How Pel’meni dumplings became a Juneau staple and expanded beyond Southeast Alaska

How Pel’meni dumplings became a Juneau staple and expanded beyond Southeast Alaska
How Pel’meni dumplings became a Juneau staple and expanded beyond Southeast Alaska

A pelmeni order from the Anchorage Pel’meni restaurant. (Jeff Chen / Alaska Public Media)

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The scent of curry, dumplings, and butter wafts by way of the home windows outdoors Pel’meni in downtown Juneau. The restaurant is an Alaskan tackle a basic Russian residence cooked meal – dumplings.

Yana White is from Russia and moved to Juneau from there in 2009. White stated that she likes the meals in Juneau’s pel’meni store, however she lacks the style of Russia.

She grew up and did pelmeni along with her household as soon as a month on Sundays. It was a tedious course of that took hours to roll out every circle of dough and fill the meat filling for a couple of hundred pelmeni. As a toddler, she invents each excuse to not make pelmeni anymore.

However trying again, she misses these occasions. For White, making pelmeni is not actually in regards to the meals.

“It is extra in regards to the household time I had with my mother and father,” White stated. “It is the thought of ​​togetherness if you sit collectively within the kitchen and speak about life. You’re speaking about your college. You speak about your loved ones members. And on the similar time you’re making this nutritious, filling meal. “

White nonetheless does pelmeni, however not as typically as she would really like. Not too long ago her daughter requested to make pelmeni along with her. White hopes to do pelmeni along with her quickly, simply as White did along with her mother and father and grandparents in Russia.

“My daughter loves them and does not eat them with conventional spices like bitter cream or vinegar. She eats it with ketchup, ”stated White.

The pelmeni that you simply discover in Juneau are usually not solely conventional. Along with vinegar and bitter cream, they’ve much more toppings – a number of butter, curry powder, coriander and sriracha. And subsequent to it there’s a slice of fluffy rye bread.

The non-traditional toppings are additions made by proprietor Dave Bonk. Bonk purchased the restaurant in 1998 from an American ex-patriot who began the restaurant with the primary purpose of promoting it and returning to Russia.

“We went there after hours one night and he stated, ‘Sure, do you wish to purchase, do you wish to take it over from me?’ And he is solely been doing that for a month or two, ”stated Bonk.

In return for the restaurant, all he wished was a airplane ticket to Russia.

Juneau’s Pel’meni Restaurant is positioned on the Wharf in downtown Juneau. (Lyndsey Brollini / KTOO)

At first, enterprise was sluggish. The primary day of labor for him was July third, the busiest evening of the 12 months. That evening he solely offered three orders.

However he is made a reputation for himself through the years. He stated one of many causes for his success is that he by no means advertises.

Bonk used to make all dumplings by hand. Typically it took all evening. Finally he transformed a German sausage machine to make pelmeni in order that he now not had to try this.

“It was by far essentially the most enjoyable I’ve ever had, it doesn’t matter what job or occupation. It was additionally the toughest factor I’ve ever completed, ”stated Bonk.

One second that Bonk notably notices to at the present time was when an enormous queue stood in entrance of Pel’meni’s door in 2001. He did not have a TV the place he was residing in North Douglas on the time. Bonk requested folks what was happening as a result of that line wasn’t regular.

That was the day of September eleventh. Somebody in line informed him what had occurred. When he requested them why all of them got here to Pel’meni, they stated that they felt most comfy there. Or that they did not know the place else to go.

It actually confirmed Bonk what a spot he had created with Pel’meni. And that day remains to be one of many busiest lunches he is ever had.

The restaurant has turn into an integral a part of the Juneau neighborhood. Individuals who grew up in Juneau nonetheless bear in mind the times when pelmeni was $ 5.

Pelmeni, Russian dumplings, are cooked on the Juneau website in Pel’meni. (Lyndsey Brollini / KTOO)

The present supervisor of the Juneau Pel’meni is Leighton Bullock. He has been managing director since April of this 12 months.

“Realistically, it is one of many chillest locations on the earth,” stated Bullock. “You’ll be able to at all times are available in and get some good meals that makes you are feeling good. And you’ll want to come again if you stroll out the door. “

Pel’meni is open a lot of the 12 months. Bullock stated the restaurant has been open every single day since 2011, together with through the pandemic.

