Dandeegeen Diaries—Chapter 2: Manti

As I settle into the daily routine of home quarantine, it was time this week to roll up my sleeves to make manti. Like many of my friends on Facebook, everyone has been posting their prized manti productions in beautiful circular trays, perfectly laid out with an interlocking design. Final products look like works of art. How hard could it be? I was inspired and decided to just jump in. 

I read the recipes on pages 47 and 48 of the St. Stephen’s Ladies Guild cookbook and was sure to have all the ingredients on hand. Many on Facebook advised me to use wontons, suggesting it would be easier and taste just as good. So to make my first attempt not so difficult, I figured I would use wontons. As luck would have it, not a single wonton package was found at the grocery store in these COVID-19 times. So I went old school and made the dough myself. And that’s when all things went south.

Hands down this was one of the most difficult cooking tasks I had ever undertaken to date. I was in way over my head, but I decided I had to push through and try, even though I had no real tools to roll the dough or cut it. I could not find my mother-in-law’s circular metal tray as I had saved this prized possession of hers just for this occasion. I had to make due with a regular baking tray and also roll the dough with a “bourma” stick. Thankfully Seta Dakessian reminded me to have plenty of water close by for my fingertips when handling the meat and dough.

After nearly four hours, I made just enough manti for the family for dinner. It was not a pretty sight. The pieces were different shapes and sizes, some thicker than others. There was no uniformity at all. It looked like a child had made the little boat shaped figurines filled with savory meat. Some boats looked swollen and disfigured, others looked like the boat was overflowing with meat. But spending 25 minutes in the oven, the meat began to emit a wonderful aroma and the dough browned to a golden crisp. The boat shapes began to appear more uniform and the smell of manti, the manti I made from scratch, filled the kitchen. The true test would come from the five food critics at home. I am my own worst critic, so after prefacing my dough was too thick, that it was not crispy enough and it didn’t look as appetizing as the bags that are always sold out at the annual bazaar, the family loved it! I was in disbelief. Proof that looks aren’t everything. 

I must confess I knelt down after standing and leaning over the counter for hours, imagining all the medzmamas and mayrigs who stood for hours on end in their kitchens, making these delicacies for their families. This is a labor of love. The fact that our church Ladies Guild and Armenian Relief Society (ARS) ungerouhis spend hours and days preparing these recipes to raise funds for our communities is praiseworthy. It is truly awe inspiring how they do it. Hats off to the many volunteers in every community who do this every year for their bazaars. I too hope to join in this age old pastime to improve my craft and learn from the masters. It is the only way to pass the torch to the next generation of dandeegeens.

*Chef’s Note: I purchased the Kitchen Aid attachment for pasta making to make working with the dough more manageable next time. This should help with rolling the dough out better.

Heather Krafian

Heather Krafian

Heather Apigian Krafian was born in Detroit, Michigan and was one of the founding students of A.G.B.U. Alex Manoogian School in 1969. She graduated Michigan State University in 1988 with a bachelor’s in International Relations and cognate studies in German and Russian. She holds a master’s in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University. As an ANCA intern, Heather worked for the Minority Rights Group in London under Ben Whittaker. She’s also worked at Zoryan Institute as its Armenian Studies Coordinator. She began her career in education in 1990 after which she became the assistant principal of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School from 2006 to 2008; she currently serves on its Education Committee. She has also served on the Board of Trustees at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church. Heather is a member of the ARS Cambridge “Shushi” Chapter and a member of the ARS Eastern Region Board of Directors. Heather was the 2010 recipient of the Knights of Vartan “Community Leader” Award and the 2015 recipient of the Eastern Prelacy’s Certificate of Merit. She is married to Ara Krafian; they live in Belmont, MA with their four daughters Araxi, Nairi, Anoush and Knar.
Heather Krafian

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4 Comments

  1. When my Mother and Metz Myrig made Manti, they didn’t bake them, but put them in the hot chicken broth with madzoon. They sprinkled dried anookh (spearmint) in the broth. Also, they fried pieces of the square dough to use as a garnish. Metz Myrig called it cootter.

  2. Good for you for trying it “old country” style. I resorted to won ton covers the one and only time I made manti myself. Might be fun (?) to try it from scratch, just for once. Will probably be only once!

  3. Our Detroit area Daughters of Vartan have an annual Manti & More fundraiser every February. We and spouses and friends get together for a day of manti-making about a month before. We have so much fun! We have the dough rollers, the dough pinchers, the meat distributors, the cookers, etc. We accomplish a lot in an afternoon.

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