14 March 2015

Food of the Nomads - Your insight to the Tsagaan Sar table!

Following are some wonderful images from Ross who joined us on our 2015 Mongolia winter tour Tsagaan Sar Insight  - Mongolian Lunar New Year.

I absolutely love this photo of Ross wearing his cashmere deel (bought in the Black Market in UB with the help of the EL team together with Turuu and Enkhee who led the trip.

For New Year's Eve (Bituun) and New Year's Day (Shiniin Negiin) Ross stayed with the Zorgio family at Tsagaan Suvraga in Dundgobi Aimag.

Including the daughters of Zorgio and Deegii - Shinee, Saikhnaa and Urnaa

The Tsagaan Sar Table

See the table laden with food? Mongolians typically prepare three important dishes for Tsagaan Sar. 

The main one you can see in the photo is boov – a traditional Mongolian bread (basically biscuits made of flour).  The boov are stacked in layers which have to be an odd number – three, five, etc – as the odd numbers represent happiness. The older the family members, the higher the stack of boov to show respect (the number of levels indicates the status of the family, which is determined by the age of the parents and the number of their children). The boov is then decorated with aaruul (Mongolian dried cheese) and small sweets. 

Also on the table you will find  a whole back of a sheep including the fat of its tail (it's just off to the right in the photo). Mongolians try to cook a sheep with as big a tail as possible, wishing the family wealth and prosperity.  It is served on the table for the entirety of the holiday. 

The third dish is buuz - Mongolian steamed dumplings. Prior to Tsagaan Sar, Mongolian families make literally hundreds of buuz  (kept  frozen until they are steamed for the guests - no need for a freezer when outside it is -30!).  Tsagaan Sar is a time when Mongolians come together to show respect to the family elders and the number of buuz prepared is a way of showing respect to the eldest members of the family. 

Although Mongolian food typically has a bad reputation buuz are addictive and delicious. So. Just in case you are thinking of holding an internationally themed dinner party  and you're looking for something interesting or unusual, here  is a very (very) brief guide to making Mongolian buuz. 

Just to prove that Mongolian food is not all about boiled mutton, here is the vegetarian recipe. Delicious served with Tabasco or Kimchi!

Your Vegetarian Buuz Receipe

Preparing The Filling

First, thinly cut or mince cabbage, carrots, red and green peppers and potatoes (if you're making them with meat then the meat (typically mutton or lamb) has to be in very very small pieces). You can add any vegetables that you like but this is what we can easily buy in Mongolia.  Add few some onions and you can also add some steamed rice. Then flavour with some seasoning and  after that mix well. 

Preparing the Dough

Mix all-purpose flour and water together until you get a dough and then cover  to allow the dough to 'relax' for 20 minutes. After that knead the dough for about a minute then roll it out into a log about 1-inch in diameter. Cut the log into 1-inch slices. Roll out the dough slices into mini circles.

The Final Preparations

Take one of your mini circles and place about a teaspoon of filling in the centre. After that,  pinch the edge on one side, then create another fold next to it. Continue this way while rotating the buuz as you go along. (This is where it usually goes terribly wrong for me!). If it is done correctly (!) then there  should be a small opening in the centre of the top. (Very rarely do I manage to get the opening!).

Having made them, place them in a steamer (not touching if possible) for roughly 20 minutes.

Can you tell the difference between the ones made by Gaya in Kharkhorin and the ones made by me and a few of my guests?  (Although they were way better than I was!). The result was many buuz that look not like buuz at all. They all tasted good though!