December 01, 2019

Dumplings Fit for a Surgeon


Dumplings Fit for a Surgeon
Pozy, from Buryatia

“So I’m in surgery with a patient, and when I come out I receive a phone call: "Do you make pozy (steamed dumplings from Buryatia)?" “Yes, sure, let me take your order.”

Tuyana is sharing her stories, and we’re all laughing. We met just minutes ago, as this is our first distant relative gathering, but just one khinkali each into the night, we've bonded like we’d known each other for ages.

It was Tuyana’s idea for us all to meet. She is from Ulan Ude and has lived in Moscow for 23 years, but still keeps in touch with her entire extended family, helping them with health issues and feeding them pozy. I met her through a colleague of my husband: they worked together for seven years, until he came for dinner at our place in Tbilisi, and while chatting we discovered that we were related through my grandfather, who was from Buryatia.

Siberia Pozy
A second close-up view to whet your appetite.

Buryatia is a republic that borders Lake Baikal, in Siberia. Mongolian by ethnicity and culture, its cuisine features mainly meat dishes (“a Buryat who doesn’t eat meat is not a Buryat”, Tuyana says), pozy being the most famous of all. 

Tuyana came to my place on her day off from her work at the hospital. She was carrying a meat grinder, chocolates, champagne, slippers, and some cash for my son (it’s traditional in Buryatia to give cash to children, especially on a first meeting, as I learned, not unhappily).

She’s been making pozy for as long as she can remember: at home with her mum and baba (grandmother), every time she visited a relative in Moscow or other cities in Russia, and now “a lot, because I just love pozy.” In fact, she loves them so much, that once at a poznaya (pozy cafe), she and her cousin, who were both out of work at the time, decided to start a pozy delivery business. 

Tuyana's grandmother Maria
Tuyana's grandmother Maria

 She still receives orders today and makes pozy on her days off. People seem to want their pozy delivered already steamed. “I say to them – are you from Buryatia? Then surely you know the juice is the main part. If I bring the pozy already cooked, there’ll be no juice anymore.” She has figured out how to deliver pozy steaming and juicy, she said, and it’s quite an ingenious technology (and a commercial secret, naturally).

Despite working all week as a doctor, Tuyana loves rolling her sleeves up and spending a couple of hours making pozy with her mum, a “pozy perfectionist”.  And she loves teaching others to make them, too. I was a very grateful student.

Tuyana with her father Valery and mother Valentina
Tuyana with her father Valery and mother Valentina.

After dinner, Tuyana began talking about her main passion in life: medicine. “I always wanted to be a doctor, ever since I was tiny," she says. "If there was an accident nearby, I’d be there – getting used to the sight of blood and watching the doctors do their jobs.”

She pursued her dream and has now been a doctor for 18 years. “I’d love to open my own clinic,” she says. “It would have a cafe with healthy food, so that the patients could wait in comfort. I would serve pozy there, too.”

Tuyana advised me to get a round table for more kitchen (I am choosing a new one): “At our place, the table is round and we can easily fit one, two, three or more friends or relatives who come over for pozy,” she says. I think I will, and I will definitely add pozy to my diet, especially since my three-year-old son seems positively enamored by them.

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