Our introduction to the meat-filled Mongolian fried pastry called huushuur was during a picnic in the Gobi. We also had huushuur in restaurants and during the Naadam Festival, where it was prepared by vendors in open-air stalls. Huushuur can be eaten out of hand, as a hearty snack, or it can be turned into a meal by adding a salad. (Two salads we frequently encountered in Mongolia, which would be appropriate: carrot and garlic salad—grate a carrot or two, grate in garlic to taste, add a little mayonnaise to bind it and a dash of salt; or shredded cabbage tossed with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper). Huushuur is good hot, but is also excellent at room temperature.
Mongolian Fried Meat-Filled Pastries
2-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
water to mix
1 lb. chopped or ground beef or mutton (see Notes below)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1–2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
oil for cooking
Combine flour and salt. Add water (I found I needed a little more than 1 cup, but this can vary depending on the flour and the humidity; add half a cup and then continue to add water a little at a time), mixing it in thoroughly, until you have a rough, dry dough, about the texture of that for pie crust. If you add too much water, you can always add a little more flour. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Combine all filling ingredients, mixing thoroughly. If dry, add a few drops of water to moisten.
Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each quarter into a cylinder and cut it in half. Roll each half cylinder into a circle about 5-6 inches across. Place about 2 to 2-1/2 Tbs. of meat mixture on one side of the circle, leaving space around the edge. Fold the other side over, creating a half-moon, and pinch the edges closed, squeezing out air and flattening filling as you work. (As for the pinched edges, I saw huushuur with edges that ranged from elaborately “braided” closures to closures that were simply mashed shut and rolled under, so no seam was visible. Every cook has a different way of finishing this dish.) Repeat the process with the rest of the filling and dough pieces.
Pour oil to depth of about 1/2 inch into a frying pan. Heat oil until hot (test it after a minute or two with a tiny bit of dough—unless you have a thermometer, there is no visible way of telling if oil is hot unless something is in it, sizzling). Fry two or three pastries at a time for two minutes per side, until they are golden to brown and the meat is cooked. Can be eaten hot or cold. Makes 8 pastries (for Mongolians, a little more than one serving, but for most of us, 4 servings.)
Notes: Do not trim the fat from your meat before preparing the filling, and don’t buy low-fat ground meat. The fat is needed both to keep the filling moist and to help cook the inside of the pastry while it’s frying.
Make sure you seal the “pockets” well. If meat juice leaks out while it’s frying, the spattering of grease borders on the explosive.
Huushuur is also commonly prepared with a filling of mashed potatoes, often with a little grated carrot added for flavor.
©2009 Cynthia Clampitt