Mongolia is a country with no seas around its borders. It is locked in by East and Central Asia, Russia, and Inner Mongolia which in terms of food culture, makes for a very interesting adventure. Almost half of the country’s population lives in the main capital city of Ulan Bator.
Today, after decades of violent wars and encounters with its neighbors, Mongolia is the 19th largest country in the world with a meager population of 3.2 million. There is little agriculture and farming because of the lack of arable land. Yet one of their main industries is food processing. Also, it is considered by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) as being one of the countries that could end up supplying the world with food should a major global crisis occur.
The traditional food of Mongolia is known as the borts. It is air dried beef that is shaped into a ball. To eat, one must shave off the meat and cook in hot water to create a flavorful, protein-loaded beef soup. Many of other Mongolian food do not require refrigeration because the people use techniques handed down through the generations that preserves the food well for long periods.
The street food in Mongolia is ever-present in almost all residential streets in the country. The smell of food cooking seems to permeate through walls, windows and doors so much so that you are drawn to the street to sample the traditional food like bansh, khuushuur, and buuz.
Most Mongolian food consists of minced meat (beef , camel, mutton, horse, and even gazelle) coated in flour and seasoned well before being steamed, boiled, or fried. The servings are usually very generous and heavy since it contains a lot of meat.
You can expect food high in minerals and protein with less emphasis on vegetables and fruits. Milk is often used because they come from domestic farm animals. Some of the Mongolian food that uses milk from sheep, cows, goats, horses, and camels are the orom which is the cream from boiled milk, the aaruul or dried curds, airag or fermented horse milk, eetsgii or dried cheese, tarag or sour yoghurt, and nermel which is vodka from milk, among others. Milk products are prepared during the dry months and stored for use in long winter.
In the past 10 years, international cuisine has found its way into Mongolia so it is entirely possible to find Russian, Italian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese restaurants around the main capital.