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January 05, 2005



I wonder how similar these are to cornish pasty - they certainly look similar and ingredient wise are the same as well.


In fact pierogi, piroggi... etc (пироги) and pelmeni (пельмени) are not that much in commun, except their stunning popularity and, well, they are both some filled dough.

Origins :
First of all the two recipes have very different origins and different names, "boiled pirogi dumplings" being, I guess, a special made-up name with doesn't make sense to me. Whereas "pierogi" is a traditional russian recipe, the origins "pelmeni", a sort of meat filled dumplings, are rather dim. One consider that they may have been bringing from China, whilst the most of sources presume they come from Siberia or/via Mongolia. My etymological dictionary assumes that the term itself is borrowed from some ugro-finnish type langage.

Pelmeni dough calls only for water and flour. Some add eggs.
For pierogi a yested dough is used. The recipe is slightly different according to the kind of pierogi you are making, sweet or savoury.

Traditional filling for pelmeni is a farcemeal, made of several kind of meat, pork, mutton and beef as often as not. But there are also a variety or vegetarian filling like potatos, mushrooms, eggs, onions, traditionally made during fasting.
For savoury pierogi fillings similar to these of pelmeni are usually used. Sweet pierogi can be filled with apples, cottage cheese, jam or various kind of berries.

Cooking mode:
Pelmeni are cooked in boiling water or broth.
Pierogi are cooked in oven.

Pelmeni are traditionally shaped in small rounds, like some chinese dumplings or ravioli.
Savoury pierogi are quite similar to pies, although sweet pierogi have most often only one layer of dough - the pastry shell with the filling speaded all over.
Piroshki (пирожки), wich are sort of little portioned pierogi, look exactly like these on your picture :)


Katia, thanks for the great explanation. I learned something new and probably will try making pelmeni myself sometime in the future, your description intrigues me. A part of the missunderstanding is definitely my fault: I meant to write that some of the recipes I found for pirogi on the web where for boiled dumplings with a shape similar to Pelmeni.

I think a good explanation about why two different items like the ones I described in my post go together under very similar, at times identical,names is this one, which I recieved from James Prince per email, and paste here with his permission :

"As for Russian filled pastries, I spent 5 years in Moscow (1994-99)and learned quite a bit about them. Hopefully I can help re: your questions on terminology. The picture at the top of your post shows "pirozhki" (singular: "pirozhok"), small Russian yeast-dough pastries that are either baked or fried (never boiled). They usually have a savory filling (i.e. cabbage, meat or potato), but I've also seen fruit-filled ones. The street vendor offerings tend to be fried, whereas home-made versions are usually baked.

The main Ukrainian contribution to the turnover genre are "vareniki" (the prefix "var-" means boiled). They are made from a thin, unraised noodle dough and resemble dumplings (the Polish version of vareniki are called "pierogi", which -- confusingly -- is the plural of the RUSSIAN "pirog", a single large pirozhok). Vareniki are more commonly fruit- or dairy-filled than pirozhki, but usually come with potato or mushroom filling. They can be either boiled or fried (but never baked). The Jewish version of vareniki are called "kreplach" and are usually filled with chopped liver and served in chicken soup.

Other similar treats from the former Soviet Union are "pelmeny" (Siberian boiled meat-filled dumplings resembling tortellini), "manty" (larger Uzbek steamed lamb dumplings), "chebureki" (flatter Tartar fried lamb pies) and "beliashi" (similar, but made of yeast dough and open at the top). The ultimate Slavic pie is the famous "kulebiaka" ("coulibiac" in French), a rich oblong concoction filled with layers of salmon, mushrooms, rice, hard-boiled eggs, dill etc. and enclosed in puff or brioche pastry, in its most refined incarnation.

Three excellent Russian cookbooks that I can recommend are "Please to the Table" by Anya von Bremzen, "The Art of Russian Cuisine" by Anne Volokh, and "A Taste of Russia" by Darra Goldstein."


Alberto, if you're interested, I tried making pirogi a couple of years ago and blogged about it. I didn't quite have the success I had hoped for but I did manage to come out with some decent (not fantastic) little dumplings. I have always meant to tr again but of coarse so many things get in the way and I have not yeat had a chance. Anyway, If you don't mind me leaving a link or two and would like to read about my ordeal, here ya go:
and here:

I turned the comments back on for those two entries because I was given some very good advice. Cheers!


