In Mongolia many things are different to what we are used to at home, but especially the food. Trying fermented mare’s milk, dried curd, sour yoghurt and other traditional dishes is all part of the fun, and Intrepid’s Denis Sobnakov explains why a Mongolian barbecue gives you a special taste of the local lifestyle…
“We finally reached our remote destination, where we were warmly met by our hosts, Bat and Tsetseg. Our Mongolian friends invited us to their ger and Tsetseg gave us each a cup of salted milk tea and put a bucket of small breads, that looked like donuts, in the centre of our table. We talked for a while and our hosts told us that for dinner they will cook a meat dish and we’ll eat it in the traditional way.
This special dish is like a Mongolian barbecue and that evening the cooking spectacle began. The family started a fire in the stove and put in rocks, not bigger than one fist in size. When the rocks were red hot they put a big ceramic jar in the centre of the ger, then transferred the rocks and Bat mixed in the pieces of meat. The big sizzling sound told us the food was going to be terrific. They added potatoes and carrots, some salt and covered this with the lid. In 20 minutes we got the most amazing dish in Mongolia!
Nothing goes to waste in Mongolia and while our stone stew was cooking, a barbecue of the remaining animal was also being prepared. As the first course was served you could see the expressions on the faces of our group – a mixture of excitement, uncertainty and interest.
Served hot from the coals were kidneys, blood sausage, heart, liver and left over bones. Almost every bone means something to the Mongolians, for example shoulder bone has a soul of an animal, so after you eat meat from it, you have to break it to release the soul. The bravest members of our group gave these local treats a try, while others were happy to play the role of photographers.
Mongolia is an amazing country and its food is a reflection of this. All of my groups love the opportunity to meet the local families and sharing a meal is always one of the brightest memories from Mongolia!”
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* photo by Jillian Mitchell – Intrepid Photography Competition