Mantu (Afghan lamb dumplings with tomato dal sauce)

Dumplings filled with onion and ground beef or lamb. Mantu is steamed and usually topped with a tomato-based sauce and a yogurt- or qoroot-based sauce. The yogurt-based topping is usually a mixture of yogurt and garlic and split chickpeas. The qoroot-based sauce is made of goat cheese and is also mixed with garlic; a qoroot (Afghan dairy product) and yogurt mixture will sometimes be used. The dish is then topped with dried mint and cilantro.



For DOUGH (If making)
  • 4 cups cake flour (plus more for rolling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon corn oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup corn oil
  • 1 pound very lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 cloves garlic (pressed, or minced)
  • 5 cups medium yellow onions (cut into large dice)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas (rinsed & soaked for 30 minutes)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium vine-ripe tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup corn oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (pressed)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water (plus more as needed)
  • dried mint (for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (chopped (for garnish)


  1. For the Dough: in a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, baking soda, oil, and egg and mix with your hands. Slowly add the water in stages, while mixing, until the dough comes together and picks up all the flour in the bowl. If the dough feels a little too sticky, sprinkle in a little more flour, or if it feels too dry, sprinkle in a little more water.
  2. Knead the dough in the bowl, using the top of your knuckles and flattening the dough into the bowl, and flipping and turning the dough, until it becomes uniformly smooth and soft and is no longer sticky. This could take 20 minutes.
  3. When the dough is smooth, break into 4-ounce pieces, roll into a ball, and then flatten into an oblong shape.
  4. Lay the shapes along the side of the bowl, cover with plastic, and let rest for 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. For the Filling: in a Dutch oven or large saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the beef and quickly stir with a flat metal spatula to break up the pieces, flattening the meat into the pan and turning it over on itself.
  7. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until all the liquid is gone and the meat is browned and dry,
  8. For 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle in the coriander, black pepper, red chili powder, turmeric, and garlic. Add the onions, and then stir continually to prevent the onions from letting off too much of their liquid.
  9. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the pan hot but not let the meat burn to the bottom (some browned bits are ok).
  10. Continue stirring until the onions become soft and translucent and the mixture is dry, about 15 minutes. Add the salt and stir to combine. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter to cool. The filling can be made a day ahead, covered, and stored in the refrigerator.
  11. To Assemble: one at a time, flour each piece of dough and pat or roll into a 3-inch-wide piece. Keep the dough covered with plastic as you work. Dust both sides again with flour, and then feed through a pasta machine at the thickest setting. Dust liberally again, change the setting to two thinner, and feed through again. Dust one more time, change the setting to two thinner, and feed through one last time. At this point, you should be able to see your fingers through the dough; it will be about 1/16th of an inch.
  12. Lay the strip out, cut the rounded tip off, and then cut into squares about 4 by 4 inches. Put a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of each square. With a straight side toward you, bring the upper left corner and the lower right corner together and pinch lightly. Then do the same for the two remaining corners. Put the fold that is at 6 o’clock between your left thumb and finger, and the fold at 3 o’clock between your right thumb and finger. Bring your hands together to meet in the middle, and press the dough to seal. Repeat with the other side.
  13. Brush a single or double metal steamer with a little oil. (You will need to steam in batches if using a single.) Arrange the dumplings in the steamer; it’s ok if they are close together. When the basket is full, cover, and steam over medium to medium-high heat until they are translucent and don’t stick to the pan, about 45 minutes.
  14. For the Tomato-Split Pea Sauce: cover the split peas with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer until soft, about 30 minutes, adding more water as needed.
  15. Puree the garlic and tomatoes in a food processor. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tomato puree; it will sizzle and bubble.
  16. Continue to simmer until all the water is gone, leaving just the tomato and oil, about 10 minutes.
  17. Add the split peas to the tomato sauce, along with the coriander, red chili powder, turmeric, salt, and black pepper. Cook another 3 minutes to combine the flavors.
  18. For the Yogurt Sauce: mix the yogurt, garlic, salt, and water (adding more if necessary) to make smooth but not runny consistency.
  19. Spread some of the yogurt sauce on a serving platter.
  20. Arrange the dumplings on top. Drizzle with more yogurt sauce.
  21. Pour the tomato-split pea sauce over top. Sprinkle with the mint in a spoke pattern, and the red chile powder in between the mint. Scatter the cilantro all over.

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