Ronald, the pirogi might look like Cornish pastries but the taste is, to use a wonderful wording from Douglas Adams, "something that is almost entirely, but not quite, unlike" Cornish pastries.

Deb thank you for the links - why should I mind? - and for turning the comments back on. They look really good, pity you were not happy about them... a new batch maybe ;-)?


I just stumbled on to this site while looking for a good baguette recipe. I'm so glad that others are interested in these Russian foods. I am of Tatar heritage and grew up eating piroshki and pelmeni made by my mother along with other traditional recipes. When I was growing up, she would make piroshki dough from scratch and fill them with either ground beef and hard boiled egg or a cabbage mixture. As the years went on, the small community of Tatar people in our area found a short cut (a good one, I might add) by using Bridgford frozen bread loaves for the dough. Not one bit of difference from the homemade dough. I bought the book "The Art of Russian Cuisine" as mentioned by another person above and made the dough from scratch to see if it was better than the frozen brand and after all the hard work found that it wasn't as good. If you're going to make them yourself try the frozen dough...only the Bridgford works, the other brands don't. Just defrost the loaves and cut each into about 6 pieces. Roll out into an oval shape and fill with any filling you want. (I use ground sirloin browned with onions, salt and pepper and then grate a hard-boiled egg into it after it's cooled off.) Bring sides together and pinch it closed (it will look like the picture above on the left). Let is rise until the dough is a little puffy. Then fry in corn oil or canola oil (not to hot, they will burn easily) until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Any questions I'll be glad to help if I can.


Naila, thanks for the good tips. Can't get the loaves you mention here, but then I actually enjoy making things from scratch. Yeah I'm one of THOSE cooks :-).


My newspaper colleagues and I recently had a dispute about the spelling of pirogi, which, in the Polish-Slovak-American home where I grew up, were half-moons of dough filled with sweetened cottage cheese, then boiled. In summer, blueberries were sometimes subbed for cheese. The spelling in question at the newspaper was pierogi. The ie is not a logical combination in this use in a Slavic language because the letter i stands for the "ee" sound. The ie makes an "eh" sound. Also, pierogies, plural, makes no sense. Pirogi is already plural. Pirog is singular. My question is: where did the spelling pierogi come from?


Polish pierogi (Czech pirohy) are always boiled; Russian пироги aren't.
If the Polish word is a Russian loanword, which I strongly suspect, and if it has come to Bohemia via Poland, then the h in pirohy suggests that this has happened before the 15th century (unless of course the word had been Czech-i-fied during the "National Rebirthing"). Whatever the etymology, in the course of several centuries, shifts in meaning can occur.


Ich schreibe auch endlich mal was!
But I guess I should write in English - be lenient please. :)
As one of the lucky persons who can actually enjoy Alberto's cooking/baking/art I'm might able to finally contribute something more to the topic than enthusiastic exclamations such as "Wie lecker!" or "Ist noch was übrig?".
1. My nostalgic longing for Russian cuisine is confined to Soljanka as I have no recollection of Russian candy whatsoever. Maybe Daniela had better connections...
2. Pirogi - if you're still looking for recipes you could also have a look at the Scandinavian baking book. Pirogs in the Russian sense (more or less) are very common in Finland. They're called Karjalanpiirakat, named after the Finnish region of Karelia at the border to Russia of which big parts had to be given up to the Soviet Union in the last century.
The principle is the same though the dough is different. They have quite a rustic taste as they contain lots of rye flour, are usually filled with rice or mashed potatoes, and are eaten with munavoi/egg butter. Not really my taste, but the Finns love them.
3. Pelmeni - could you please make those when I'm in Jena the next time? ;) I really love them since I was in Russia. Of the various kinds I learnt about by reading all the informative comments here I had the (possibly) usual one filled with minced meat and served with sour cream. I had some filled with venison in Estonia, but for my taste the strong taste of the meat did not go very well with the dish.

Ich komm bestimmt Ende Februar mal vorbei. :)


Juliane, versprochen: wenn du nechstes mal in Jena bist, gibt es Pelmeni. Ich könnte vielleich ein kleines Bisschen Hilfe brauchen, um die Pelmeni zu falten ;-)


Just to add to the variety; my family makes a pirohi that is baked first, cooled, then blanched in boiling water a minute and then served with tiny fried onions and butter. Absolutely the best of the best.


pirogis r da bomb!!

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