Mongolian Food Tours
Info about different types of traditional nomadic Foods in Mongolia for Internationals!
Mongolian food, throughout rural Mongolia, is by far the world’s most less genetically modified as well as less chemically influenced foods on planet earth – much like remote Alaskan Tribes. All livestock are 100% free to graze incredible pasture lands with absolutely zero foreign substances introduced into their diets – Mongols are about being 100% Organic and beyond a heathy desire for meats they prefer to grow and eat their own local vegetables as well. Over the past decade or two, Mongols have started to invest into nationwide greenhouses to grow everything from cucumbers, lettuces, potatoes, cabbages, turnips, onions, carrots, etc., etc., etc., on their own instead of relying on lesser quality imports from neighboring countries.
Today when traveling across Mongolia from GER to GER – YOUR diet will be transformed into nearly a 100% non-steroid, non-chemical and non-genetically modified diet… though Nomadic foods are basic – THEY ARE “back to basics” when it comes to how and what the animals eat as they all know that is what it will be served on the dinner table for themselves.
So BRING YOUR APPETITE and get ready for some serious CLEAN EATING!
Mongolian Food and Nomadic Dairy Products – What to Expect in Rural Mongolia
Generally Mongolian Food is broken down in season diets – meat during the wintertime and milk products during summer. Mongolians also eat a lot of dishes made with rice, noodles or dough of some sort. Meat is almost always well cooked – unlike westerners and Europeans who enjoy rare and medium rare stakes almost all Mongols cook their meat till its exceptionally well done. Most of the milk is immediately pasteurized during the production process, but if you have doubts, consult with your families. Many Mongolian foods tend to be a bit on the greasy or fatty side, and although root vegetables are common rural encounters of fresh fruits/greens become less the deeper you travel into Mongolia. If you are not accustomed to eating lots of meat – the most commonly experienced stomach disorder is slight constipation rather than diarrhea. If you regularly eat lots of fiber, we recommend you bring a powdered fiber drink or similar with you as a supplement.
Mongolian Foods Tours – Aaruul is A Staple Snack in Rural Mongolia
Mongolian “Aaruul” is a dried curd (called aaruul in Mongolian) that is the most widely consumed traditional dairy product in Mongolia. During the summer, nomadic families milk animals (mainly cows, sheep, yaks and camels) twice a day to make plenty of aaruul and other dairy products to consume year around. Nomads usually make aaruul from goat and cow’s milk. The taste of aaruul can be varying from sour, natural milk taste or a fine sweet yogurt taste. Central regions of Mongolia especially Arkhangai region is famous by its natural milky taste and sweet yogurt taste of aaruul in Mongolia; typically beloved by westerners and Europeans as its much more palatable. Some families also mix natural berries (cranberry, sea buckthorn, blueberry) and little bit of sugar with curds to make aaruul – and if it’s winter time – WOW! Those families are definitely the origin of what USA/Europe define as “Frozen Yogurt!”… Just incredibly tasty and 100% Organic.
Preparation: Leave the milk to curdle. Lift out the solid components with a fine cloth and allow all the liquid drip off then press the mass into a cake between two wooden boars weighted down with stone. Cut the solid cake into pieces and arrange the pieces on a wooden board and put them into the sun for drying. It will take aaruul a couple of days to be ready and once properly prepared you can virtually keep aaruul as long as you want. Aaruul is rich in calcium and good for building bones and keeping them healthy. Many years ago, a Japanese producer made a documentary film about Mongolian aaruul and a nomad woman who lives in remote Mountain region that consumes aaruul every day – surprisingly she never had any dental problems for over 40 years.
Mongolian Food Tours – Suutei Tsai (traditional milk tea)Mongolian Nomad’s hospitality starts from offering milk tea to every visitor. Main ingredients of milk tea are a tea (typically from southern China, Georgia and Sri Lanka), milk and little bit of salt. Milk tea is the most common consumed beverage in Mongolia and during holidays such as lunar New Year and Naadam all families must prepare milk tea to the offer guests. Some people like to flavor the milk tea using white rice, millet, barley, dried meat, melted butter, dumplings, sheep’s tail, bone broth, etc. These flavored milk teas are highly recommended in springtime when people are facing the famed Mongolian spring fatigue or cloudy rainy summer time.
Mongolian Food Tours – Traditional Mongolian Vodka
Mongolian Homemade Vodka (called shimiin arkhi or nermel arkhi) is a transparent alcoholic beverage and has a good reputation among Mongolian men. This is distilled from strong yogurt and rarely sold for commercial. Nermel arkhi is about 10-15 percent alcohol and traditionally the strongest “traditional” drink available; much like the Japanese Sake.
Preparation: First of all, you need to put some fermented yoghurt into a wok on the stove then place a special wooden vat without a top and bottom on the top of the wok. In the center of the vat, a collector bowl is connected to a wooden channel leading out through the wall. On the top of the vat, a second wok serves as a lid, filled with cold water. When the stove is fired up it touches the cold lid and then convex shape leads it to drip right into the collector in the center. The cold water on top can be replaced twice – though the first round gives the strongest alcohol, the second and third round the lowest alcohol. The wooden channel leads the condensate into a jar or bottle – the end product has a bit of a milky taste which is the clear vodka. Some old people prefer to add a small spoon of melted butter in the cup of vodka – they believe the combination of nermel arkhi and melted butter restores balance according to traditional medical science. Definitively you should try a taste of the nermel arkhi when you visit a nomadic family… Cheers-Eruul enhiin tuluu!
