If you are with me for a long time, you already know about my roots and my fascination with layered dough. They come together in this recipe. I’ve seen dargin khinkal on pictures and videos only and knew about its taste and texture from somebody else’s descriptions. The combination of boiled beef and garlicky tsahdon (sauce) is the treat from my childhood, one of the dishes my grandma used to make for me.
Dargin khinkal can be compared to steamed Asian buns, which exist in many forms and shapes. Daghestani dumplings have a similar texture, but unique for their flavor added with blue fenugreek (aka “nutty herb”).
The best meat, beef or lamb, for this preparation is the one with a lot of cartilage and connective tissue (e.g., leg, shoulder, or neck of lamb or shanks, shoulder, short ribs of beef, etc.). Bone-in meat is preferred for more flavor. Since we serve meat and broth, it is important to remove any foam when meat initially brought to boiling.
Every time somebody shares tsahdon recipe, there is at east one Ossetian cook to point out that tsahdon is a sauce made of salted hot chili pepper leaves, not garlic. There is tsyvdzy-tsahdon (цывзыдзахдон) made with pepper leaves and sour cream, and there is noory-tsahdon (нурыдзахдон) made with garlic and sour cream. Since it is easier to find garlic all year round, the second is known more widely and shortened to tsahdon. Noory-tsahdon can be made with garlic and either hot broth or cold sour cream. Hot broth quickly blanches the garlic to make it less pungent and bitter. I like adding a little bit of hot broth to the garlic first, then mix it with sour cream.
Forget forks and spoons! Feel how soft and tender meat is with your fingers, break it apart, dip a piece into the sauce and eat. Do the same with light and puffy steamed khinkal. Sip some broth from a little bowl. Don’t forget to lick your fingers! Enjoy!
In a medium sized pot, bring 1 gallon of water to boiling. If short ribs is a whole piece, cut it into four equal portions, each one with a rib bone. Place them in boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Transfer meat into the pot of a pressure cooker. Cut beef shoulder into six portions, blanch in the same water, add to the short ribs. Line strainer with a paper towel (unscented!) and strain water into the same pot with meat. Discard the towel with foam and scam.
Peel onion and quarter it. Peel carrot and cut into large chanks. Chop celery. Add all vegetables, bay leaf, black pepper, 6 peeled and smashed cloves of garlic, and safflower to the pot. Secure the lid and choose "Meat/Stew" button.
When done, take out meat, discurd bones. Strain broth, discard vegetables and spices. Keep meat submerged in the broth.
for dumplings (18 mini buns)
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. Combine liquid ingredients in a separate bowl, add them to dry ingredients, stir with chopsticks, knead, and ferment for 1-2 hours (72-74F) until doubled, or refrigerated for 12 hours.
Dust working surface with flour. Roll the dough into a 7 x 18" rectangular. It should be about 1/8" thick. Apply a thin layer of walnut oil with a culinary brush, sprinkle with blue fenugreek, and roll it tightly. You should get a cylinder 1" D, 18" long. Slice it into 18 portions 1" long. Place them vertically in a steaming basket lined with greased parchment, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes.
Start boiling water in a steamer. It takes 5-6 minutes for these dumplings to steam. They almost double in size when ready for cooking, make sure there is enough space between them.
Peel and finely dice garlic. Place it in a small bowl, season with salt and black pepper, and add 6oz (3/4 cup) of hot beef stock. Stir and let it cool down to room temperature. Add sour cream and finely chopped cilantro, combine, and adjust seasoning to your taste.
Prepare a dinner plate, a sauce bowl, and an 8oz cup for broth for each person. Start steaming khinkal and reheating cooked meat and broth at the same time. Portion the sauce, the meat, and the broth. Top them with fresh cilantro. Add three steamed dumplings to each plate with meat and serve.
The philosophy of the Daghestani khinkal QUOTES:
“The Daghestani cuisine is medieval food: just cooked meat, just broth and dough,” says Murad. “There have never been any kings or wealthy people in these lands that is why the food is simple. Historically, chefs invented dishes to impress their lords, whereas around here everybody have been more or less equal. We had neither classes, nor castes. [...] The secret of the Daghestani cuisine is in environmentally clean food. Sheep graze on pristine meadows, and feed only on grass instead of commercial mixed feeds,” assures Murad. “Most importantly, the flavor of meat and broth shall be free of chemicals. Otherwise, if the animal is fed with some odd stuff it surfaces in the flesh. In the mountains the mutton preserves the fragrance of flowers and grass the sheep used to eat.”
“Any man, any mountaineer can make khinkal,” adds Rasul Parkuyev. “Traditionally, our men spent much time on the road, in military expeditions, and they needed to cook something. Despite its simplicity, the khinkal may be quite diverse. There are as many recipes as there are ethnic groups. [...]
Surely, khinkal is made in a variety of ways but the point is that the dough, the meat, the broth and the sauce are served separately.
The Georgian khinkali, in principle, consists of the same ingredients but it is served differently. [...]
Usually, khinkal is eaten with fingers. Lumps of cooked dough are dipped into the sauce, eaten with meat and washed down with broth. Some prefer forks and knives but it is believed the genuine taste of the dish is lost because of that.[...]