Food and Drinks

The staple in rural Mongolia is mutton or sheep. Beef hits the menu occasionally. Most common dish is tsuivan a large platter heaped with fried noodles and slivers of mutton. On the side will be a large bottle of ketchup. Khuushuur is a tasty, greasy, fried pancake stuffed with bits of mutton and onion. Three to four make a typical meal. Also, the ubiquitous buuz can be had at any canteen in town or the countryside. Buuz are similar to khuushuur in that they are big dumplings stuffed with mutton and onion, however they are steamed rather than fried.

The boodog or goat/marmot barbecue, is particularly worth experiencing. A nomad will don his fox head hat and head out with his gun, shoot a marmot, and then cook it using hot stones in its skin without a pot. Along the same lines as boodog is khorkhog , which is prepared by building a fire, tossing stones into the fire until they are red hot, placing water, hot stones, onions, potatoes, carrots, and, finally, mutton chops, into a large vacuum-sealed kettle; let the kettle simmer over a fire for 30-60 minutes; open it carefully, as the top will inevitably explode with hot juices flying out; once the kettle is opened, and all injuries have been tended to, eat the contents of the kettle, including the salty broth and play hot potato with sizzling hot stones which is said to be good for your health. This cooking method makes mutton taste tender and juicy, like slow-roasted turkey on Thanksgiving.

The boodog is also made of other meat, usually goat, and is similar to the khorhog with one major difference: the meat, vegetables, water and stones are cooked inside the skin of the animal. They skin it carefully, and then tie shut the holes at the legs and back side, put the food and hot stones inside, tie the throat shut, and let it cook for about 30 minutes.

The national drink is Airag. This is a summer drink made from fermented mare's milk, and is certainly an acquired taste. The alcohol content is less than that of beer, but can have noticeable effects. Those unaccustomed to drinking sour-milk products may have diarrhea; later the stomach becomes accustomed to it. This should only happen the first time though. There are numerous ways to describe the taste, from bile-like to a mixture of lemonade and sour cream. The texture can also be off-putting to some people since it can be slightly gritty. It is worth keeping in mind that Airag is milk and a source of nutrients. After a day of riding it can actually be quite refreshing, once you acquired a taste for it.

Milk tea is the first thing served to guests in a ger; it is essentially a cup of boiled milk and water, sometimes with a couple pieces of tea leaf thrown in for good measure. A tolerance can be effected by drinking much milk before the stay because they don't drink much else, except perhaps boiled water if requested during a longer stay. Also, most traditional nomadic foods such as dried yogurt and the like require acclimatization to milk as well. Cold drinks don't actually exist in the countryside except when drinking directly from a river or spring.

Try home-made vodka. It's usually made from distilled yogurt or milk. It doesn't taste weird. The first shot has little impact, at first, but kicks in a few minutes later. Most people in Mongolia usually drink this for medical reasons. First, heat the vodka, then add a bit of special oil which is also made from milk. Overheating it causes blindness. Mongolians call their national vodka nermel areehk ("distilled vodka") or changa yum ("tight stuff"). There are many Russian-style vodkas sold all over the country. Mongolia is famous for its beers, made from grain grown in rich fertile Mongolian soil and pure, fresh spring water.