Still lamenting Seattle’s lack of quality xiao long bao, Seattlest picked up a copy of A World of Dumplings and decided we’d start making them on our own. (Refining the recipe will take time, so don’t hold your breath on a restaurant opening anytime soon.). While thumbing through the book, we stumbled upon a recipe for our old pal, pelmeni.
We discovered these Eastern European dumplings a few years ago while traveling in Juneau. Down by one of the docks was a place called Pel’Meni, serving what the locals say are the essentials of the after-hours: espresso and the namesake pelmeni. The choices were meat and potato, accompanied by a tangy red sauce, sour cream, and hearty bread. Fifteen for five bucks, we recall, and available until 3:30am some nights, with good tunes a-playin’. And they were delicious!
Having a hankering, we went down to Pike Place Market, passed the previously reviewed Piroshky place, and visited Café Yarmarka. We were excited to see a wide variety of fillings: beef, pork, chicken, turkey and lamb–depending on what they’ve prepared. But they were a bit disappointing. These pelmeni were a little mushy outside and a little bland inside.
Most lacking was the sauce. We still dream of that sauce in Juneau: fat from the butter (and added sour cream), with kick from curry powder and Tabasco, and nice notes from cilantro. No wonder they served bread with the dish: without it, we would have been licking the Styrofoam. Café Yarmarka may be good for other Russian goodies, but if you’re down in that part of Seattle craving pelmeni and have some (well, lots) of extra time on your hands, you’re just a boat-ride away from better ones in Juneau. (If anyone can substantiate a rumor that there’s a branch in Bellingham, please let us know.)
Originally published at Seattlest (where “we” = me) on March 3, 2008.