The two Mongolian dishes I planned have much in common. Meat + starch, veggies optional. Though one was a soup (Guriltai Shul) and one was a stew (Budaatai Khuurge), upon further examination, there was no significant difference between them, in either ingredients or seasonings. As such, making both of them seemed silly, so I’m fusing them together in an original stoup.
The other twist?
I’m making this meaty dish without meat.
Whoa, didn’t you say that meat is the essence of any Mongolian dish?
I did. While traditionally made with mutton (which I just learned is a sheep over the age of two years-did you know that?), I’ve come to find that mutton is not all that commonplace in the Chicagoland area, though I distinctly remember buying it more than once whilst living in London. Lack of mutton didn’t matter in this case-I just didn’t feel like making it meaty. Rather, I’m using the essence of meat.
My mom instilled in me at a young age the value of homemade stock, and how it exponentially enhances the flavor of a dish, giving it that “thing that makes you go hmmm.” Homemade stock is cheap and easy to make, usually made with “what’s left” on the plate or in the fridge, and I try to always have some on hand in the freezer. Besides using it for the obvious soups, stew, sauces and chilis, I often use it as the liquid to rehydrate rice or pasta dishes. I once tried some noodles for seafood pasta rehydrated with shrimp stock, and it blew my mind and my taste buds, and I’ve never looked back.
Today’s meaty essence comes from lamb to represent the missing mutton. My local market has all sorts of bones for soup in the freezer section, and I’m sure yours does, too- just ask. I used the stock to cook the rice and as the smell filled my apartment with warmth akin to that provided by a wooly blanket, I knew I made the right call.
Typical veggies in Mongolia are of the root variety: onions, carrots and cabbage…nothing exotic. However, I added a little bit of texture and richness to cabbage by roasting it, just for kicks. I’d never roasted cabbage before, but I love roasted brussel sprouts, which really are just mini cabbages. Knowing that, it couldn’t possibly be bad.
It’s not. At all.
In summary: simple ingredients, individually enhanced leads to powerhouse flavor. Honestly, I surprised myself because I was wrecking my brain trying to figure out a way to spectacularize mundane flavors and it turns out they were spectacular on their own.
Serving this in a mug seemed homey and appropriate, and meant that I could make like a nomad and easily move from my kitchen to my couch without spilling.
Turns out, Mother Nature does a pretty good job herself.
For the stock:
1 pound meat bones, your choice
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
For the rest:
½ cup rice (I used brown)
½ head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, coarse dice
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
¼ cup parsley
Olive or coconut oil, for the pans
1. Make the stock (best if done the day before) by placing the water, bones, salt, pepper and bay leaves in a medium stock pot. Let simmer for one hour (or longer, if you forget about it. No harm, no foul).
At this point you can let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Doing so will allow the fat to rise to the top.
2. Preheat the oven to 375F. Toss the cabbage leaves in salt, pepper and just enough oil to coat. Let roast about 1 hour until the leaves are crispy, but not burnt.
3. Make the rice using 1 cup of the stock.
4. Once the above ingredients are all ready, in a medium stock pot, heat about 1 TB oil. Add the onion and carrot and cook about 7 minutes until both are soft. Add the rice and cabbage and cook one more minute.
5. Add the rest of the sauce and let simmer about 10 minutes so that all is warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the parsley just before serving.
Make this soup and I’m confident that you’ll find yourself with some new