All Mongolian Recipes
The Food of the Nomads
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FAQ - Frequent Questions

What is a "Mongolian Barbeque"?

What some restaurants in the west offer as "Mongolian Barbeque", is completely unknown in Mongolia. In most cases, it means to grill on a hot slab of steel. The ingredients are collected from all of the world, but typically from tropical regions (vegetables, meat, seefood, etc.).

In fact, this type of cooking has its roots in the Japanese Teppanyaki. A restaurant in Taiwan redeclared such an offering as "mongolian" for the first time in the 1970-ties, probably because the "exotic" designation promised better marketing potential. The Idea caught on internationally and is today implemented worldwide primarily through franchise chains. However, the explanations typically given about "historic Mongolian traditions" are entirely made up.

The usual story claims that the Mongol soldiers had grilled meat on their metal shields held over the fire, giving birth to such a tradition. But for one, the shields of the time were only part metal, and the wood and leather parts clearly wouldn't have survived such a treatment intact. On top of that, the hardened metal would also have softened in the heat, eliminating the protection it was supposed to offer. It is quite likely that any soldier damaging his military equipment in this way would have been summarily executed on the spot.

See also: Wikipedia: Teppanyaki

What is a "Mongolian Hot Pot"?

The "hot pot" is a Chinese receipe, which is unknown in Mongolia (except maybe as a western import). Some sources assume its historical origin in the north of China, but it must be the invention of sedentary people. The special equipment needed (a ring shaped pot with an extra heating facility and a chimney in the center) is not practical for use in a nomadic household. Nomads usually prefer tools that can be used flexibly for more than one purpose, because that helps them to save space and weight during migration.

I have seen Mongolian recipes with soy sauce, sesam, and rice wine elsewhere, why are those missing here?

Soy sauce, sesam, and rice wine are used for cooking in china, japan, and many other asian countries. But in the traditional Mongolian cuisine, they are completely unknown. The respective recipes are therefore not originally Mongolian, but an adaption to what many people in the west consider "asian" in a generalized way.

We perfer to present the Mongolian recipes in their original state here as far as possible, and therefore resist to add such gimmicks. But of course, there are no limits to your creativity in your own kitchen at home. Even the Mongolians of today, especially in the cities, don't always strictly follow the old traditions.

Given the extreme meaty diet, don't people in Mongolia suffer from obesity, high cholesterol, and other illnesses?

In tropical countries and for western office personnel, a low meat or even vegetarian diet can make sense and is certainly healthy. Given the extremely cold winter climate and the hard physical work of the Mongolian nomads, the energy supplied by animal fat is simply necessary for survival. The same is true eg. for the Eskimos.

The mentioned civilicational illnesses practically don't exist with mongols who practise a traditional livestyle. This makes it obvious that under the given conditions their diet is healthy and appropriate. The same nutritional promlems as know in the west only appear with city dwellers, who increasinly consume industrially processed food.

How can a vegetarian survive in Mongolia?

On the countryside only by bringing your own supplies. In Ulaanbaatar, and probably in most Aimag centers, buying vegetables is no problem, even if the selection may only be satisfactory in the capital.