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Tutorial: Tsoivan (Mongolian noodles with beef and vegetables)

March 20, 2013

Moving to Mongolia required major dietary adjustments.  I grew up eating a variety of foods and considered myself fairly adventurous.  However, after taking up residency in Mongolia I missed (shall I say CRAVED) my food.  My good ol’ comfort foods like enchiladas with copious amounts of stringy cheese and fresh salsa.  Oh, and lasagna.  And freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  But, the makings for salsas were hard to come by–especially during a long cold winter in Mongolia, jack cheese was nowhere to be found.  If I wanted tortillas I had to learn to make them from scratch, likewise with lasagna noodles.  And to get chocolate chips I had to buy a candy bar (imported from Europe) and attack it with a hammer.

But, all this forced me to find a new comfort food.  Tsoivan was it for me.  I could probably eat it every day and not get tired of it.  It’s a labor of love to make a huge pot of it, but my family likes it so much they ask for it to be on the menu almost every month!


Tsoivan is dish where meat and vegetables are fried together, then topped with homemade noodles.  And the whole thing is steamed together so that the noodles are infused with the flavor of the meat.  Rather than just share a straight recipe, I am making this a tutorial, because it’s a little involved.  However, several friends and former missionaries to Mongolia have asked for Tsoivan lessons.  I’m more than happy to share the noodle-love.


2 pounds meat (you can use beef, mutton or lamb.  I buy a hunk of whatever is on sale or use what I have in my freezer.  Roast, steaks, stew meat, whatever.)

1 onion

4 cloves garlic

2 large carrots

1/2 head cabbage

2 cups water

salt to taste

For the dough:

5 cups flour

Approximately 2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt


First, start the dough:

Place all the dough ingredients in a bowl and start mixing it with your hands.  It will be stiff.  This is normal.  The dough must not be even a little bit sticky.   If you need more water, add it very cautiously.  You may have to play back and forth between the flour and water additions until you get it just so.


When it has basically come together, place it on the board and cover it with the bowl and let it rest.  This is really important.  The gluten has to relax or you’ll never get it smooth–unless kneading bread is your superpower.  I let it rest for 20-30 minutes.


Then you’ll knead it until smooth.


It will be so smooth and stiff that when you poke it with your finger the impression will remain.  (Some who tried our dumpling recipe said that the dough was a real challenge.  They thought they had it smooth enough, but then when they steamed them it got sticky.  That means there was not enough flour.  The dough has got to be not even a little bit sticky.)


Cover it with the bowl again so it won’t dry out.  Now you get the rest ready.

Chop the meat into small chunks about the size of pinto beans.  I find that this is easier to do when the meat is slightly frozen.


Dice the carrots and shred the cabbage.

In a large frying pan that has a lid (when I’m making a big batch I have to use our roasting pan) fry the meat, onion, garlic together in oil or ghee.  Add the carrots and cabbage.  Cook until slightly underdone.  Salt the whole pot to taste.  Turn off the heat, add the two cups of water.  Set aside.


Frying the meat with onions and garlic


With the cabbage and carrots


With the water added

Now back to the dough.  Cut the dough into six pieces.


Form each into a round ball and them flatten with your hand.


With a rolling pin, roll it until it is very think–1/16 inch or so.  Set aside.  Repeat with all six pieces.



Place one dough circle back on the cutting board.  Pour a bit of oil (a couple tablespoons) on the dough and spread it to all edges.  Place another dough circle on top of that.  Repeat with the oil.  Repeat with third dough circle and end with oil.





Then roll the whole thing up as you would a jelly roll.  Set aside.



Repeat that process with the other three dough pieces.

Now you should have two long raw dough and oil rolls.

Here I have three.  I was making extra!

Here I have three. I was making extra!

With a sharp knife cut these into very thin (1/8th inch or so) rounds.


Place on top of the meat and vegetable s that you can see the swirl.  Layer them all up until the meat, vegetables and water are completely covered.



Place a lid on the pan and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the water is completely gone.  Be careful not to burn it, but don’t keep checking under the lid either.  You don’t want to let out the steam.  That’s the magic.


When the water is completely absorbed and evaporated, remove from heat.  With two forks start tossing it, gently separating the noodles.



(Linked to Tasty TraditionsHomemaking Link-UpFight Back Fridays, Best Posts Of The Week, Manic MondaysMake The Scene, Try A New Recipe TuesdayFoodie Friends Friday and Father’s Day Celebration Foodie Friday)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrea permalink
    March 20, 2013 3:12 pm

    I’m going to make this one too, Daja…. you know I am! 🙂

    Homemade noodles… a common thread that binds many cultures. I grew up on homemade noodles as my mother did before me. My mom told me how Grandma would roll out noodles on a newspaper (back when ink would not come off on your hands when you read the paper!) and the dough was rolled so thin you could read the newspaper through it. Grandma would roll out so much dough that it would hang over the edges of her big kitchen table.

    My dear mother passed in October of 2008 & oh, what I wouldn’t do for just one more plate full of her cabbage noodles. I make them but they’re just not like mom’s.

    Thank you for taking the time to make this tutorial. I, as only one of many I’m sure, appreciate it very much. This was done out of love & not with “spare time” as I know you don’t have any. You are a sweetie.

    I haven’t been online much & haven’t blogged myself for a long time. I don’t know what’s wrong…maybe the weather. It’s so cold here yet.

    Or maybe I’m just getting old…that’s a good possibility too. 😉

    My love & prayers for God’s blessings upon you & your entire family–Andrea

    • March 21, 2013 6:58 pm

      Would love to see pictures when you make it! Hope it brings up fond memories of noodle making with your mother. 🙂

  2. Mama permalink
    March 20, 2013 3:54 pm

    So when can we come over to try it? 😉

  3. March 22, 2013 9:52 am

    My mouth is seriously watering! Beautiful tutorial for a delicious dish! Love it! Thank you so much for doing this!

  4. May 12, 2013 1:52 pm

    this look interesting. Thanks for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday.

  5. May 13, 2013 6:00 pm

    I would love to try this recipe, it sounds delicious! Making homemade dough has always been scary to me, but I’d be willing to give it a try for this recipe! Thanks for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday!

  6. johanna permalink
    August 10, 2013 3:05 pm

    Thanks for this detailed recipe! We always had Tsuivan only as a ~follower meal when there was dough left over from buuz, which was steamed in a roll together with the buuz and then used the next day (buuz never last longer than one dinner and breakfast ;-)) for tsuivan. So the dough never got the taste of the Tsuivan’s meat. A friend makes Tsuivan noodles by cooking the flat dough directly on the hotplate and then frying it together with the meat/vegetables – I always got dough puree mixed with meat when trying this.
    So, I’ll try this one for directly cooking Tsuivan, hopefully ^^

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