“Breakfast, keep for yourself; lunch, share with your friends; dinner, give to your enemies.” That’s a common saying among Mongolians. Not surprisingly, the most important meals are breakfast and lunch, and you’ll enjoy some rare and exotic culinary treats here in this distant land.
Taste of Five Animals
Known as the land of the great warrior, Genghis Khan, Mongolia is also known as the country of five animals—sheep, goat, cattle, horse, and camel. This sentiment greatly influences Mongolian cuisine. Historically, in the era of Genghis Khan, the warriors spread out across the vast desert in pursuit of their cause, and they survived on dried meats, animal fats, and dry breads. This still influences the flavors of food here today. If you are in the larger city of Ulaan Baatar, you’ll have a variety of restaurants to choose from, and will have an opportunity to taste traditional foods, as well as more mainstream Asian and European dishes.
Horse Meat, Vodka, and Salty Tea
Meat, especially mutton, tends to be very fatty, and is often accompanied by rice or noodles. Horse meat is also commonly eaten, as well as other game animals. It is unlike other types of Asian cuisine, in that there are fewer vegetables, and it is spiced more lightly. This is due primarily to the climate, which isn’t favorable to cultivating green vegetables. There are some similarities between Mongolian food and Russian food, which also tends to be heavy on the meat and potatoes. There is a very common tea called Suutei tsai, and if you try it, you’re in for a surprise. It doesn’t taste like any other Asian or European tea, and has a salty character to it. Alcoholic drinks are plentiful and often taken in large quantities. In the capital city of Ulaan Baatar, you may be more likely to find commercial beer, but in the rest of the country, liquor such as vodka is more common, as is a locally-produced alcoholic drink made from mare’s milk.
Do you want to know how Genghis Khan became a great leader? Try Mongolian food—and think like a Mongolian.