This Funchoza recipe is a type of strange and wonderful salad, that is little known outside of Central Asia. Funchoza is not a traditional salad, it’s made with strips of beef, but sometimes made with chicken, and always in large quantities for celebrations of special events. I don’t remember a single family gathering, church event, or Russian party without Funchoza. Every Thanksgiving, our church had a huge feast after the church service, where we would feed everyone, buffet style. Funchoza was always a favourite staple on my plate, along with plov, perogies, pelmeni, golubtsi…
In my ignorance, growing up, I didn’t realize Funchoza wasn’t a Russian meal. My parents were born and grew up in Northwestern China. This is home of the Uyghur people who are a Turkic ethnic group who are officially recognised as a minority in China, but with limited autonomy. They are the indigenous people of Eastern Turkestan, which is now the state of Xinjiang, China.
This is where my parents were born in the 1930’s and 1940’s and lived until China became a communist country. They once again had to flee from the communists, first from Russia, then from China, many finding their way to Shanghai or Hong Kong. My grandfather even fought in a war against the communists in Xinjiang until they lost. There were thousands of stateless Russians who didn’t want to return to the now Soviet Union. Living in Shanghai in the 1950’s, they had lost it all. Eventually these Russian people got accepted to the west via Australia, Paraguay, some earlier via Phillipines, and some settled in Hong Kong.
In many ways, the world had turned their back on these stateless people, many suspicious that they were communist spies instead of unlucky refugees. Few countries in the world extended their assistance. Luckily some churches in Australia had heard of the plight of christian Russian peoples, stuck in communist China, and took action to privately sponsor out these people. I can’t imagine what a risk that would have been, being financially responsible for families that you have never met. The day after my grandfather arrived to Australia (with his 10 children), he went and got a job right away. I think the first job was digging a ditch, but he never took a penny from the government in the form of welfare or assistance. It’s a shame the the current form of the Private Sponsorship for Refugee program in Australia has a $30,000 visa application fee. Had that been the case in the 1950’s, I’m not sure I would be standing here today.
This journey forms part of the rich tapestry of the amazing foods that we enjoy today, so back to my Funchoza recipe. It’s an Uyghur dish, not a Korean, Chinese or Russian dish, although eaten commonly in Central Asia, including Russia (which makes up a huge portion of Asia). I’ve made a different version which is so delicious, Funchoza with Chicken and Prawns, as we are pretty prawn crazy here in Australia. These two recipes are similar, but have completely different flavours.
Don’t be afraid of the amount of oil you will be using in this recipe. Oil adds amazing flavour, and it will balance out when you add the vinegar. Remember, it’s a salad (oil and vinegar). The thinner you can slice and julienne the vegetables, the better. This Funchoza recipe was all cut by hand and is a bit thicker, but you can use a mandolin slicer or chopper for a thin cut. Fry the carrots really well, as this adds great flavour. This Funchoza recipe doesn’t use Chinese Black Vinegar as my Prawn Funchoza does. The Uyghur table always has Chinese Black Vinegar available freely on the table, and you can add some to your plate when you are eating. Be warned, the flavour of black vinegar is very strong, so use sparingly.
I love this Funchoza salad, it’s too bad it’s not easily available in stores, but they probably wouldn’t make it as tasty as this Funchoza recipe. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
- 500g beef, sliced into thin strips
- 2 large onions, sliced thinly
- 5 carrots, peeled and julienned
- 2 red bell peppers, julienned
- 350 grams of Asian Bean Vermicelli noodles*
- 3 eggs - thin omelette style
- vegetable oil
- 7 green onions - sliced thinly, diagonally along the stalk in 2" pieces
- ⅓ cup white vinegar - adjust to taste.
- Heat a large frying pan with 3 tablespoons of oil on high heat and cook the onions until they become translucent and start to brown – approx. 7 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Heat the same frying pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the beef strips and until it's browned and cooked (8-10 minutes). There will be a point where the juices from the onions are released and will evaporate in the frying process. After the juices are evaporated, add the salt to taste. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Heat the same frying pan with 2 tablespoons of oil on high heat and add julienned carrots. Fry on medium high heat for about 10 minutes until carrots are caramelising and cooked really well. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Heat frying pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and add the julienned red peppers. Cook for approx 2-3 minutes and set aside. The peppers will have a slight crunchy texture in the Funchoza. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Heat frying pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and add the diagonally cut green onions. Flash fry the onions very quickly until the start to wilt, about 20 seconds and remove quickly. This will add a great colour to your salad. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Make 3 thin egg omelettes or crepes. Beat 1 egg and fry it thinly in a frying pan, flip like a pancake, remove and allow to cool. Repeat with the other eggs. When cooled, cut the eggs into thin 2" long strips and set aside.
- Prepare the Bean Vermicelli according to package directions. I bring them to a boil for about 4-5 minutes in a few inches of water, until they are transclucent. Drain from the water and put inside a large mixing bowl. Cut noodles using kitchen shears into 6″ pieces. Set aside and allow to cool.
- When all ingredients are cool, combine the beef, onion, carrots, red peppers, egg strips, green onions into the large mixing bowl of vermicelli and mix thoroughly. You can wear disposable kitchen gloves to mix, as it’s quite oil and messy. Add the white vinegar, mix and taste. Adjust vinegar if necessary. Be sure to adjust to taste in small amounts ie. 1 teaspoon at a time. Be careful not to over flavour, be sure to taste the funchoza as you add the final flavours. Add more salt if necessary. Refrigerate before serving.