Monglian Proverb: А муур шинэ загас идэх дуртай хэдий ч энэ нь усанд орж байх болно – A cat likes to eat fresh fish but will not go into the water
Despite being the second largest land locked country in the world Mongolia actually has the smallest population of any country; 2.8 million. Economic instability following the collapse of the Soviet Union has left 35% of the population living in extreme poverty. Harsh winters have claimed up to 4 million animals and contribute massively to critical hunger in Mongolia. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 30,879 people by working to improve access to clean water and devising food security strategies.
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Buuz and Tsuivan
Because of the harsh climate very few vegetables are actually consumed and the Mongolian diet primarily consists of meat and dairy. Similarly Mongolian food is not traditionally ‘spiced’, that’s both chilli and other spices due to the difficulty of growing plants. In Mongolia fatty meat is favoured as it actually helps keep people warm! Buuz – the national dish takes influence from neighbouring China, a steamed dumpling filled with mutton. Tsuivan is also popular and is a noodle dish that uses the same dough and meat as the dumplings; this is typical of Mongolian resourcefulness as a response to the severe weather across the country.
- Mutton – with bones
- Rice vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- Soy sauce
- Spring onion
- Mutton (with bones)
- Szechuan peppercorns
- Soy sauce
- Spring onion
(Both dishes at the same time!)
- Make the dough for the dumplings (and noodles) by adding water and flour together. The dough should be quite springy. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least 15 minutes.
- Chop mutton so it resembles Steak Tartare and put the bones to one side – remember to include all the fat for authenticity and flavour! This is much better than mince meat as it has a nicer texture when steamed. It also means that the rest of the mutton can be used in a noodle dish.
- In a pan full of cold water add a whole onion, a couple of carrots, Szechuan pepper corns, some ginger and the remaining mutton – complete with the bones saved from the other chopped meat. Bring to the boil then allow to simmer while you make the Buuz.
- In a whizzer (or very finally chop) purée together shallot, one clove of garlic and spring onions. Add a splash of soy sauce and vinegar then mix the whole lot into the chopped mutton.
- By now the dough should have rested nicely so take out and cut in half. Put one half to one side and roll out the other half till it’s nice and thin. Using whatever utensil you have to hand cut round shapes out of the dough. Add a heaped teaspoon to the centre and then fold up to make dumplings. When you have finished all the mix put the dumplings in bamboo steamers and set to one side.
- With the other half of the dough make noodles for the Tsuivan. Roll out nice and thin and simply cut into noodles with a knife! It helps to let them dry out a tiny bit – I just hang them over the back of chairs.
- At this point the pot with the mutton should have become a really good stock – remove the vegetables and mutton from the pot with a slotted spoon so only the broth remains. Separate the meat from the bones then dispose of the veg and bones. Add your noodles to the stock (this will give them a really nice muttoney flavour). Pop your bamboo steamers on top of the pot to cook.
- Cut carrot and cabbage, mince some garlic. Heat oil in a wok and add the cooked mutton – the fatty bits will render down and add a great flavour to the dish. Add the carrots and minced garlic cook for a minute then add the cabbage, spring onions and a pinch of sugar.
- Remove and drain the noodles. Add fresh boiling water to the pot and return the bamboo steamers to carry on cooking.
- Make a dipping sauce for your Buuz – fresh ginger batons, vinegar and soy sauce. This is really important as it helps to cut through the fatty taste of the mutton.
- To your stir fry add a splash of soy sauce and the drained noodles.- cook rapidly over a high heat turned constantly.
- By now the dumplings should be ready, you can tell when the dough has become slightly translucent and they basically look cooked, take off heat and serve everything immediately!
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