By Lorrie Baumann
Paul Theroux was riding the Trans-Siberian Express three days east of Nishni Novgorod, the apple blossom land described by Amor Towles in “A Gentleman in Moscow,” when on page 471 of Theroux’s story about the trip, he was offered manti by a passing stranger. Theroux described the manti as steaming meat-filled dumplings. “I knew the word because I’d heard manti for dumpling in Turkey and elsewhere,” Theroux wrote in “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.”
Some of this came back to me when I stopped in front of Kader Ucar and Hasan Ertas (wife and husband) at the Winter Fancy Food Show. They were standing in front of a banner identifying Ana’s Apron, and what they had on a table in front of them was a little plate of Ana’s Apron Manti, which Ucar, who is Ana’s Apron’s President, described as traditional Anatolian-style manti. Anatolia is the Asian part of Turkey, she further explained.
Ucar is also the Founder of Palo Alto Pasta Co., which owns the Ana’s Apron brand. It’s a woman-owned and operated business located in California’s Bay Area. Ten percent of the company’s profits are dedicated to children’s charities around the world. “’Ana’ means ‘mother’ in Turkish, and I founded this company with tremendous support from my mother. We are using her artisanal old recipe in our Manti pasta, and she now lives permanently with us. We wanted to name our Manti brand after her to show our gratitude to what she has done for us. You can almost always find my mother at home with her apron on cooking amazing Anatolian dishes for lunch and dinner,” said Ucar.
The Manti are little filled dumplings about the size of a marble and the shape of a tiny purse, and they’re available from Ana’s Apron in four varieties: Spinach & Feta & Olive, Five Cheese, Beef & Onion and Chicken & Thyme. They’re similar to Italian tortellini, but they’re based on recipes that Ucar and her family have been making for seven generations. “We sell it the way we eat it in our own family. Some of our most frequent customers are families with young children. Our Manti pasta is a small bite size, so even a three-year-old can eat it without any parental help at the table. Kids love our pasta!” Ertas said.
Ana’s Apron packages the Manti for sale in 10-ounce pouches that serve two and sell for about $6.99 from the grocer’s freezer case. The product is also available in 3-pound pouches for food service and in a family pack.
They’re prepared by dropping the frozen dumplings into boiling water for two minutes and then traditionally served topped with plain yogurt and then tomato sauce on top of that. For customers who are buying their tomato sauce in a jar instead of making it themselves, a simple marinara would be an appropriate choice, Ucar confirmed.
The Beef & Onion variety provides 36 percent of a daily value of protein per serving, and the Spinach & Feta & Olive variety is also rich in protein as well as iron, Ucar said. Shelf life in the grocer’s freezer case is nine months, and Ana’s Apron is currently distributing the products in the Bay Area, with production capacity ready for expanded distribution beyond that. “We’ve been working on it for the last eight months, and we’re ready to take on bigger orders,” Ucar said.
For more information, visit www.anasapron.com.