Mongolian food, part deux

"Traditionally, Mongols not only preferred a diet of meat and milk, but they despised, and refused to eat, vegetables, justifying this with the proverb 'meat for men, leaves for animals.' Mongols did not eat fish." (LOC, 76)

Actually, in addition to fish, Mongols traditionally did not eat foul or pork, either. All three--fish, foul, and pork--require being tied down to geographic localities.

"...a large wooden barrel. The barrel contains airak, which is fermented mare's milk. The women add fresh milk to the barrel daily, and it is considered good manners to help them in their work by stirring the mixture whenever one goes in or out.
"The guest is served tea with a thin, smelly cheese. As a special treat, he may be offered a single lump of sugar or caramel. The consumption of sugar is scarcely more than 4 or 5 lbs to the yurt per annum, sugar being the only luxury." (Bitsch, 41)
In another source, the average yurt is said to contain a large nuclear family of 4 to perhaps 8 people. This would make annual sugar consumption about 1 lbs per person in 1962. In comparison, annual sugar consumption in the United States was 119 lbs per person in 1970 and 142 lbs per person in 2003.
"The airak will then be placed on the table. The taste is rather like that of buttermilk, and it is served in pint-sized bowls...
"Airak and other products of mare's milk form an important part of the national diet. Bread is hardly known in the country, as hardly any cereals are grown. Otherwise, the food consists of various types of meat, offal being considered a special delicacy.
"A banquet to which I was invited was served in a large enamelled basin, which was placed in the middle of the table. In it were liver, kidneys, stuffed intestines, and many other good things. I produced my sheath-knife, cut off a lump of leaf-fat, and ate it with my fingers in the proper way... The host looked after me well. He extracted something indeterminate which he held out to me. I guessed what it was: with Arabs and many other Oriental peoples the genitals of animals are much-coveted tidbits..." (Bitsch, 41-42)

  1. Bitsch, J. (1962) Mongolia, Unknown Land (Trans. R. Spink) New York: Dutton.
  2. LOC Federal Research Division. (1991) Mongolia: A Country Study. (Ed. L.R. Mortimer) Washington: Library of Congress.