Sunday, April 3, 2016

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of the World: Mongolia

The Location: Mongolia
Continent: Asia, north
Capital: Ulaanbaatar
Current Head of State: President-Tsakhiagiin Elbegdarj, Prime Minister-Chimediin Saikhanbileg
Form of Government: Unitary Semi-presidential Republic
Official Language: Mongolian
Ethnic Groups: Mongols, Kazakhs
Formation Date: Has been occupied by humans for 40,000 years.
Population: As of 2015-3,042,511
Currency: Togrog(the o's have the two dots over them but I can't make my computer do that on this blog program.)
Independence Day: 1911-From China
Main Religion: Buddhism
National Anthem:
Mongolian Folk Song:

The Food: Mongolian Millet and Green Milk Tea and Tsuivan
I think a lot of people in the US think Mongolian food is the same as Chinese food or that it's grilled meat and stir-fries, but this is wrong. Mongolia lies between China and Russia, and because of this, its cuisine is influenced by both cultures. Mongolia is a landlocked nation, largely pastoral and nomadic. It is heavily meat- and dairy-based because the land is not very conducive to growing produce.

Mongolian Millet and Green Milk Tea

2 cups water
2 cups whole milk
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1 Tbsp. green tea
For the millet “garnish” (optional):
1/4 cup millet
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. flour

Add the milk, water, and salt to a saucepan and heat until almost simmering.
Add the green tea (in a tea ball) and let steep over the heat for 4-6 minutes, or to desired strength. Remove the tea and increase the heat so that the mixture just barely simmers.
Meanwhile, toast millet in a skillet over medium heat in butter. Dust with flour and continue toasting until golden brown.
Add the toasted millet to the tea mixture and cook 15-30 minutes or until the millet is tender.
Right before serving, check your seasonings and add some extra salt, if desired.
Ladle steaming hot tea into everyone’s cup or bowl, being sure to give everyone a healthy amount of millet (which will most likely be settled on the bottom of the pot).
Makes 4 servings
This recipe didn't really work for me. It had potential, but I would have needed to tweak a couple things. First, I think the salt didn't blend well with the green tea. Green tea has a very grassy taste and if you aren't used to it, you might want to add something sweet to counter the flavor. Salt just made the grass flavor even stronger. And it was just too salty. I recommend leaving it out, as well as using unsalted butter, if you have it. You could also use oil to toast the millet and it would work just fine. And as for the millet, I should have cooked it for the full 30 minutes, because it was only half cooked. Half-cooked millet is very chalky and doesn't taste very good. I think the tea, water, and milk would have been just fine, and if the millet had been properly bloomed it would have added a wonderful texture. I might try this again one day with these changes.

Tsuivan-Mongolian Noodle Stew
10.5 oz. flour(This was translated from metric, so you definitely want to measure this out exactly. Same with the water.)
6.7 oz. water
7 oz. meat of choice, sliced thinly(traditionally lamb is used, but I used a pork spare rib.)
Vegetables of choice, sliced thinly(I used the following: green cabbage, bok choy, onions, green onions, carrots, and zucchini)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Make Noodles:
Mix the flour and water in a bowl until well-combined. Add more water or flour if needed. Once mixed, set aside for 15 minutes. You don't want to activate the gluten too much. This is a noodle dough, not a bread dough.
Once the dough has rested, cut it in half and roll each half out thin into a round. Pour about one Tbsp. oil onto the center of the dough. Spread it out to cover the entire surface of the dough. Repeat with the second round and set one on top of the other. Cut down the center and put one half on top of the other. Cut again and place on top of the other. Cut into 1/2" strips. Keep the strips in the stacks they're already in. You will separate them after they are cooked.
In a large pot, heat some more oil and add half the onions. Once they are mostly cooked, add the meat. When that is browned, add the carrots and garlic. Let cook for a while and then add a few tablespoons of water. Top this with the vegetables. Add salt and pepper and cover with a lid. Cook for about 5 minutes to help cook the vegetables down a bit. Remove the lid and add water to about 2/3 up on the vegetables. Add the rest of the onions before placing the strips of dough on top.
Put the lid back on and cook for about 15 minutes. The dough will still be in thick strips, but will be cooked enough to separate with forks, chopsticks, or what I ended up using: my fingers. Make sure to give yourself time to do this. Each piece of dough has about 7 noodles that need to be separated. They are also hot, so you might need to go slowly. Once they are all separated, gently stir them into the meat and vegetable mixture until well-incorporated. The water will have nearly evaporated by then, which is supposed to happen.
The original recipe recommends adding some sort of sauce to it and I found it did need a little something. I added a bit of soy sauce and it was lovely. Tonight I want to try it with some hoisin sauce and see how that is. If you like spice, you could add some Sriracha sauce.

This was a lot of work! But it was pretty tasty too! There is something very homey about the homemade noodles. It was fun to see them separate into strips. If you've never made noodles before, I recommend this version. It's pretty easy, it just takes time.

Tsuivan Recipe
Tea Recipe
Map Link
Flag Link
National Anthem Link
Folk Song Link

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