Erich Pfeiffer gets a yuk--better make that yak--out of cooking and sharing recipes for delectable dishes he has discovered on treks to such faraway places as Nepal and India.
The German-born Mission Viejo resident, an engineer at Northrop, is deeply involved in trekking--prowling around mountains without roads or trails, led by native guides who generally do all the cooking.
It was on such a 23-day sojourn to Nepal that Pfeiffer first sampled the dish he shared with Guys & Galleys: Tibetan meat pies called momos. It was, he said, the staple of the party at day's end.
He bakes his version, but the natives steam theirs. He also makes it easier by using prepared crescent-roll dough, instead of creating it from scratch, and by substituting lean ground beef for chopped yak meat, which Pfeiffer said he has difficulty finding in Orange County.
The dish has become a particular favorite at local Sierra Club potluck dinners. Pfeiffer said he and his wife, Kathleen, must sample the momos at home or do without at such functions because "they're always the first things to go, while we're still way back in the line."
The Pfeiffers, who have been married a little more than a year, met at a Sierra Club function. She backpacks with him but eschews the overseas treks.
Aside from her accusing him of "always using too much vinegar in his German dishes," she is his biggest culinary fan.
"Whether it's potato dumplings, real sauerkraut, chicken a la Erich or one of his famous sauces," she wrote Guys & Galleys, "it's bound to be authentic, well prepared and actually fairly easy for anyone to reproduce.
"Our 13-month-old granddaughter even smacks her lips when she sees Erich in the kitchen."
Pfeiffer's interest in cooking took root, he said, in a makeshift bomb shelter in Stuttgart, Germany, during Allied air raids during World War II. "Our root cellar was our shelter," he said, "and my mother kept her collection of cookbooks just outside the door, and they were the only thing I had to read while we were in there."
There was almost no food--then or for a few years after the war's end--but that only intensified his interest in cooking (and eating) the best, he said.
During his bachelor years, he honed those skills while earning a doctorate in electronic engineering in Stuttgart. He holds patents on several inventions and has written several college textbooks.
ERICH PFEIFFER'S MOMOS (TIBETAN MEAT PIES)
1 pound finely chopped yak meat (or lean ground beef if yak is not available)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
1/3 cup water
1 container crescent roll dough
Saute onion and garlic in vegetable oil until slightly browned. Add meat, stir-fry until done and drain off most fat. Add seasonings and stir-fry a few more minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and add water. Reduce heat and cook for a few more minutes. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes, then separate into 8 equal portions. Set aside.
Separate crescent roll dough into triangular sections. Sprinkle with flour and roll them out until they have increased in size about 50%. Place filling in center, fold over tips of triangles and place on cookie sheet with tips on bottom. Bake in 350-degree oven until golden brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).
Each week, Orange County Life will feature a man who enjoys cooking and a favorite recipe. Tell us about your candidate. Write to Guys & Galleys, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.