When you think about Mongolian Food, what do you have in mind? Abundance portion of meat served on the table, the famous Mongolian Hotpot, or maybe Mongolian BBQ? Well, I also had the same ideas about Mongolian Food before I really got the chance to visit the country. But once I stepped foot on this beautiful land, I suddenly realized how many mistakes I did. So for you who haven’t been there, here are the lists of Mongolian Food Misconceptions to give you a better idea about Mongolian Food.
1. Mongolian people eat many meat all the time
The extreme continental climate of Mongolia has influenced the traditional diet. The nomads of Mongolia sustain their lives directly from the products of domesticated animals such as cattle, horses, camels, yaks, sheep, and goats. The Mongolian Food includes a large proportion of animal fat which is necessary for the Mongols to withstand the cold winters and their hard work.
BUT THEY DONT HAVE MEAT FOR DIET THE WHOLE TIME!
Our group were there during summer time, and to our surprise…. their summer food were mostly consisted of dairy products, not meat! So actually, the Mongols have two main food groups, the white and the red foods. The white, of course, are the milk products. The red foods are meat, and Mongols eat meat from all of their animals. Generally, Mongolians consume dairy in the summer, and meat or animal fat in the winter. This meat supplies them with protein for energy, while the fat keeps them warm in the cold winters. Meanwhile in the summers, their animals produced a lot of milk, so they switched the emphasis from meat to milk products.
2. Don’t wish to find any vegetarian restaurant in Mongolia
It is known that Mongols are great meat lovers. In fact, be assured to find sheep and goat meats in all traditional Mongolian Food. A meal without meat is unconceivable for Mongolians. The fact that Mongolia has harsh weather conditions also make it almost impossible for the development of any agriculture, so it is very difficult to find any vegetables or fruits.
During our trip, we had some Moslem friends in the group, so they couldn’t eat meat in Mongolia. Our driver who ate with us preferred to stay hungry all the time rather than to join us eating vegetarian food. Apparently, Mongolians think that meat is for men and grass for animals! That is why until today, some Mongols still refuse to eat vegetables “for health reasons”.
WELL …YOU CAN STILL DINE IN VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT IN MONGOLIA!
10 years ago numerous vegetarian restaurants opened their doors and became very popular among the Mongolian youth looking for a new way of life. Due to growing economic condition, some of Mongolian lifestyles have also changed. It is said that currently there are about 30 locations serving exclusively vegetarian dishes, and also the ones from the famous Loving Hut chain. Another notable choice is Luna Blanca, which has adjusted few traditional dishes to the vegan trend (we tried this one in Ulaanbaatar, delicious food with decent price, lovely restaurant!). Of course, this new trend is limited only in the capital city, so outside Ulaanbaatar it will be much more difficult to find vegetarian restaurant…but you can still enjoy dishes without meat in most of the big cities in Mongolia.
Add : FPMT, Tourist Street 16 (at opposite Zanabazar Museum), Ulaanbaatar
Opening time : 12-3.30 pm, 5 – 8 pm, closed on Saturday
3. It is impossible to find fancy eating places in Mongolia
Mongolia is very famous for its nomadic lifestyle. Picture of Mongolia usually displays people riding beautiful horses somewhere in the desert, or maybe a family living in traditional camp locally called as ger. So to combine this kind of lifestyle with some fancy coffee shops or international restaurants would be a mismatch.
HEY….THAT IS YEARS AGO, MODERNIZATION HAS ALSO ARRIVED IN MONGOLIA!
In Ulaanbaatar you can easily get European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican food restaurants. Not to mention that Mongolians are now very into Korean hype (like many other youngsters in the world). So it is not difficult at all to find good Korean restaurants or fancy Korean café. You can also spot some KFC and Pizza Hut in Ulaanbaatar, just don’t expect to find any McDonald or Starbucks.
4. Mongolian Hotpot is traditional Mongolian Food
Mongolian Hotpot is a dish consists of thin sliced meat, noodles and variety of vegetables cooked in a pot of soup stock. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Ah look at the picture, it will be perfect to eat this delicate food in exotic steppes of Mongolia.
DON’T GET IT WRONG, MONGOLIANS DON’T HAVE HOTPOT LIKE THAT!
Mongolian Hotpot is actually more associated with China and Inner Mongolia than with Mongolia (here we are talking about Outer Mongolia). So don’t be surprised if you can’t find any place selling the so called Mongolian Hotpot even after you finish travelling the country. Personally, I think the closest Mongolian Food to this dish is Khorkhog. It is a traditional food made by cooking pieces of meat, vegetable, and potato inside a container which also contains hot stones and water. Well, to be honest, the only similarities are that this dish is cooked using (almost the same) large pot and has some vegetables in it.
5. You will eat delicious Mongolian BBQ everywhere in Mongolia
Mongolian Barbecue is a dish consists of sliced beef, typically flank steak, and stir-fried with vegetables in a savory brown sauce, usually made with hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and chili peppers. The beef is commonly paired with scallions or mixed vegetables and is often not spicy. Meat and vegetables are cooked on large, round, solid iron griddles at temperatures of up to 300 °C.
Hmmmmm….that sounds really delicious!
SORRY, THEY DON’T HAVE IT IN MONGOLIA!
In fact, the widely popular Mongolian BBQ was originally developed in Taiwanese restaurants in the 1970s. It was then spread to Chinese-American and Chinese-Australian communities before it hit the world. As for the real Mongolian Food, the BBQ you will certainly get is Boodog. Almost similar with earliest mentioned Khorkhog, the basic technique is the same, but instead of a pot, Mongolians place the stones, the meat and the vegetables in the previously cut up abdomen of the animal.
P.S : after all the misconceptions, it will be nice to experience the real Mongolian culinary…. check this for Must Try Traditional Food in Mongolia