Traditional Mongolian food seems to be one of the up and coming trends in the hunt for new flavors by jaded eaters with two new eateries opening in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had my intro this weekend at the Oyunaa's Mongolian Cuisine that introduced classic dishes to Santa Cruz nearly four years ago .
The appetizer of Chicken pelmeni, $8, served up eight bite-sized boiled dumplings with sour cream and fresh dill alongside. Firm and chewy wrappers were a satisfying work-out for the mouth.
For my entree, Buuz, $18, five large steamed dumplings filled with ground beef and accompanied by two salads. There's also a spinach and mushroom filling option. After leaking meaty juices all over my plate with the initial fork poke into the first buuz, I asked for a spoon to try to eat them xiao long bao style. Not so easy as these dumplings are larger than the soup spoon, but the nip, suck out the juices, and then bite method worked pretty well. The wrappers for these were thinner than the pelmeni, tending toward elastic and silky rather than firm and chewy.
Four different dumpling sauces were offered with the Buuz. With only five dumplings, I did not have much room to play with in picking a favorite. However, I did manage to. I liked combining the umami blast of the non-spicy Mushroom sauce with the floral aroma and spicy heat of the Habanero-sriracha. The Chile-garlic was much like an Indonesian sambal and the Habanero-soy was along the lines of northern Chinese dipping sauce. The sauces are also available bottled to take home.
Both the potato salad and carrot salad were clean and fresh-tasting. These seemed to have less mayonnaise and salt than the versions I've tried at Russian eateries in San Francisco.
Oyunaa's posts daily special and links about Mongolian culture on its FB page.
I asked about the often featured lamb riblets and learned that they'll appear on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The dumplings are made to order, so expect a wait for your food. Also, no reservations here, making a wait for a table at this popular place likely too. However, the fresh and tasty food and friendly servers will be well worth your time.
Oyunaa's Mongolian Cuisine
1209 Soquel Ave
Santa Cruz, CA
Open for Dinner
Mon, Wed, Thurs & Sun 5pm - 10pm
Friday and Saturday 5pm - 11pm
More photos at Oyunaa's: