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The Food of the Nomads
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Isgelen Tarag - Исгэлэн Тараг

"Fermented Yoghurt" - Kefir

Mongolian Kefir

Comsumers who only know Kefir from the supermarket will have to forget most of what they know here. Such industrial products usually have more similarity with Yoghurt than with actual Kefir. The original is different in that it contains both carbon dioxide and alcohol.


The Mongolians use milk from cattle and yaks, less often from goats and sheep, to make Kefir. The process is accomplished by a symbiotic culture of Lactobacillus bacteria and Yeast. Alternatively, it is possible to ferment yoghurt with yeast alone.

As with Yoghurt, the milk is boiled first. Most often only the low fat milk remaining after the preparation of Urum is used. The culture stored from the last run is added when the milk has cooled down to hand temperature. From this point on, the procedure is very similar to that of making Airag. The Kefir is placed in a vat and stirred regularly with a wooden masher (Buluur). The yeast will use the added oxygen to process the lactose to carbon dioxide and alcohol within about one day.


The difference between Airag and kefir is mostly in the milk used (cattle vs. mare's milk). Consequently the two products are consumed in a very similar manner. Kefir is a refreshing beverage containing about 2 % alcohol. Very often though it gets distilled to Mongol Arkhi (milk liquor).