So, I just spent the last week prepping and cooking for an event that took place last Saturday. This was a Mongolian themed event that pretty much equated with hours and hours of feasting.
Nearly all the food was based on “Soup for the Qan“. (more about this book can be found on following the link off site) Over all this is a pretty good book and it is hard to go wrong on choosing any of the recipes inside, however this book does not give a lot of clues to how a meal might be separated, if at all, or served…. in the end, it came down to what we had available for servants, how people were seated and what we had for suitable items to serve in (and the fact all my platters stayed at home and a few pottery vessels broke on site).
For inspiration, though, I read about several period chinese feasts from various places… (though attempting to use what I could from Northern China) to develop a plan that would work with many of the recipes at hand. For the recipes themselves, measures varied so I rounded them out and at least tried to be consistent with them.
**Some items here are listed with “no gluten” however none of this was prepared in a gluten free kitchen, basically it is understood there were no celiac people here, however we marked dishes that would not have any added gluten.
**Mandarin peel was made by drying out the peels with the white still on, then when needed, they would be soaked in boiling hot water and lay to soften. The white can then be easily scraped off with a spoon when ready. This is then finely chopped and added where needed.
Menu (notes added)
Fruit and Nut service (we opted for no nuts due to allergies and limited service-wear)
–watermelon (because they were quite popular apparently, and it was a nice lift), mandarines, jujubes and apricots (dried) and also “Dried beef” and a Chinese description inspired dried meat (made before I found a proper period Chinese recipes for the same so much conjecture)
–Bal-po Soup (no gluten)
Wolfberry congee (no gluten, veg. safe)
Qima Congee (no gluten)
River Pig Broth
–Plate rabbit (with vermicelli, we used bean noodle, which was used, to make non gluten)
–Chinese Yam Noodles
–Quartz Horns (made with bean noodle, non-gluten)
–Se-aBru Soup (no gluten)
–Broiled heart (no gluten)
–Fish cakes (no gluten)
–Chicken morsels (no gluten)
–Meat cakes (no gluten)
–Steamed and baked seed buns (we actually omitted these at feast so we could work on getting the tea service out more quickly and people were asking for dessert)
–Thin Sugar Crisps
–(omitted was a steamed rice ball filled with bean pastes… due to time + very long night of eating!)
Now typically I rather encourage people to go off the original recipes however I really do not have the original language version of this book to share, nor have the ability to translate it myself… so, will give some amounts as based on my noted earlier. In the translated book, however, we are reminded about the virtue of balanced flavours…
Also you may wish to know that many of the dishes were likely not meant to be served piping hot but rather room temperature or warm and things would not have necessarily have been cooked over a rolling boil or very high heat.
Boil your lamb (about 1-1 1/2 lbs) (preferably mutton) and take it aside and cut into coin sized pieces (try not to over cook it, ours was fully boiled for storage until we got to the site, but it is preferable to just under-cook it at this stage).
Take the broth and add 5 brown cardamoms (or almost twice the amount of good, strong, green ones), 1/2 liter peeled and mashed chickpeas and 1 chopped Chinese radish (to follow the recipe better, the radish should be boiled, cut up and put aside with the meat while boiling down the broth).
When the broth has been boiled down sufficiently to make rich… add 4g saffron, 8g turmeric (I used freshly grounded), 8g pepper, 2g asafoetida and adjust flavour with a little salt and vinegar and add fresh coriander leaves before serving over a bed of non-glutinous rice. (ground rock salt was sent to tables to further adjust dishes)
–unfortunately, I believe it got served out minus the coriander leaves, which was a shame, because while it went over well, it is even better with coriander leaves.
This is an item I found both in the “Soup” book as well as a later period Chinese recipe book, except in the Chinese recipe book, it could just be cooked with water where the Mongolian made use of broth. This one was made using the most basic of ingredients of wolfberry, previously pulverized and non-gluten rice and water. This is meant usually to be taken alone as medicine but is also flavourful enough on it’s own.
This is made with Sheep broth and millet and can have added rice, which I decided not to add. Due to lack of sufficient Sheep broth for all the dishes, Chicken broth was opted for… this partially based on yes, they made use of chickens but also because both items were used for the same medicine and were compatible. (I also happen to know that millet cooks nicely in chicken broth)
River Pig Broth
Boil 1 1/2lb-ish Mutton (or lamb), cut up with 5 brown cardamoms (or almost twice that of really good green ones) and remove the meat and chop it up finely to make a stuffing with 20g a prepared mandarin peel, 2oz finely chopped white onions, 8g spices, salt and sheeps liver sauce (I was concerned about a few people’s potential problems with liver and dropped it, but it would be far more authentic with it).
