Tips for meat-free meals in Mongolia
Think of places where it’s easy for vegetarians to travel and Mongolia probably won’t be high on the list.
Growing vegetables is tough in the harsh climate and tending to the garden is not really part of the traditional nomadic lifestyle. People joke that in Mongolia you eat meat, more meat, with a side order of meat on top of that. But believe it or not, at least in Ulaanbaatar it’s possible to dine meat-free without too much trouble.
In the city there are at least three purely vegetarian restaurants:
Ananda Cafe supports the Lotus Children’s Centre and local teens gain work experience by serving up tasty vegetarian dishes on a menu that changes every day. It’s a great place to go because in addition to enjoying a good meal, you’re also supporting a good cause.
Nearby is the Stupa Café. It specialises in snacks, smoothies and vegetarian dumplings and is part of a Buddhist meditation centre.
Then there’s Luna Blanca, just off Sukhebaator square. Here you’ll find a full array of traditional Mongolian dishes in meat-free variations.
These days many mainstream restaurants in the city cater for an international clientele and have learned to adapt to their dietary needs. Modern Nomads Restaurant has a selection of good vegetarian dishes, and at Altai Mongolian Barbecue (surprising, we know) you can get all the vegetables you desire – as long as you don’t mind them cooking alongside meat on the communal grill.
In the countryside you will probably still face some dietary challenges, but at least in the city you’ll have lots of options for delicious, healthy vegetarian food.
Photo: a nomadic life in Mongolia by Sonia Muir.