A land of hearty fare and strong drinks, Mongolia’s cuisine reflects its nomadic traditions, harsh climate, and the hearty spirit of its people. If you’re planning a culinary exploration of this unique country, here are some key tips to guide your taste buds.
1. Embrace Meat and Dairy
Mongolian cuisine is heavy on meat and dairy, given the country’s pastoral culture. Mutton, beef, and horsemeat are commonly consumed, while dairy products come from cows, sheep, and yaks.
2. Try Traditional Dishes
Start with ‘Buuz,’ steamed dumplings typically filled with meat, or ‘Khuushuur,’ a deep-fried meat pastry. Don’t miss ‘Tsuivan,’ a nomadic dish of stewed meat and hand-rolled noodles.
3. Sample the Dairy Delicacies
Dairy products form a significant part of the Mongolian diet. Sample ‘Aaruul,’ dried curd, or ‘Byaslag,’ Mongolian cheese. For a unique experience, try ‘Airag,’ a fermented mare’s milk beverage, or ‘Eezgii,’ a hard cheese made by boiling yogurt.
4. Attend the Naadam Festival
For a full immersion into Mongolian culture and cuisine, attend the Naadam Festival in July. Alongside traditional games, you’ll find a range of food stalls serving classic Mongolian dishes.
5. Visit a Traditional Ger
Stay in a traditional Ger (yurt) for an authentic experience. You’ll likely have a chance to taste ‘Borts,’ air-dried meat, and ‘Suutei Tsai,’ a salty milk tea which is a Mongolian staple.
6. Understand Mongolian Meal Etiquettes
In a Mongolian home, it’s polite to accept food and drink offered with your right hand or both hands. Try at least a small amount of the offerings to show respect.
7. Explore Ulaanbaatar’s Food Scene
In Mongolia’s capital, you’ll find an array of restaurants serving local and international cuisine. Modern interpretations of traditional dishes can be a great way to ease into Mongolian food culture.
8. Brace Yourself for Winter Foods
In the harsh winters, Mongolians consume fatty and high-calorie foods for sustenance. ‘Boodog,’ a goat or marmot cooked from the inside with hot stones, is a traditional winter dish.
9. Visit Local Markets
Markets like Ulaanbaatar’s Naran Tuul Market offer a look into local food culture. You can find fresh produce, meat, dairy products, and traditional snacks.
10. Embrace the Tea Culture
Tea is integral to Mongolian hospitality. ‘Suutei Tsai,’ salted milk tea, is served at every meal and occasion. It’s often enjoyed with ‘Boortsog,’ a fried dough pastry.
Mongolian cuisine offers a unique culinary experience reflecting the country’s nomadic lifestyle and extreme climate. The robust, meat-heavy dishes coupled with the distinctive dairy products provide a gastronomic adventure that is as unique as the country itself. As Mongolians say, “Saihan hoolloorei!” – Enjoy your meal!