Mongolia is a land full of mystery and intrigue. Often described as one of the last unexplored landscapes, its fascinating history and long-standing nomadic culture attract countless visitors to its cities, towns, villages and rural idylls year after year.
When visiting any country, including Mongolia, eating as the locals do provides the authentic experience that most adventure-loving travellers crave. Mongolian cuisine, however, isn’t for the faint-hearted.
The vast majority of Mongolian dishes are the personification of ‘hearty’. Those living on the road, after all, have very limited access to the spices and vegetables used widely in Western cooking. Instead, dishes predominantly consist of meat and dairy, a combination that warms the soul and provides plenty of fuel to take on the Mongolian climate.
Sampling the delicacies that are a traditional part of the Mongolian diet is a must on your upcoming Trans-Siberian trip. Read on to discover the top 7 traditional dishes you just have to try.
Over the border in China, you’re likely to taste a few dumplings. Whilst the Chinese do a great job, a Mongolian buuz offers a more unique taste.
Crafted from flour dough and filled to bursting with either shredded lamb or beef, buuz provide a flavour that is much spicier and more intense when compared to the Chinese alternative. The parcels of meat, pepper, garlic, and onion are steamed to ensure that “melt in the mouth” finish.
No one does a barbeque like the Mongolians, and khorkhog is as good as it gets! It’s lamb meat that has been cooked inside a pot over an open fire with potatoes, onions, and carrots. The pot contains another secret ingredient that gives the dish its super smoky flavour. Mongolians place hot stones in the pot to aid the cooking process.
We may consider ourselves to be the kings of the Sunday roast in the UK but a traditional roast is something completely different in Mongolia. Mongolians use the whole goat and fill it with onions, potatoes and hot stones to ensure a wholesome treat after a long day’s riding.
Mutton is a staple meat in Mongolian cuisine, and you’re certain to find many incarnations of this particular meat on your trip. With its Eastern twist, however, Mongolian noodle soup or guriltai shul tops the chart for the most flavoursome mutton-based dish. Mongolians use the fattiest mutton meat to ensure that authentic taste, adding noodles, vegetables and stock to complete the dish.
Heartiness is always on the menu in Mongolia. Those looking for a tasty, traditional snack won’t be disappointed with huushuur. Fine Dining Lovers reveals more about this delicious delicacy:
“Next comes the delicious Huushuur, fried pastries filled with minced meat and spices. They are traditionally served during Naadam, Mongolia’s most famous and important national holiday, but in reality you see them served everywhere, year-round. Wild leeks, garlic or nettles are sometimes added into the mix to make them more fragrant and lighter, but they still make for substantial eating.”
Huushuur isn’t the only special occasion food that you’ll want to taste. Uuz isn’t served at the infamous Naadam Festival. It is instead reserved for New Year’s Eve and even has its own special place in history.
The back and tail of mutton or sheep are steam cooked for up to five hours in a specially designed chamber to ensure the most succulent, savoury dish. Uuz is a real showstopper and was thought to have been eaten in ancient times during great celebrations.
Traditionally served at breakfast, chanasan makh is a mutton-based dish that’s a far cry from the breakfasts we know at home. The mutton is cut into chunks and boiled in salty water. It’s often sprinkled with pepper or served with a spicy dipping sauce to give it an extra kick – delicious!
Every local dish has to be washed down with Mongolia’s national drink, airag. Called ‘kumis’ by the Russians and Turks, airag is one beverage that Mongolians drink a lot of!