Mongolian cuisine is not vast, but its staple dishes are a delicious combination of Russian and Chinese flavors. It is very heavy in animal meat and animal fat, as their heartiness helps the people of Mongolia survive extremely harsh weather. While meat is a huge component of the Mongolian diet, you will rarely see chicken or pork in this fare — and especially not fish, as the country is landlocked. You will, however, find mutton, beef, lamb, horse, camel, yak, and marmot meat on the menu.
Let’s just say that adventurous eaters are more likely to enjoy this cuisine, which is made to suit a nomadic lifestyle. A popular style of cooking involves hot stones, and some Mongolian people even stuff animal carcasses with hot stones in order to cook the meat from the inside, which keeps it from getting too dry or tough.
Non-adventurous eaters still have a few things to enjoy, like meaty dumplings and compact doughnuts. Sorry to disappoint, but “Mongolian Barbeque” is not Mongolian; it is Taiwanese. Nevertheless, here are a few other things to be enjoyed in the Central Asian country’s cuisine. Note: the most popular side dish in Mongolia is vodka.
A deep-fried dumpling, similar to an empanada, consisting of ground mutton (or beef) mixed with onion, garlic, salt, and other spices, all deep-fried in mutton fat. Some people put the hot dumplings on their foreheads or the soles of their feet in order to treat neurosis or other health issues. We would probably be too busy eating them to test that out. The unfried version is called buuz.
Suutei tsai is like a regular milk tea, consisting of water, milk, and evaporated tea leaves, except it also includes salt. It’s not for everybody, but the strong taste of salt contrasts the sweetness in a surprisingly pleasant way. It is drunk multiple times a day throughout Mongolia.
Boortsog is generally referred to as a biscuit, but is more like a less-sweet, smaller version of an old-fashioned American doughnut. It goes well with sweet drinks, like milk tea, as well as savory soups and stews. This specialty treads the middle ground between sweet and salty so well that it makes an excellent snack any time of the day.
A lamb stew that is cooked outdoors in a large pot alongside hot stones, khorkhog highlights the natural taste of the lamb because the stones absorb the meat’s fat. I know what you’re thinking: the fat’s the best part! However, this leaner version provides a more gamey, earthy taste. It’s usually served under a layer of vegetables.
This noodle dish uses flour noodles (which you can make at home from tortillas), a meat (usually beef or mutton, but camel and horse are more commonly used than pork or chicken), and a vegetable medley that is heavy in leeks or onions. You can use broth for a deeper flavor, or just cook it in water. The result is a richer take on ramen.