Mongolian food and hunting

There is, or was, a Mongolian restaurant in the Washington, DC, area that I went to many years ago. My memory of it is not too great except that we had a large circular loaf of bread that was heavy and covered in sesame and I didn't enjoy it too much. I also made at home in the late '90s something I recall being called "Mongolian hotpot," although I don't know where the recipe came from. I remember freezing a variety of meats and then slicing them, frozen, into very thin pieces. These were served, raw, and dipped individually into a pot of simmering broth in the middle of the table with chopsticks.

Here, some excerpts related to food from books I'm reading:


"Peope in our country were accumstomed to economizing on meat [in the early 1900s] so they ate meat the first month of winter until the middle of the last month of spring. In the intervening period, they ate white food [i.e., milk products]. In the winter and spring seasons, the children ate the shank, tongue, throats, and chins of the lambs and goats, which made the best food. Primarily in winter time, blood was drained from the cattle's stomachs, livers, and lungs and was mixed to make a kind of black pudding of blood and offal encased in animal intestines and then frozen. The blood of horses or cows was used mainly for this pudding to which one could take a dislike. Now and again flour was added to it which, I thought, made it much better. For many people, flour and rice were very rare--in fact, flout was not regularly available. Strong, yellow husks of rice were used a little. Generally, meat was scarce, so milk, milk products, airagh [fermented milk], and yogurt had been necessities for a long time..." (Sambuu, 26)

"My clothes were prepared in a hurry and though last time I was sent off to work with no provisions, this time I had fried bread and curds and cream so I wouldn't be hungry." (Sambuu, 49)

"Preparations for the wedding feast in the new ger were devoted to boiling a whole sheep for the assembled guests to enjoy. The guests and relatives said that the bride and groom must eat the head and the back... There was airagh and vodka and snacks in the new ger..." (Sambuu, 69)

"On pleasant summer evenings, I sat cross-legged outside felt-covered tents and drank numerous cups of Mongolian brick tea, which is brewed in a huge bowl and mixed with beaten eggs, butter, and milk and seasoned with plenty of salt--as unpalatable to the uninitiated as it sounds. But I remember too the delicious mare's milk offered to me..." (Petrov, 4-5)

"The Mongols, who rely mainly on their cattle and sheep for food, have a diet consisting mainly of meat and milk products. They consume large quantities of tea, but tea, as the Mongols make it, is a food rather than a drink. Mongolian tea is prepared by brewing Chinese green tea, to which is added a large quantity of fresh milk, salt, and butter, or, quite often, mutton fat. Since salt is used instead of sugar, this concoction tastes more like a tea soup than like regular tea.
"When a guest is received in a Mongolian household, he is offered tea to drink while the mutton is being cooked. The mutton is served in large slices, which taste different from mutton in Western countries because the Mongols use little, if any, salt. The meat course is followed by a broth, and the meal is concluded with kumys--fermented mare's milk, the most famous drink of the Mongols." (Petrov, 111-112)

also see:


"Hunting is one of the oldest occupations of the Mongols. The country [as of 1970] is rich in wild birds and animals, particularly fur-bearing animals such as sable, ermine, otter, squirrel, and lynx, which inhabit the northern and western mountain regions. The steppes and mixed forest-steppe zones abound in tarbagan... Fishing is still in a primitive stage in Mongolia..." (Petrov, 84-85)

"The hunting of wild animals is mainly for the purpose of obtaining furs and food, but the hunting of the wolf is a matter of honor with the Mongols. The wolf is widespread in Mongolia. It is the scourge of the herdsman... Wolf hunting with whips has developed into a sport in the Gobi region... At this critical moment, the hunter swings the whip [from horseback], and, if his aim is good, hits the [wolf] between the eyes with the end of the whip, to which is attached a piece of lead...
"Another form of hunting highly developed in Mongolia is falconry...
"The animals most prized for their skins in Mongolia are the tarbagans, whose furs are of great commercial value... The Mongols are partial to the meat, which is tender and tastes somewhat like pork. Tarbagan fat is a valuable by-product. It resembles the fat of seals, in that it will not freeze, even the coldest Mongolian weather." (Petrov, 135-137)

  1. Petrov, V. (1970) Mongolia: A Profile. New York: Praeger.
  2. Sambuu, J. (2010) Herdsman to Statesman. (Trans. M. Rossabi) New York: Rowman & Littlefield.