it’s over boiled, under boiled, if there’s too much yoghurt topping or if there’s too much oil. It must be personal preference but this serving suited us just fine. Well, it did right after we’d done this…
A good dousing of chilli flakes finished it off nicely, for us. A day will come where we get together with friends to do a mantı-production-night – it’s no job for a solitary, inexperienced person because the dough will dry out and crack before all the parcels are made – but until then, the mantı evis of Turkey and our neighbours do a perfectly good job of keeping us going.