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    Exploring the Culinary of Mongolia: 10 Must-Try Dishes
    Mongolian Food
    Asian Culinary Adventure
    Asia Online Tours
    Must-Try Mongolian Dishes
    Asia Online Tours

    exploring the culinary of mongolia: 10 must-try dishes

    ​Mongolian cuisine reflects its nomadic roots and harsh landscapes, emphasizing hearty ingredients like meat and dairy. Traditional cooking methods often involve hot stones or campfires, suitable for a mobile lifestyle. Dishes such as khorkhog, a stone barbecue, and airag, fermented mare’s milk, are more than food; they are central to Mongolia's nomadic culinary traditions and social life. This exploration of the 10 must-try Mongolian dishes offers a taste of the nation's rich history and the resilience of its people. Travel to Mongolia with Asia Online Tours, breath in the clean air of the natural landscapes and see for yourself the true beauty this vast steppe holds.

    Unique Taste of the 10 Must-try Dishes in Mongolia

    Top 10 Must-try Dishes in Mongolia

    Mongolian nomadic culinary traditions, deeply intertwined with the country's nomadic traditions and natural environment, features robust dishes that are both nourishing and culturally significant. Each dish not only satisfies the palate but also carries the essence of Mongolian heritage and communal values, offering a direct link to the lifestyle and resilience of its people.

    1. Khorkhog (Mongolian Barbecue)

    Khorkhog, a traditional Mongolian barbecue, offers more than a meal—it provides a cultural experience. This cooking method involves lamb or goat and vegetables sealed in a container with hot stones, which are pre-heated in a fire. These stones cook the food from the inside, imparting a unique smoky flavor and ensuring the meat is tender and juicy.


    Mongolian Khorkhog - © Gather

    Sharing khorkhog with friends and family goes beyond dining; it's a cultural bonding activity. The host often passes the warmed stones to guests before eating, a gesture believed to bring health benefits. The result is exceptionally tender meat that easily separates from the bone, and vegetables that absorb every savory note, making khorkhog a memorable part of any Mongolian journey.

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    2. Borts (Mongolian Dried Meat)

    Borts, a traditional Mongolian air-dried meat, demonstrates the region's innovative food preservation methods. Typically made from beef or mutton, the meat is sliced into long strips, air-dried in the cold winter, and then ground into a fine powder. This technique allows the meat to be stored for extended periods without needing refrigeration.


    Mongolian Borts - © Gather

    When rehydrated, borts becomes a succulent addition to soups and stews, enriching these dishes with a boost of protein and a unique, concentrated flavor. Borts is essential for those exploring the culinary traditions of Mongolia's nomadic culture, offering a taste of their practical and enduring food preservation skills.

    3. Buuz (Mongolian Dumpling)

    Buuz, traditional Mongolian dumplings, are a staple during the Lunar New Year and remain popular year-round. These steamed dumplings typically contain minced mutton or beef, onions, garlic, and spices, and feature a unique, intricately pinched top that seals in the juices for a flavor-packed bite. Buuz exemplifies the robust nature of Mongolian cuisine, offering a filling and convenient meal.


    Mongolian Buuz - © Ingmar

    Variations abound as cooks often add personal touches like different herbs or meat combinations. Commonly, diners enhance buuz with spicy or tangy sauces, adding another layer of flavor. Eating buuz is also a tactile experience; it's customary to use your hands, making dining both fun and interactive for visitors exploring Mongolian culinary traditions.

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    4. Khuushuur (Mongolian Fried Meat Pastries)

    Khuushuur are Mongolian fried meat pastries, popular as a quick and satisfying meal. These circular dough pockets contain minced mutton or beef seasoned with onions, garlic, and sometimes caraway seeds. After stuffing, they are deep-fried to a golden crisp.


    Mongolian Khuushuur - © Reddit

    This dish mirrors global comfort food but with a distinctly Mongolian twist from its robust flavors. Ideal for travelers, khuushuur offers a convenient, on-the-go snack that doesn't interrupt exploration. Each bite combines a crispy exterior with a juicy, flavorful interior, showcasing the skill behind a well-crafted khuushuur.

    5. Tsuivan (Mongolian Fried Noodle Stew)

    Tsuivan, a beloved Mongolian fried noodle stew, offers a hearty blend of hand-pulled noodles, julienned vegetables, and fatty meat strips, typically mutton. The ingredients are stir-fried and sometimes stewed, producing a satisfying meal that provides warmth during the colder months.


    Mongolian Tsuivan - © TasteAtlas

    This dish exemplifies Mongolia's knack for creating fulfilling meals with minimal ingredients. The chewy noodles, tender meat, and fresh vegetables blend harmoniously. For those who enjoy tailoring their food, adding chili sauce or pickled vegetables can customize tsuivan into a personal culinary delight.

