Buuzy, Buryat Meat Dumplings

Buryat Cuisine - BuuzyOn my way to Moldova this past summer, I decided to brave the Russian bureaucracy (the eternal visa schemes) and traffic jams (2 hours from Sheremetyevo Airport) to spend one evening in Moscow. To make it count, I looked for restaurants serving cuisine that I was unlikely to eat anywhere else in the foreseeable future — this excluded the many Georgian and Uzbek joints. I found a small handful of Kazakh and Tatar restaurants, but the place that captured my attention served Buryat cuisine.

Buryat Cuisine in Moscow - Selenge Restaurant

Located in the former space of an iconic Soviet jazz club, restaurant Selenge calls itself a Buryat-Mongolian restaurant. The Republic of Buryatia is an area of Russia that borders Mongolia, and indeed their two cuisines are very similar  — one difference being that Buryats prepare several dishes with Baikal omul. The food at Selenge was a bit uneven, but one of the better dishes we tried was the buuzy, a local variation on Mongolia’s national dumpling. 

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Varenyky, Ukrainian Ravioli

I’ve already posted a couple recipes for varenyky here and here, so I figured I’d come up with a third one — and write an entry with everything you’ll ever want to know about these Ukrainian ravioli.

Giant Pierogi - Glendon, Alberta

Picture courtesy of Fracture

But first, is it varenyky or vareniki? Well, it depends. The Russian word, вареники, should be transliterated as vareniki. But since this is in fact a Ukrainian dish, it makes sense to transliterate the Ukrainian word instead. And the Ukrainian word is… вареники. Even if you can’t read Cyrillic, you probably noticed the two are spelled the same. But they’re not pronounced the sameThe Ukrainian и is similar to the Russian ы, hence the transliteration with y’s. Big deal.

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Lamb Testicle Chashushuli and Cheese Khinkali

I seem to be going through an “extreme offal” phase. Only a few weeks ago, I was writing about veal brains, and here I am striking back, this time below the belt! I found these lamb testicles from 3-Corner Field Farm at the Union Square Greenmarket a few weeks ago, and figured that lamb offal would be a good candidate for a nice Georgian stew. Chashushuli usually consists of stewed veal with tomato, onion, spices, and herbs (plus sometimes other vegetables), but there’s no real restriction on the meat you’re using.  If you want to stick to the more traditional veal, I would suggest trying sweetbreads — you can prepare them pretty much the same way as the testicles below.

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2011 NYC Dumpling Festival

The 2011 NYC Dumpling Festival took place on the Lower East Side about 10 days ago, and visitors had a chance to taste dumplings from various cuisines and to take part into a dumpling eating contest — if you want to practice for next year, the record to beat is 69 dumplings in 2 minutes!

Of course, I didn’t attend the festival to see how many dumplings I could stuff myself with, but rather to take a look at the few participating restaurants that might be serving dumplings from Eastern Europe.

Veselka was offering a trio of Ukrainian pierogi, with onion and sour cream, that tasted about average.

The three fillings consisted of beef and pork (too compact and dry), goat cheese with arugula (nice), and potato (OK, but it’s hard to make something exciting with just potatoes wrapped in dough).

Most of the booths were serving Asian dumplings, which, though tasty, are off-topic for me. Elsewhere restaurant presented a lamb and potato dumpling that wouldn’t feel out of place in Central Asia. We might never know where the idea really came from though, as the restaurant seems to specialize in food from nowhere in particular.

The filling, which could have used more lamb, reminded me a bit of a samosa, and was wrapped in tasty, nicely browned, pastry dough.

I enjoyed myself, but it’s sad that there aren’t more countries’ cuisines represented. It would be a great opportunity for area restaurants to get the word out about Siberian pelmeni, Uzbek manti, Georgian khinkali, Azerbaijani gyurza, and all the other dumplings of the Eastern Bloc.

Partridge Breast and Dumplings in Tokaji Sauce

Up until the first world war, Hungary and Bohemia boasted several great estates for partridge shooting. Thousand of gray partridges were then exported to North America, making them one of the principal game birds here to this day. Although the only American partridges you will find in stores are farmed, a curious loophole allows the sale of real Scottish game birds in the US. I get mine from D’Artagnan.

This dish is inspired by several recipes from The Derrydale Game Cookbook, a hunting classic published in the 1930’s that teaches you to cook anything from squirrel to black bear, with a surprising number of Eastern-Europe-inflected entries. The gamy flavor of partridge pairs wonderfully with the sweetness of Tokaji, a Hungarian dessert wine that counts among my favorites.

The proportions yield more dumplings than you will need; use the leftovers in a winter soup.

Brioche breadcrumbs
Yields a bit more than 2 oz

4 oz brioche, thinly sliced

  • Place the brioche on a sheet tray, and dry in 300 F oven for 20 minutes, flipping the slices after 10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender, and process until all the chunks are gone.

Partridge dumplings
Yields 14 dumplings (4 servings plus leftovers)

2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 oz butter, soft
8 oz partridge meat (from the legs and wings), coarsely chopped
1 oz partridge (or chicken) liver
1/8 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp porcini powder
2 oz brioche breadcrumbs
2 1/2 cups partridge (or chicken) stock
olive oil

  • Place the eggs, egg yolk, butter, partridge meat and liver into a blender (or food processor), and process until smooth.
  • Season with salt and pepper, add the garam masala, porcini powder and breadcrumbs, and mix well. To adjust the seasoning, cook a small bit of the preparation in a pan and taste it. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • In a pot, bring the stock to a boil. Shape 14 round dumplings out of the partridge mixture, and cook in the boiling stock for about 6 minutes, a few dumplings at a time. Reserve. Keep the stock for the Tokaji sauce.
  • Before serving, sauté the dumplings in a hot pan with olive oil, until golden-brown on all sides.

Partridge breasts
Yields 4 servings

breasts of 2 partridges, skin on
2 thyme sprigs, stems removed
1/2 oz butter

  • Season the breasts with salt and pepper on both sides, then sprinkle with thyme. Place in a sous-vide pouch with the butter, and cook in a 136 F water bath for 1 hour.
  • Before serving, sauté the breasts skin side down in a hot pan with the butter from the sous-vide pouch.

Tokaji sauce
Yields about 4 servings

stock from partridge dumplings
2 1/2 oz sweet Tokaji wine (e.g. Tokaji 3 puttonyos)
1/2 oz butter

  • In a saucepan over high heat, reduce the stock to about 1/4.
  • Add the Tokaji wine, and reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
  • Whisk in the butter before serving.