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The Food of the Nomads
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Mutton Back, stewed in one piece.

A well fed sheep will collect a large amount of fat in the lower back and in the tail as an energy reserve, as is easily recognizable as a "fat bottom" on the animal. This fat is the core component of the speciality described here. A mutton back is only prepared for special occasions, such as the new year's festival "Tsagaan Sar" or a wedding.


The sheep is disemboweled and the extremities removed. This leaves us with the back with the tail. Most of the skin is removed, except for the area around the tail. A flame (eg. a blowtorch) is used there to remove all hair, until only the blank skin remains.

The torso can be soaked with marinade. It is hung into a vat without top and bottom, as it is used to make Mongol Arkhi. To cook, a lid is place on the top opening and water boiled in the pan below. The mutton back will stew in this "steam chamber" for three to five hours.

Alternatively, the mutton back can be prepared in a very large oven. But such a device will not normally be available in a private household, let alone in the yurt of a nomadic family.


Next to a tower built from sole cakes, the mutton back is the central piece on the festive table. Its size is an indicator of the prestige of the family. Each guest will receive a slice of meat, which gets cut off the side. After the festival ends, the remaining center is cut into pieces (about 3 vertebra each) and passed around to relatives.