I know I’m not reviewing the food, but let’s talk about… the manty

Manty

I had a little bit of an ordering boo boo on this one.

I came in and was seated early on and the waitress came over to talk to me.  English was very clearly not her first language, but she was very kind and sweet and putting in effort to have a conversation with me.  I told her a little bit about what I was doing and she thought it was neat.  That, and she said “Oh, so you are anthropologist?”  A-dorable.  Nope, I’m just some dude who eats lots of things.

Anyway, the error came into play when we started talking about the menu options.  Jibek Jolu focuses on Kyrgyzstani food but also some Russian dishes, so I wanted something of the former.  I asked the waitress what was authentic.  She directed me to a dish that I can’t find on the online menu (and I seem to have forgotten what it was called), but it was a Kyrgyzstani meat dish with some vegetables on the side.  A hearty dish that is one of the core meals in Kyrgyzstan.  Great, let’s do that.  I then decided to add a little something extra, since the menu had good selection and since I eat too much.  We talked about the soups and salads and she suggested a soup.  Cool, let’s do a small one of those too.

So I get the soup very quickly, eat it up, and wait.  Meanwhile, the waitress has checked on me a few times with nothing there.  Finally, after 40 minutes I ask if the other portion of the meal is coming, and it turns out the waitress thought that I had switched my meal to the soup rather than add the soup to what I already ordered.  Whoops.  Boo boo.  My original meal would have taken 20-25 minutes (generally a good sign at restaurants, in my opinion) but with my lost time I ordered the more quickly prepared manty instead.

Before I talk about the manty, I’ll mention my drink and the soup.  I got a kompot (“compote”) to drink, which was a dark pink juice.  It was very, very sweet -- sweeter than most other juices I’ve tried.  I'm not sure what fruit is a core part of the juice, but I'm imagining some sort of berry.  The soup I got was called shorpo, and it contained lamb, red potatoes and scallions in a light broth.  This seemed to me kind of like a central Asian version of a wonton soup.  The meat and potato pieces in it were singular and large, and I’d use the spoon to cut them up and eat.

My new main meal was called manty, and it was steamed dumplings stuffed with freshly chopped beef, onions, and pumpkin(? -- I missed that ingredient on the menu at the restaurant).  There was also a dipping sauce in the middle that looked very much like Mexican salsa but didn’t taste like it.  It was flavorful rather than spicy, and I believe there was a big presence of dill (which I loved).

Manty looked and sounded vernacularly like the Afghan dish “mantu”, and I suspect that’s not a coincidence.  Both are central Asian steamed dumplings.  But the flavors were certainly different.  If I recall right the mantu had a creamy sauce on top and was almost like an Italian ravioli dish with a different ingredient profile.

I really enjoyed the manty dumplings.  They were very savory and flavorful in every which way, and very moist and juicy.  They also tasted like they were cooked in broth (and to be fair, maybe they were).

Were they authentic Kyrgyzstani dishes?  I’m guessing they’re regionally central Asian, and these were the Kyrgyzstani version.  So… yes?  Either way, despite the confusion on my order I wasn't upset.  The waitress was nice and I was very pleased with the food.  I aim to go back and try more stuff.

Filed under: Menu Item Analysis

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    Matt Mosconi

    Born and raised in Libertyville, IL, I didn't spend enough time in Chicago as a kid. After moving back here from Cincinnati in 2011, I'm doing my best to make up for that lost time now. I'm constantly curious and love to chat and learn. Variety is the spice of life. Give me a comment, question, or criticism and I'll do my best to help turn it into some thought-provoking conversation.

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