Of course Mongolian food culture is not going to win any culinary awards!
You may in fact hear Mongolian food, referred to as very plain and focused on ensuring survival rather than taste.
I would put it this way, “keep your expectation low and you will not be disappointed.”
Note that Mongolia is a land of mutton in plenty and if it’s not mutton, then it could as well be beef or some mystery meat like camel or yak.
But be warned - mutton is the king. So, if you were looking forward to eating beef in Mongolia, you are going to be bitterly disappointed.
Here is our favourite real Mongolian food, which you can enjoy in the same way the nomads on the steppe eat regularly.
Buuz (Mongolian food)
Buuz are considered Mongolia’s national dish. Those Mongolian steamed dumplings are filled with meat like mutton, beef, sometimes camel or yak.
The meat is usually seasoned with onions, fresh herbs, garlic and salt.
It is particularly popular during Tsagaan Sar, the Mongolian lunar New Year. It is however prepared in large quantities throughout of the year.
These dumplings are characterized by a small opening on its top and are known to be eaten by hand. In restaurants they are served with dipping sauces and salads on the side.
You can also pair them with beverages like tea or even vodka.
Borts (Mongolian food)
Borts is a Mongolian specialty made of dried meat from cows, goats, or camels.
During its preparation, the meat is cut into long, thick, strips, then hanged on a rope to dry until they develop a slightly brownish colour.
After it’s dry and ready, it is then broken into smaller pieces and can be kept for months or even years. The preparation basically acts as a preservation method as well. It is powdered and added to boiling water when making a dish.
Boodog (Mongolian food)
Boodog is a goat dish, which is a traditional Mongolian roast prepared in a very intriguing way. A whole goat is typically filled with hot stones, potatoes, and onions so that they are cooked within its skin.
The stones usually have a smooth round surface with smaller stones going to the upper legs, while the larger ones are placed into the abdominal cavity. The neck is then tied with a piece of wire to close it.
This dish is found throughout Mongolia and many Ulaanbaatar restaurants it is offered in a more refined take.
Tsuivan (Mongolian food)
Tsuivan is a Mongolian noodle dish, prepared using mutton and variety of vegetables.
The noodles are traditionally hand-made and steamed or cooked together with diced meat and vegetables.
In some restaurants, the mutton can be replaced with beef, camel, or even horse meat. The vegetables used are mostly onions, peppers, cabbage, carrot or potatoes.
To enjoy it best, have it freshly prepared and ask for some scallions to be sprinkled on your meal.
Khorkhog (Mongolian food)
This is a barbeque - kind of dish, which traditionally prepared in large milk jars together with heated stones. The meat and the heated stones are placed in the containers and water is then creating steam that cooks the meat.
Khorkhog is usually made with mutton, lamb or goat meat together with vegetables like cabbage, onions, potatoes and carrots.
It is a Mongolians dish prepared by nomadic families and it a common meal if you stay in the Ger or stay with a nomadic family.
The dish is traditionally eaten by hand.
Some restaurants do serve these traditional Mongolian dishes in addition to most “traditional Mongolian eateries”.
Chanasan Makh (Mongolian food)
Chanasan Makh is basically boiled meat with salt.
The main ingredients for this dish include boiled fatty meat which can be either mutton, beef or goat meat, with some vegetables which include potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Salt is the only additive meaning no spices.
Budaatai Hvurga (Mongolian food)
Budaatai hvurga is a stir-fried rice dish.
It is made using home-made rice, fried with meat (mutton or beef) and onions in covered frying pan.
To enjoy its tantalizing taste, have it served with a side dish like salad.
Aaruul (Mongolian food)
Aaruul is a kind of dried, flaky textured curd cheese made from drained yoghurt or sour milk
If you are a fan of cheese for dessert the Aaruul is something you will like.
Although you can find it in balls, chunks, strips or circular flat form. Depending on the way it was prepared Aaruul can be anything between very sweet and extremely sour. It's made in summer and kept through the winter as a source of vitamins. To longer it's kept the harder it gets. It's sometimes given to kids to chew on. During Tsagaan Sar or Mongolian lunar New Year, Aaruul is an important snack and an element of decoration.
Overall, Aaruull can be found in every Mongolian home. The dish is shared with numerous other nations where it functions under the names Qurut or Qurt.
Orom (Mongolian drink)
If you find Aaruul too heavy on you, then Orom could be a better option. It is a rich clotted cream made from boiled cow, yak, or goat milk.
Yak Orom has a strong aroma while the goat Orom is sweet and subtle.
You typically pair it with jam, sugar and hunks or freshly baked bread.
This is in most restaurant’s menus a breakfast or dessert serving.
Huushuur (Mongolian food)
Huushuur resembles slightly the English deep-fried meat pie.
It is a small half-moon-shaped fried pastry with meat fillings and onions.
It can either be mutton or beef.
You easily find it in many Gers and local restaurants especially in the Mongolian countryside.
It is the main Mongolian dish of Naadam festival in July.
In Ulaanbaatar city you can find special Huushuur stuffed with vegetables like potatoes cabbages call kimchi cabbage call Mongolian cheese