I have to admit that eating Mongolian food was by far my biggest fear with coming here. I’ve had a lot of stomach issues since Uganda, and the stereotype of Mongolian food is that it’s fatty, greasy, and vegetable less- all opposite of what a recovering stomach needs. During our first dinner at the hotel, we were served traditional Mongolian food, which definitely left me with a huge stomachache! But since then, I’ve been able to maneuver these food obstacles with relatively few problems.
The number one thing that I’ve noticed about Mongolian food is that it has 2 main staples: meat and dairy. Their meat seems to usually be beef, mutton, or goat, but I’ve also had chicken once too. If I had to choose 1 word to describe their meat, it would be “fatty”. Contrary to the United States, fatty meat is more expensive and more valuable in Mongolia. I’ve had some of the biggest chunks of fat that I’ve ever seen floating in my Mongolian soups. A lot of “meat” I’ve eaten is pure fat. Many Mongolians keep telling me that they prefer the fat because of a). the taste and b). to keep warm in the winter. These seem like valid arguments to me.
And by “dairy”, I mean anything and everything dairy related. I have to admit that I had no idea that so many products could be made out of milk. And they don’t let any milk go to waste either- they milk cows, goats, sheep, camels, and horses. I have a feeling that I’m missing some animals, too. The main foods seem to be milk tea, yogurt, and various types of curdled milk products. I’ve tried various creations, and I have to admit that from my ignorant, non-Mongolian perspective, they can only be described as “putrid”. My family enjoys this strong flavor, and I’m slowly trying to shift my own taste palate.
Thankfully for my stomach, my host family has relatively non-fatty food by Mongolian standards. The first day I came, Eme (my host grandmother) asked me what my favorite food was. When I answered with “any kind of soup”, I didn’t expect to have soup everyday! But I’ve been loving it. She puts lots of potatoes and carrots in her cooking, and I enjoy a nice, hearty meal every night. And if I’m lucky, we’ll have some leftover for breakfast!