Mongolian Food Tours – Buuz (steamed meat dumpling)
Mongolian Buuz are considered THE traditional food in Mongolia. Mongolian families make buuz for respectful guests or family members on special holidays such as lunar New Year. During the national Lunar New year holiday, all family relatives visit each other and show respect on the third to fifth days of the holiday. During The Lunar New Year, one of the main dishes is indeed buuz. The main ingredients are minced meat (typically beef but sometimes mutton, horse’s meat, goat’s meat can be used), chopped onion, salt, garlic and other spices (caraway is common). In order to offer buuz for every guests on the holidays, each household makes about 200-1500 pieces of buuz and then stores in the freezer.
Mongolian Food Tours – Khuushuur (fried meat pockets)
Mongolian Khuushur is a meat pastry or what westerners refer to meat pockets. Khuushuur is quite common food at most cafés and restaurants across Mongolia. Mongols celebrate the National Naadam Festival in July and August and it’s during the Naadam Festival that the main foods are khuushuur and Mongolian Barbecue that is called Khorkhog. The main ingredients are minced meat, onion, garlic, salt and spices – though Khuushuur with alpine wild leeks or wild onions are popular in Mongolia.
Mongolian Food Tours – Guriltai shul (hand made noodle soup)Mongolian Noodle Soup is a hearty soup with meat and noodles is commonly consumed in the cold months. Most family prepares the bone broth (simmering lamb or beef) and then adds on hand made noodles with chopped onion. Mongolian foods generally don’t rely on a lot of spices and herbs due to the extreme continental climate. But people in central places lately prefer to add some vegetables such as potatoes, carrot and cabbage to noodle soup.
Mongolian Food Tours – Airag (fermented mare’s milk)
Mongolian Airag is a fermented dairy product traditionally made from mare’s milk. It has a unique and slightly sour flavor with a bite from the mild alcoholic content; the serving of it is an essential part of Mongolian hospitality. It is hard to find someone in Mongolia who is not curious about drinking airag because of its taste and smell – it does not matter whether you are old, young, male or female everyone will drink airag by a bowl. Airag will be ready after many times of beating the mix of horse milk – the source of airag is reserved for just this in a hohuur (big leather container). Airag requires at least 2000-4000 beats which helps it to ferment with air. The culture of fermenting airag in Khukhuur was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2019. In Mongolia, the milking season for horses traditionally runs between mid June till early October. During the season, a mare produces approximately 1000-1200 litres of milk – and in Mongolia – Bulgan and Arkhangai provinces are well known for strong tasty airag.
Mongolian Foods Tours – Urum (organic cream cheese)
Mongolian Urum is a smooth cream, much similar to ‘organic cream cheese’, which forms on the top of the boiled milk. The milk of yaks is best because it contains more fat but cow’s milk urum is common. Urum is typically served for breakfast with homemade pastries and sugar. In the morning having a slice of bread or homemade fresh warm pastry with urum and wild berry jams (cranberry, blueberry, rootbar) is most delicious nomadic breakfast!
Mongolian Foods Tours – Khailmag (caramelized cottage cream)
Mongolian Khailmag is a caramelized cottage cream using left over organic cottage cream and bit of raisins. When you start heating up the cottage cream, the fat of the cream will be liquefied and separated from solid mass. After taking out separated yellow oil – small amount of sugar, flour and raisins will be added to solid mass. After few minutes, khailmag will be ready and you can eat with bread and pastry.
Mongolian Food Tours – Byaslag (organic cheese)
Mongolian Byaslag is commonly made via cows’ milk. But milk of goats and sheep can be used for aromatic tasty cheeses. Mongolian cheese does not get ripen like western cheeses, so the overall taste is somewhat bland. In order prepare the byaslag one must first boil the milk and add a small amount of yogurt. After the milk has curdled, lift out the solid components using a large cloth and let the remaining liquid drip off before pressing the mass between some wooden boards with a weight; after a day or so, you will have about 25 cm diameter square cheese. Nomads commonly cut the cheese into slices and place them on a wooden board to dry – dried cheeses are good for long preservation. In summer time, fresh slices of cheeses are eaten as a snack and sometimes nomads make khuushuur using this cheese and onions.
Mongolian Foods Tours – Notes For Vegetarians
Mongolian food is highly dependent on meat – after winter – Mongolians have dairy products starting from late spring to clean the stomach, hence, dairy products are the main dish of Mongolians in summer. Our nomadic families can serve you all kinds of dairy products /cheese, dried curds, yogurt, milk, cream etc/, cooked rice, homemade cookies & bread, steamed vegetable /usually carrot, cabbage, onion, potato and garlic/ etc. But you are recommended to bring dried fruits, packed soups, instant noodles and nuts, etc.