It’s quite common knowledge that Mongolian food is not winning any culinary awards on the worlds stage, in fact we personally like to refer to it as the cafeteria food of the world! Heading into Mongolia we had no idea what food to expect, in fact a Mongolian friend of ours simply stated “have low expectations then you won’t be disappointed”! This article is aimed at giving those planning on visiting Mongolia a bit of an insight on what food is really available. P.S. its a lot of mutton.
Restaurant / Roadhouse Food
Buuz – Mongolian Mutton Dumplings
This dish is found throughout Mongolia often in Roadhouses. We found many regular restaurants don’t even offer this dish though. Regardless, it is normally considered the national dish of Mongolia.
Khuushuur (Pronounced Horeshure) – Deep fried mutton parcels
Many tourist gers on the eastern side of Mongolia will offer this deep fried package. It’s also the main food available at Naadam festivals. You will see people devour these by the bag load!
Tsuivan – Fried noodle with mutton
Found all over especially in rest stops this dish can vary in taste wildly depending on who made it. Some is good and some is very, very bad!
Many locals smother it in ketchup to add “flavour”.
Nothin but mutton, fat and broth, sometimes (if you are lucky!) served with a steamed bun.
Specially served up during the Naadam festival. Harder to find in restaurants. Yes, the white pieces are not mushrooms, they are pure fat!
Home Treats: Food often served inside Gers
Dried Cheese Biscuit (“Qurut” or “Aaruul”)
This is a favourite of all Mongolians! Made of drained sour milk that has been left outside to dry and then served as a kind of desert.
Try it for yourself but its going on our list of ‘Foods to Never Eat Again’
Mongolian Cream – öröm
For those of you that have tried clotted cream you will find the flavour very similar, for those of you that haven’t its naughty, fatty, awesome cream!
This was one of Tommo’s favourites in Mongolia.
This is a very salty, strong flavoured butter made from….yaks milk. Just as a heads up the families do tend to make this in large batches in order to save for the winter months, however due to the lack of refrigeration in gers the butter is kept inside sheep stomach to preserve it. Thats right! They pack it into a sheep stomach, sew it up and leave it in a cool place! You can almost taste the stomach acid! If this makes you squeamish it may be best to avoid.
Typical Mongolian Breakfast
Mares Milk – “Airag”
Another national favourite. Mares Milk is fermented (so yes, its alcoholic). It should be noted that it is seen to be very rude to not try mares milk if offered to you, you have three options at this point:
1. Drink Up
2. Place the bowl to your lips and pretend to drink
3. Place your middle finger lightly in the milk and then flick three times once to you left, once to your right and then upwards as an offering to the spirits.
Mutton and Noodle Soup – Guriltai Shol
The name speaks for itself, this dish is usually quite tasty as the noodles are normally fresh and handmade.
A family meal like no other. All the parts of the sheep are stewed together in a large pot: this includes meat, stomach, fat and of course the head, which is expertly carved up by the oldest male of the ger…..if you’re lucky you might get offered an eyeball! Traditionally, different organs are supposed to be eaten by different members of the family… if that tradition is being observed you may end up with no choice about eating some very strange offal! Either way, once the meat is on the plate, in a dark ger, every mouthful is a gamble!
And now for something a little More Daring……
Often found on the Western side of Mongolia, this furry creature is still known to carry the bubonic plague!
We didn’t eat Marmot while in Mongolia but one driver did offer to kill one for us to have for dinner…..we politely declined!
Mongolian Food Menu
As dishes in Mongolia do not vary greatly from town to town, we found this English / Mongolian menu really helpful. Often we would show it to a waitress and she would point to what dishes they could cook up…..
While in Mongolia there is no escaping the food…you have to eat sometime right??? We found that while not bursting with flavour, much of it was quite edible and even sometimes tasty! You never know, if you don’t try new things how will you ever discover new foodie favourites…..do you like Mutton???
You really need to like Mutton!