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    6. Airag (Mongolian Fermanted Mare’s Milk)

    Airag, fermented mare’s milk, is a traditional Mongolian drink enjoyed by nomads for centuries. It has a unique, slightly tangy flavor and a low alcohol content, derived from a fermentation process that involves churning the milk in a leather bag. This action promotes the growth of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, which impart airag's distinctive taste and effervescence.


    Mongolian Airag - © CNN

    More than a beverage, airag is a vital part of Mongolian culture. It is commonly offered in a bowl as a gesture of hospitality in a Mongolian ger (yurt). Additionally, airag is valued for its probiotic properties, enhancing its status as a healthful drink.

    7. Guriltai Shul (Mongolian Mutton Soup with Noodles)

    Guriltai Shul, a hearty mutton soup with hand-pulled noodles, is a staple in Mongolia. It features chunks of mutton on the bone, root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, and seasonings including onions and garlic. The robust broth provides warmth and nourishment during Mongolia's harsh winters.


    Mongolian Guriltai Shul - © Gather

    Each spoonful offers a mix of soft vegetables, tender mutton, and chewy noodles, showcasing a variety of textures. This dish embodies the simplicity and wholesomeness of Mongolian cuisine, focusing on the natural flavors of a few key ingredients rather than an abundance of spices.

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    8. Aaruul (Mongolian Fried Milk Curds)

    Aaruul, or dried curds, is a traditional Mongolian snack crafted from cow or goat milk. To make aaruul, milk is curdled, the curds are drained and shaped, and then left to dry in the sun. The texture and taste of aaruul vary—from sour to sweet, soft to rock-hard—depending on the preparation method and drying time.


    Mongolian Aaruul - © World Vision Singapore

    This snack exemplifies Mongolian expertise in dairy production, providing a durable and portable nutrition source. Aaruul is versatile; it can be chewed like candy, soaked in water or tea, or ground into flour for use in recipes. Each piece of aaruul reflects the artisan’s skill, offering a unique opportunity to explore different shapes and flavors.

    9. Suutei Tsai (Mongolian Milk Tea)

    Suutei Tsai is a traditional Mongolian tea that blends water, milk, green tea leaves, and salt, creating a savory flavor profile that is both surprising and comforting. Optional additions like butter or fat can enrich its taste further. This distinctive combination of saltiness and creamy milk makes Suutei Tsai unique.


    Mongolian Suutei Tsai - © CutterLight

    Drinking Suutei Tsai is a daily practice in Mongolia, providing warmth and hydration in the country's arid conditions. It is commonly served with meals and signifies hospitality in every Mongolian home. Essential to the diet of Mongolian herders, this tea offers vital sustenance and energy during their long, demanding days.

    10. Mongolian Boodog

    Boodog is a unique Mongolian cooking method that uses no traditional cookware. Instead, meat is cooked inside the animal's own skin. This technique evolved from the needs of Mongolian nomadic soldiers who could not carry heavy cooking equipment on horseback. They innovated by using the animal's carcass as a cooking vessel.


    Mongolian Boodog - © Du Lich Lao Dong

    Traditionally, any animal could be used for boodog, but today it is typically made with lamb or goat. The process involves carefully removing the flesh, bones, and organs without damaging the skin. Seasoned meat, vegetables, hot river rocks, and water are then placed back into the skin, which is sealed and cooked. This method not only cooks the meat but also infuses it with flavors in a compact, efficient way.

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    Do’s and Dont’s at the Mongolian Table

    In many parts of Asia, including Mongolia, it is customary to use your right hand or both hands to take food, as the left hand is traditionally seen as unclean. If you are left-handed, it's best to avoid using your left hand even for small transactions, such as receiving change at a supermarket. It is considered quite rude to do otherwise.

    Additionally, avoid pointing the soles of your shoes at others, and do not leave the table while others are still eating. It is also important not to refuse or criticize the food offered to you. Even if you are not fond of salty tea, which is commonly served, refusing it outright is perceived as extremely rude. At a minimum, take a sip to show respect.


    Mongolian Tradition Foods - © Gather

    Bring presents with you when you’re invited to eat at a Mongolian ger. It could be small gifts for the children (most preferable are candies and other edible presents) or a bottle of good vodka. Typically, your hosts will open it at the end of a meal to enjoy with you, making it a memorable part of your visit.


    This exploration of ten essential Mongolian dishes reveals much more than culinary preferences—it uncovers the resilience and cultural depth of Mongolia. Each dish, from the hearty khorkhog to the traditional airag, is steeped in the nomadic traditions and communal values of its people. As you venture into the flavors of Mongolia, remember that these dishes are a celebration of life and endurance in one of the world's most challenging landscapes. Whether you experience them through recipes or firsthand visits, Mongolian cuisine offers a meaningful glimpse into a uniquely enduring culture.

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