Without a doubt Mongolia has been the hardest of my Olympic Food Challenge countries to research. For some reason all of the websites I discovered had the same dishes, the same measurements and exactly the same spelling mistakes. If I had been marking essays on Mongolian Food, I would have been calling the entire class in for plagiarism.
There was the odd recipe that made me think twice. An American family tried to recreate Khorkhog by cooking rocks on their barbecue before adding them to a wok along with some mutton. I have neither a barbecue, or a handy supply of culinary rocks so that was off the menu. The next recipe to take my eye was Boodog. Boodog is not the latest IPA from those crazy scamps at BrewDog: it is cooked marmot.
The first time I came across a marmot was in The Big Lebowski when a group of Nihilists threw their pet marmot into The Dude's bath. What I knew from my limited marmot exposure, was that they resembled large ferrets or ground hogs and I was certain that even Leeds Market would let me down on that front*. I was almost ready to throw in the towel when Z told me that she wanted to try making Buuz. I was over the moon but mainly because I had heard "I'm going to make some booze!"
Buuz are a staple of Mongolian cooking, consisting of minced meat and onions wrapped in a simple dough to form dumplings. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be either steamed, fried or boiled. Our buuz were steamed, delicious and served with a bitter green salad. The technique is daunting but quite simple and we'll be trying our arm at something similar in the future, possibly with some western flavours in the filling.
Mongolia have managed to medal** four times so far during London 2012. Boxing, Judo and Wrestling are their events du jour. Even if they'd won gold in kitten wrangling I would have told you that buuz are tasty. If you can mentally cross pierogi and dim sum you'll understand the texture. If you can't grasp that concept then give the buuz recipe a try, play with your own flavours and enjoy.
*Ferrets are available on Leeds Market but not for consumption.