It is also one of many few eating places in downtown Juneau that’s open late. This, mixed with the low worth, has made it a well-liked place.

“You realize, you get your highschool college students and also you get your hipsters and also you get your late evening events that are available in and simply throw you numbers and say, ‘I would like three. I would like 4. I would like 5, ”stated Bullock.

Pel’meni was only a Juneau factor for a very long time. However it has grown. First to Bellingham, the place the proprietor Bonk now lives.

When Bonk moved to Bellingham, Mark Moore took over the Juneau website. After working there for a very long time, Bonk gave him the blessing to increase Pel’meni.

Moore first opened a retailer in Sitka and now has a brand new location in downtown Anchorage at 434 Ok St.

David Clark lives in Anchorage however has been to Juneau many occasions and is a large fan. Clark hadn’t been to Anchorage on his final go to to Juneau’s Pel’meni and was uncertain what to make of it.

“Yeah, I would say, you recognize, it is a fairly stable Juneau factor,” stated Clark. “I am unsure how good will probably be, how lengthy it should keep in Anchorage.”

David Clark eats pelmeni in Juneaus Pel’meni on October 18, 2021. (Lyndsey Brollini / KTOO)

Clark remembers the primary time he had pel’meni in 2014. He flew to Juneau to apply regulation within the Legislature and everybody with him informed him to go to Pel’meni. When he tried, he was addicted.

“It is not nearly food and drinks or what is especially vibrant in comparison with different locations,” stated Clark. “For me, it is actually nearly what reminiscences you accumulate right here.”

One among his fondest reminiscences recently was going to Pel’meni after hanging out with pals at an out of doors bar downtown.

“We ended up closing the shop, you recognize, simply sitting there laughing and speaking about something and every part,” stated Clark.

Later that week, Clark drove to Anchorage Pel’meni for the primary time to see the way it was in comparison with Juneau.

David Clark visits the Anchorage Pel’meni website for the primary time on November 1, 2021. (Jeff Chen / Alaska Public Media)

Positioned throughout from the Captain Cook dinner Lodge in downtown, the Anchorage retailer is adorned to really feel acquainted to Pel’meni patrons. On the counter is a classic money register and the important query of the dumpling spinner.

“Would you want meat or potatoes?” Requested Edouard Seryozhenkov Clark.

Whereas ready for his order, Clark seemed round and stated it was fairly simple to inform that he was in a pel’meni store.

“After all, similar to in Juneau, there’s some type of little library of data and there’s additionally a document participant …” stated Clark. “That is undoubtedly like a more moderen constructing I’d say. So it does not have the identical rustic type of homeliness because the Juneau Pel’menis. “

Dumpling spinner Edouard Seryozhenkov prepares Pelmeni on November 1st, 2021 in Anchorage Pel’meni. (Jeff Chen / Alaska Public Media)

Behind the counter it was Edouard Seryozhenkov’s second working week. Seryozhenkov is Russian, born in Anchorage and raised along with his household who make comparable dumplings, though he has by no means been to the flagship retailer in Juneau.

“Right here you costume her in all types of issues like curry powder and sriracha sauce and coriander,” stated Seryozhenkov. “The Russian fashion is just a little richer, extra soupy. Sure, to every his personal. ”

He stated the shop was open the primary weekend, it was slammed. Lunch time on a weekday is fairly gradual, however Seryozhenkov stated that does not imply the dumplings will not catch on in Anchorage.

“I feel this place works finest late at evening. Certainly this place, like a Christmas tree, is lit up. And if you may get folks to come back right here from the bars, it should pop, ”Seryozhenkov stated.

A couple of minutes later, with the dumplings on the desk, David stated the one noticeable distinction between the 2 shops was the half-slice of bread that accompanies the pelmeni. In Juneau it is marbled rye, however in Anchorage it is plain outdated white bread till the rye comes.

“They undoubtedly style recent. I truthfully cannot actually inform the distinction between Juneau and Anchorage, ”stated Clark.

Nonetheless, Clark stated he wasn’t positive if the Anchorage Pel’meni will take off as a lot because the Juneau or if it should fill an analogous area of interest as a community-building nightspot. He says solely time will inform.