Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mongolian Tartar-Style Steaks

At the internationally-influenced picnic I recently served, I veered from my tendency to cook foods from my favorite cuisines - Jewish and Italian.  I cooked some tremendously flavorful steaks that were so easy to make that they hardly warrant a recipe.

Marc Cramer's Imperial Mongolian Cooking: Recipes from the Kingdoms of Genghis Khan is one of the more unusual and interesting cookbooks I have in my collection.  I bought it at the late, great, and much missed The Savvy Traveller bookstore that used to reside across Michigan Avenue from The Art Institute of Chicago.

When Jeremy was younger and our family would take weekend trips to Chicago, it was simply understood that I would visit the bookstore.  And I would spend a long time there.  And if anyone wanted to meander off to grab a snack when they got bored while I perused, they were welcome to leave and then come back ... everyone knew where to find me.  I'd be looking through books about year-round trips around the world, books about volunteering in exotic locales, books about quaint towns in foreign countries, and cookbooks devoted to ethnic cuisines.

But, as you can well imagine in a day and age that can't even support the behemoth that Borders once was, a little bookstore devoted to all aspects of travel and foreign locales couldn't possibly survive.  It closed in 2007.

Thus, not only did I take a culinary trip to Mongolia in preparing the recipe I'm going to share with you, but I also travelled back to Chicago, back to my favorite bookstore, and back to the many dreams and vicarious adventures that were fostered there.

Mongolian cooking is not just about choosing proteins, vegetables, and sauces, then stir frying it all together - a la Mongolian Barbecue - on a searingly hot surface.  The Mongol Empire once stretched across land now known as Poland and Hungary, across Armenia and Iraq, as far south as Vietnam and as far north as Russia.  Therefore, it incorporates a wide variety of influences and ingredients.

But typically, Mongol cooking is very meat-oriented; vegetables did not grow readily in the cold center of the territory, so only hardy varieties (potatoes, onions) would have been available.  Yak was popular, but beef and lamb make excellent substitutes.  Dairy products, as well, are essential to the diet, and yak milk is the base for cheeses and beverages.

These steaks, then, which are grilled and then accented with Asian flavors and scallions, are very representative of Mongol cooking.  They take just a few minutes to cook and a minimum of ingredients, but they offer a maximum of flavor.

Mongolian Tartar-Style Steaks (Tatar Uhriin Mah)
(slightly adapted from Marc Cramer's Imperial Mongolian Cooking: Recipes from the Kingdoms of Genghis Khan)

1 pound, total weight, thin-cut round steaks
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 green onions, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon sesame oil
pinch of red pepper flakes

Preheat outdoor grill to medium.  Lay the steaks onto a platter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill 3 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.

While steaks are cooking, combine remaining ingredients.  Remove steaks to a serving dish and drizzle sauce over them.

Serves 4-6.


Unknown said...

Who would go get snacks instead of looking through a bookstore?? :)
The steak looks and sounds perfect...right up my alley - Simply grilled, amazing flavor!

Cranberry Morning said...

Pfft! I agree with Jenn. lol And I'm sorry to hear about the demise of the bookstore. So many of the wonderful old independents didn't make it. Reminds me of 'You've Got Mail.' Sorry, I digress. Anyway, the steaks sound delicious and I'd love that for dinner tonight. I wonder if it will stop raining long enough for us to grill anything!

Andrea the Kitchen Witch said...

I loved the history lesson about Mongolia. And I want this steak!! Love the flavors in it. great now I want steak :)

Debra Hawkins said...

Oh how I miss bookstores. We live in kind of an isolated rural area and the closest bookstore is hours away. I once called around looking to see if anybody would have a book on the day it released because I wanted to read it so bad and people laughed at me that I would want a book that bad.

Bibi @ Bibi's Culinary Journey said...

We don't have a bookstore, but when we go to the city I can spend hours and hours browsing cookbooks at Chapters. My kids don't want me to take them to the library anymore cause they always end up waiting for me,lol.

The steak look absolutely mouth-watering. I can just taste it :)

Candace said...

I could spend hours in bookstores. Thankfully, David and Connor are the same way. They are few and far between; but you can still find them here in New England. I could really go for that steak for dinner tonight. David saw your photo and whole heartedly agrees!

Debra Kapellakis said...


Chris said...

Interesting read. Plus, thanks for allowing beef substitutions, I'm all out of fresh yak this week.

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