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Cooking with Oko and Erica

posted Oct 4, 2008, 9:03 PM by Pacific Rim   [ updated Oct 7, 2008, 9:17 PM ]
Buuz (Mongolian Dumplings)

Precautionary Notice:  This “recipe” produced enough buuz for fourteen people.  One of the participants, however, happened to be Zen.  Zen eats five times the amount of a regular person.  Please do not replicate this recipe verbatim unless you plan on feeding at least eighteen people.

I should have envisioned that Mongolian home cooking was going to be tough to neatly package and present to the kitchens of the US.  My idea of submitting a traditional recipe card for our blog flew out the window when Oko ordered three kilograms of mutton.  We also purchased three kilograms of flour, a half a kilo of onion, one garlic bulb, salt and pepper. Ingredients in tow, we made our way back to Zaya Hostel 1 where eager students awaited their inaugural, as chefs, into the world of Mongolian cuisine. 



Dough Wraps:

During our session Oko utilized our numbers to efficiently conquer tasks simultaneously.  Jessica and Kately were in charge of dicing onions and mincing garlic.  Zen, Rachel J. and Fayez were appointed to be butchers and Jane, Marlene, and Todd dust their hands with flour in preparation to make the dough.


The dough consist of only flour and water.  Oko cautions not to make it too wet nor too flakey.  If it is too soft it will disintegrate during the steaming process and if it is too flakey the buuz will not even make it to steaming but fall apart during construction.  The dough is to be made ahead of time to allow time to sit.  Cover the dough while preparing the meat insides.

The meat should be diced finely but not minced.  Oko prefers dicing mutton to ground mutton because pulverizing the meat wastes essential juices.  It is necessary that buuz be juicy.  Nima claims that the more juice/fat that explodes out of the buuz when one bites in, the higher quality the buuz.  Nothing but the best for us!  Meat is easier to dice when it is partially frozen.  We learned this the hard way using hostel knives that hadn’t been sharpened in years.  Eventually we managed to carve our way through two of the three kilograms of meat and decided that our hunger was becoming insatiable and could not wait for the third kilo to be dealt with.


Erica and Oko mixed the mutton with the onions, garlic, salt and pepper.  To ensure delicious buuz, Oko cooked a small spoonful of the meat mixture and adjusted the larger mixture accordingly.  A dash of salt! A dash of pepper!

Now for the flurry of fun!  The dough was kneaded, cut into long strips, and then rolled into snake like sections.  The snakes were divided into pieces a half an inch in width then rolled in between the hands before being tossed back into the bowl to be coated with flour.  Each dough ball, approximately a quarter sized in diameter, is then rolled flat with a rolling pin (or water bottle in our case).  The flatness of the wrapper should NOT be consistent.  Dumplings with thin middles break during the steaming process, thus it is important that the middle of each wrapper is slightly thicker than the edges.



There are many ways to wrap dumplings but buuz are commonly round and the excess is gathered at the center and top of the morsel.  To achieve this, a dollop of meat mixture is placed in the middle of the wrapper, using ones thumb and pointer finger in a cyclic manner, and the edges of the dough are pinched together above the meat and in the center of the dumpling.  Keep wrapping until either the dough or filling disappear!


Grease the steamer with vegetable oil prior to placing the dumplings on the rack.  Then steam for 25min without interruption.  If the meat is still thawing or the buuz are frozen then steam for at least 30 min.

In hindsight it was a mistake to let Zen watch over the buuz while they were steaming.  By the time he called us into the kitchen to eat, half the plate was already devoured.  Lucky for the rest of us we had plenty more to spare!!


Bon Appétit!

(Article by Lisa L.)
(Photos by Lisa L., Marlene, and Todd)