According to the recipe, 3lbs of flour will make the right amount of skins, however I made large batches of dough for skins for many dishes and did not test this out.
These are then fried in oil and added to the soup, adjusting the flavours with salt.
2 rabbits cut up and fried in sesame oil with Chinese radish and 8g fine spices. Fry and add onion and vinegar and vermicelli. (It only called for a small amount of vermicelli but we managed to add a little bit more so that our non-gluten friends could have more starch, though it should look like a rabbit dish with some vermicelli in it rather than a vermicelli dish with rabbit in it. Ours was about an even mix)
This used lamb, however we were low on lamb and made use of the roasted rabbit we had. The roasted rabbit is used to stuff noodles (dumpling skins, I had extra yam dumpling skin I made earlier, plus some basic flour + water skins). These are supposed to be boiled in broth and cooked dry, adjusting flavours with onions and adding yogurt with finely chopped mint.
However I believe the broth used to cook them in dried out too soon, or the yogurt ate the dumplings too quickly so the texture was interesting… but the flavour was nice. On testing, the dumplings came out well when cooked dry and kept very well, however the yogurt added too far in advance can be a problem so I suggest just adding to the warm pan/wok full of freshly boiled dry dumplings **just** before serving it out.
Chinese Yam Noodle
**note: this is made with Chinese yam… a long white tubular root that is crisp when sliced, chewed raw or grated but will produce an excessive amount of starchy mucilage. It also makes a lovely addition to noodles.
for 1 1/2lbs of yam, add: 3lbs flour, 5 egg whites, 100ml fresh ginger juice and 2oz of bean starch. This should mix into a nice, even, somewhat tacky but solid dough. Just as when making any dumpling skin, wrap it up and let it sit 10-20 minutes before cutting and rolling into dumpling skins.
–These are filled with finely chopped meat (about 1 1/2lbs for this recipe), this is them cooked in meat broth… I cover it a bit to get them well cooked, then I remove the lid and cooked till any remaining liquid in the pot is gone and then remove. **note, fatty broth is best for this, and just about all Mongolian cooking.
The dumpling fillings:
**note, all of these should have sheep tail fat, this is something we were mostly lacking so the dumplings were not as authentic as they should have been… so aside from this ingredient:
Parak Horns: (baked) Mutton (lamb), sheep fat (or omit if sheep is fatty enough) young leeks, cut finely, spices, salt, sauce (these can be served with honey and liquid butter. liquid butter is not butter but the liquid by-product, I believe– going from memory here, and due to us not having a sufficient amount, we left it out)
Mushroom Baozi: (steamed) Mutton (lamb), sheep fat (or omit if sheep is fatty enough), onions, prepared mandarin peel, finely chopped fresh ginger and scalded, cleaned, mushrooms. Add spices, salt and sauce.
Flower Manta: (steamed) (steamed) Mutton (lamb), sheep fat (or omit if sheep is fatty enough), onions, prepared mandarin peel, spices, salt and sauce. **These should be cut to shape into flowers… we did not do this to our team of dumpling volunteers.
Quartz Horns: (steamed) Mutton (lamb), sheep fat (or omit if sheep is fatty enough), onions, prepared mandarin peel, fresh ginger, spices, salt and sauce. (Since these were wrapped on bean starch dumpling skins, we decided to keep them gluten free and omit the soy sauce instead of risking it having wheat.
Pretty much just this, though we ended up using cow heart rather than shee’s hear which we did not have.
we did not baste with saffron soaked in distilled rosewater as that got left home, so it was simply salted to taste, which is also suggested to do.
Deboned Chicken Morsels
We made a reduced size of this recipe: For 10 fat chickens, (cleaned, boiled and cut-up) add: 100ml fresh ginger juice, 2oz onions, 1/2lb ground ginger , 4oz flower pepper (omitted was the 2oz wheat vermicelli… we were grinding to a halt at this point with very full people and this kept it gf free, though one could add bean starch vermicelli) This is cooked down in broth till “dry” and is flavoured with onions and vinegar and juice of sprouting vinegar. Unfortunately we were running out of onions at this point (entirely my bad for forgetting to pick some up on the trip) so it was not as oniony as it should have been.
(sadly I ran out of minced sheep so we made a few from chopped meat instead, however mincing them does make rather fantastic patties, at this point we only did a few anyway just for show, but I would like an opportunity to make a large batch the way they should be made because they can be quite fantastic)
If you wish to make a large portion, clean and mince into a paste 10lb Mutton, 12g asafoetida, 2oz pepper, 1oz long pepper, and 1oz finely ground coriander.
These are then fried in oil.
These are supposed to be made with carp, which can not be purchased or ordered out to our local supermarkets, so after much searching for good substitutes, I have decided that the best one is that of another fresh water fish, trout being the one we can more easily obtain here.
For every prepared 10 fish, add 2 minced sheepstail (minced)-(omitted), 1oz fresh ginger (cut finely), 2oz onions (cut finely), 12g peel cut finely, 1oz ground pepper and 8g asafoetida. Which is formed into small cakes and fried in oil.
2-3lbs mutton, head and hooves would be typically used, however I had an entire sheep spine full of cartilage that appears to have worked just fine (and I lacked the head and hooves, but would like to try it with them as they would be easier to work with and provide more gelatin). This is boiled down in sufficient water, if it boils down too much before broken down, add more water.
Clean out the debris (I like to remove the meat and then strain the rest of the contents) and then add 4 brown cardamoms (or twice as much smaller green ones), 3 oz of cinnamon (yes, it is a lot!), 1/2lb fresh ginger, 2 chickpea sized lumps of asafoetida… To this the juice of a pomegranate that has been cooked with salt and black pepper is added, however we could not get any, so juice was cooked with salt and pepper and added… this, happily evened out the heavy cinnamon.
This is meant for keeping under a fumigated layer of ghee. It ends up being quite thick.
These were to be baked, however we found them best steamed, We decided not to offer them however at the end of the meal….. just more starch on already full stomachs… however, they are nice and would happily serve them with a smaller, simpler meal. I am still looking to work out a flat bread that would compliment the Se-aBru Soup better…
a recipe to try (yes, it does work, the liquid butter is enough, I guess to acidify it for the soda to do it’s thing):
1.25lbs flour, 8oz milk, 4 oz liquid butter, 1oz poppy seed and add salt, a little soda and combine to make buns.
With this we formed rather small buns and tested it both in the oven and the steamer, both were good.
Beat together: 1lb pounded bread (crumbs), 3/4lb dates (the really soft juice type, if not, try adding date molasses with them, I found this works), 90g of mixed powdered almonds and pistachios and 60g of sesame oil. These are formed into small balls and made into kebabs. (clarified butter can be used in place of sesame oil) (I took this from Al-Baghdadi as many dishes in the Mongolian recipe book were influenced by the middle east… though mainly Turkey, we stuck with the sesame oil since it is an item used previously from the “soup” book.)
(omitted, but from a later period Chinese source with bean paste made from red (adzuki) or green (mung) by cooking with sugar (I did strain them as well). This is wrapped in sweet rice paste then steamed or boiled.
It is not said how it is made, and could be made from glutinous rice or it could be similar to a rice past that is made from adding equal amounts of rice flour to fresh boiled water which is then kneaded into a soft dough.
Thin Sugar Crisps
(late period Chinese) To every 16oz of flour, add 16oz of oil and 80oz of flour… to this add “2 bowls”, what I would suggest is mixing the ingredients and then adding water a bit at a time until it starts to clump together and can be rolled out with a pin. It will basically take on the form of shortbread and is cut in small circles (small teacup sized). Add a little pepper and salt and ghee and evenly spread sesame on them. (sesame was omitted, I believe, in fear of there being allergies, however there were not, though I do not feel it was a deep loss).
These are baked until crisp… about a 300F oven at about 20-25 minutes, depending on the oven.
Soybean paste cake
(late period Chinese) I messed these up at first by not having my skinned soybeans dry enough and when I went to grind them, the flour was quite damp… in fact I had paste! But I went on anyway because it still taste good and what resulted way somewhat sweet cookies/cakes as I had to dry them in the oven.
On my second attempt they ended up as almost a marzipan, which is probably more like what they should have been. These are made with soybean flour, from soaking the beans first to remove the skins and then drying them again in order to grind. The ground soybeans are then combined with sugar, sesame and ground spices… first time I did a simple ginger/cinnamon and the second time I did a mostly 5-spice type blend which was much nicer in my opinion. This is spread out and made into cakes and should have patterns printed on them. I found them rich so cut them in the “eye pattern” (lozenges) and made them small.
(late period Chinese) The recipe did not offer much direction other than to cook syrup until it threads and pour in puffed buckwheat, not letting it thin, and to pour some buckwheat over the table first and the sugar and buckwheat over this, then form by rolling out and cutting into eye-like pieces (lozenges).
As straight forward as this is, it does not show you how to puff buckwheat or what to expect. This is something you want to do in a dry pan and because it doesn’t puff much, you want to listen, and shake the pan and listen more… when you stop hearing it crack, then it is done. Beware of burning, it doesn’t take much, if you start to smell a change or they start getting to dark, get them out of the pan asap.
Sources: (probably the least amount of sources I ever used for a feast, yes, this was way outside of my comfort zone)
Soup for the Qan
Essays on Drinks and Delicacies for Medicinal Eating