Mongolian Pancakes: Gambir

Last week, two of my students started to learn about deserts. We had learned that the definition of a desert can include cold as well as hot places, as long as they don’t get very much rainfall. We had a brief introduction to their geological characteristics as well as the plants and animals. This week the focus was supposed to be on the people and their homes.  Our class ended up only covering a little bit of information about Mongolian nomads and (I’m sure you aren’t surprised) some of their food.

Jorge’s “30 minute” class almost doubled, because he didn’t realize how much time had passed by the time we finished making pancakes

Esteban joined the fun in time to cut out and glue together his own paper model of a Mongolian nomad’s dwelling (yurt), although he was more eager to hear about Shasta’s adventures on the edge of the Narnian desert (The Horse and His Boy).

Mongolian pancakes remind me of an elephant ear you might buy at a fair, although the recipes I see online include a lot more ingredients. Other than to experience something from a different culture, I can’t say that they are extremely interesting.

To prepare the dough, you mix a cup of flour with a few “dl” of water. My guess is that dl stands for dollup (?).  Once you have a pliable dough, you are supposed to let it rest for 15 minutes before dividing it into 4 parts. You roll each of these into a thin sheet. Next you spread some melted butter and sprinkle sugar on the sheets before rolling them up. You are supposed to do this to distribute the sugar and butter equally through the dough. You would think it would be just as easy to just mix  the ingredients all at once, but who knows!  You are to flatten this new dough and roll it into a circle that will fit into your frying pan.  Jorge was careful to measure the pancakes to be sure they were the correct 3 mm thickness.

In the center, make 2 verticle slits to ensure even cooking, as well as to make the finished crisp pancake easier to break into pieces. When you fry the Gambir (pancake) you are supposed to do it “slowly” so that the surface isn’t black before the inside is cooked.

My first attempt with a first grader (can you really label a home-school kid?) was a little bit gooey on the inside. When I re-tried the recipe at home, the result was a bit more pleasing.

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