February 01, 1996

An Ear of Dough: The dish that tamed Siberia

By Yelena Utenkova

Considering Russia's unique geographical position as bridge between Europe and Asia, it's only fitting that one of its classic national dishes is pelmeni a food with its history in Russia's eastward expansion and its origins in that quintessential continental divide, the Ural Mountains.

In the 17th century, Russian explorers crossed the Urals and set about taming Siberia. They soon took notice of a local dish consisting of unusual pies with meat filling. They were called pelmeni, which in the language of the Komi-Permyak tribes means "ear of dough" because of their more than passing resemblance to this organ.

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