When all of your friends have traveled the world and are foodies as well, you can bet that conversations inevitably turn to world food – the interesting, the unusual, the best, the worst, the similarities among countries – you name it. Not long ago just such a conversation centered around dumplings. You know, those little packets of dough filled with anything from savory meats, to vegetables, to cheese, to fruits, even seafood. . . Think about it. Almost every nation has a recipe for dumplings: Italian tortellini and ravioli; Austrian potato dumplings, Hungarian bread dumplings, Swedish kroppkakor, Japanese gyoza, Polish pierogi, Chinese Jiao zi, the list is endless.
My Polish grandmother made potato and cheese pierogi. At Christmas the stuffing was a savory mix of wild mushrooms and cabbage. Many years ago I was an exchange student in Poland and my host’s grandmother surprised us one day with the world’s best blueberry peirogies sprinkled with sugar. I still taste the tart sweetness of those fresh blueberry dumplings and I can still feel the soft Baltic breeze coming through her kitchen windows.
A few years ago Oli traveled through China and found the cuisine to be most complex, intriguing and sophisticated. To add delicious to the list is an understatement. With travel, and food in mind, especially those jiao zi Oli had in China, we set out to look for a dumpling recipe that would help us use the ground lamb sitting in the fridge. Oli came up with Buuz from Mongolia. These are mutton or beef filled, steamed dumplings whose recipe looked like it would taste fabulous AND looked like it would be fun and easy to make. Indeed, a tasty project for a rainy afternoon. In reading about them we learned that the recipe hasn’t changed in centuries, that most Mongolian dishes are northern Chinese in style, but lamb and mutton are more common than pork and that Buzz takes culinary center stage during Mongolia’s biggest holiday, the Lunar New Year.
Fair warning: They are addictive. And oh!. . . making the pretty, pleated packages is NOT as easy as it looks! We watched tons of how-to videos, pleated along with the cooks, experimented and tried to devise our own step by step pleating method. The result was many buuz that looked totally NOT like buuz! In doing so, we talked about cooking, experimenting, trying new recipes, new methods and sharing kitchen time with friends. It doesn’t get better than this. So without further ado and with humble apologies to the Mongolian cooks who are true artists that create beautiful little packages for this savory filling we invite you to try your hand at buzz.
Buuz (Mongolian Dumplings)
3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1. In a medium size bowl mix together flour and salt. Make a well in the center and gradually pour in water. Pull in flour from the side of the bowl until well mixed in and you have formed a dough.
2. Place dough on a clean work surface and knead with your hands until dough is smooth.
Add more flour or water if necessary.
(You can make the dough in a stand mixer as well. Simply place flour, salt and water in bowl of mixer and mix for 5 minutes.)
3. Place dough in a bowl, cover and allow dough to rest for one hour in the refrigerator before using.
In the meantime, prepare filling and make dipping sauce.
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 scallions, very thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, grated
3 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. In a large bowl, combine lamb, onion, scallions, garlic, coriander, salt and pepper. Mix until everything is well combined.
In Mongolia buuz is served with ketchup (yes, ketchup) or soy sauce but I whipped up a batch of dipping sauce that I serve with Chinese dumplings (jiao zi) which for us, was a more satisfying accompaniment than ketchup or plain soy sauce.
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced scallions
2 teaspoons shredded ginger
1. Combine, vinegar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, and ginger, in a small bow. Whisk to combine.
Make the dumplings
Have ready a small dish of vegetable oil or some lettuce leaves.
1. Remove dough from refrigerator, knead for about a minute then roll it out into a log about 1-inch in diameter.
2. Cut the roll into 1-inch slices.
3. Roll slice into a ball and lightly dust with flour. Flatten it a bit, then roll it out into a circle about 4-inches in diameter. Make the center slightly thicker than the edge.
4. Hold one dough circle in your hand (left hand for righties and vice versa for south paws) and place about a teaspoon of filling in the center.
5. Pinch the edge on one side, then create another fold next to it.
6. Continue this way while rotating the buuz as you go along.
7. If done correctly (and we had our issues) there will be a small opening in the center of the top.
8. Dip the bottom of each buuz into a bit of oil, or line a steamer rack with lettuce so that buuz does not stick to the rack. Arrange buuz on rack so that they do not touch.
We used a bamboo steamer. If you don’t have one, a flat pasta strainer or even a cake rack would work just as well.
9. Place the steamer in a pan or wok that has about 2-inches of water in the bottom. Water should not touch the dumplings.
10. Bring water to a simmer, place steamer into the pan and put the lid on the steamer.
11. Steam for 15 minutes without removing lid.
*It is crucial that you roll out the little balls into perfect circles with the center a bit thicker than the edge. If we didn’t have a circle, we found it impossible to form a decent buuz.
*The posted pictures show buuz nestled on lettuce. We added a small bowl of dipping sauce for the photo only. Do not steam the dipping sauce.
*Left over filling made a great meat loaf! We added and egg, plain bread crumbs, left over dipping sauce and didn’t have to wrap any of it!
PS: We just have to share this with you. . .
Oli’s recipe for Party Pizzas was listed among the most favorited for the last 7 days on FOODGAWKER!