"What is that fabulous smell?!" I excitedly inquired.
"Manta." My gracious host and dear friend, Muge, replied.
The combination of boiling beef and dough, coupled with the familiar aroma of tomato sauce reached my nose and tickled my hunger. I anxiously sat down as she served each of us a dish of magic. The bull's meat dumplings covered with, what other than yogurt, and then topped with the red sauce. I took a moment to let four of my senses relish this fabulousness in front of me before giving my taste the solace it was begging for. I examined the pasta with sheer curiousity, the lack of color confused me. All the other Turkish dishes I had before this point explored every color of the color wheel and even made new colors when mixed together. But this, I was afraid, would only be pink. I touched the soft round object and it was as my eyes told me soft but not too mushy. Then of course I smelled it, as I had been now for several minutes. The smell was more than delectable and I only hoped the dish lived up to its presentation. And finally I listened. My friend explained to me what it was and how she doesn't have it all the time but that its so easy to prepare.
Now. It is time to give into my mouth's desire and take a bite.
As imagined, it was everything delicious and more. Instead of mixing it all together for the pinkish hue I so wanted to consume, I ate it carefully, as to taste each ingredient separately. It was Heaven in a bite. The thin doughy infrastructure that held my precious bull's meat together, melted away in my mouth as if it were an ice sculpture in Florida. The contents inside were meaty and tender and felt much like the inside of a ravioli. The tomato sauce was tangy and hot and complimented its yogurt counterpart which was cool and delicate. This strange combination was the perfect balance of hearty and unique and was both home and foreign to me. The idea of a dumpling, whatever its contents may be, covered in sauce and satisfying, offered me some familiarity but was still something new.
I had it only once again while I was in Turkey. And while I regret not having it more often, I feel as if my lack of consumption makes it more desirable now and will make my next visit with manti that much more meaningful.