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Food of the Mongolian nomads




Food and diet are an integral part of the Mongolian culture, which takes its origin from Huns' time. The stories about Mongolian traditional cuisine probably will dispel one's perception that "Nomadic people in Mongolia eat only meat after de-sectioning a carcass meat to bone ratio and boiling it."

Anyone will agree that cuisine or dish of any nation has close relation to the richness of their culture, nature and geography and practice of earning for living. Mongolian traditional cuisine has been enriched with cooking tradition of many other nations which is tracked with history of the nation 800 years ago, the time of the conquest. As a result of the conquest, which led to rapid culture exchange and integration of nations Mongolia was quick to embrace cuisines from other parts of the world.

That is why today Mongolia is a country with a rich cuisine which combines and presents cuisine of many other nations.

Today, in Ulaanbaatar one can easily find a place to eat cuisine of any nation, since 60 restaurants of over 20 countries operate in Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolians have developed many different strict techniques of preparing and cooking food. Let me share with you an interesting story about the techniques of slaughtering an animal. Uguudei, one of the Chinggis Khaan's sons ordered to slaughter an animal by slitting the belly and yanking the vena cava. Since then Mongolians use this technique to have the most nourishing and nutritious meat. Mongolians do not eat meat all year around. Traditionally, for their choice of food Mongolians used to take into the consideration what season and how healthy was the food for that particular time. In the severe winter, they regularly consume highly nutritious reserved meat rich with protein and fat to allow them to keep their warmth and stay strong. However, during the harsh spring, they do not slaughter an animal for food but prefer to consume borts (dried meat), hyaramtsag (frozen in the casing blood and other by products), uuts (preserved meat) and shuuz (preserved meat in its own sauce) and prepare their stomach for the warm summer time. In the summer, they do not eat meat at all, often consume dairy products only. When the weather cools down with the start of the autumn, ripened wild berries, vegetables and grain and wheat come to the menu.

This time I would like to bring you to the traditional cooking of Mongolia. The restaurant "Modern Nomads" shares their menu with you.

Like Americans love Coca Cola, and Russians kvass, the most favorite drink of Mongolian people is airag, self-fermented Mare's milk, which is considered to be cream of all food and drink. This is a whole milk curdled to beverage or custard-like consistency by lactic-acid-producing microorganism. Best time for airag fermenting is the autumn time, not only because of the warmth but also due to the grass and herbs the animal eat. One who tried airag in autumn time will remember the taste-refreshing, but a bit sour. It can not be confused with the milk we add into a tea. Mongolians consume the tea, which was described by Marco Polo, a great traveler, that "he felt this drink was I ike an ordinary drink but left him filled as if he had eaten a light, but nutritious meal" When you come to any family, the first thing you are offered is a tea. Mongolians make different types of drinks with milk, varying in milk content in it, such as hyaram (boiled water with a small portion of milk to make it look not creamy but milky), tsiidem (boiled water with even smaller amount of milk to make it look watery, rather than milky).

Let us now move to the menu. It should be pointed that the recent years restaurants have stopped to offer fat dish as the customers have become conscious about the harmful ness of an excess fat and are paying attention to cook daily traditional menu with lessfat.

1. Huushuur: (Cornish pasties-like, deep fried flat dumpling stuffed with meat) with garnish: Russia and China are two big neigh bors.withwhichthe country had great extent of exchange and some infl uence on our culture. It is said thatthis dish originates from China, but it is known that this stuffed meat had been popular in Mongolia from very early time. Minced or chopped meat is seasoned with onion, other spices or flavoring ingredients. If one finds huushuur with garnish in the menu, you can have 4-5 hot huushuur arranged with some salad or starters. The meat produces a lot of juice, as being stewed.

Recipe: Divide the pastry into small round pieces and roll them in an appropriate thickness. Before this, minced meat is seasoned. Then place a thin layer of the prepared meat on the one half of the pastry, be careful not to have too much filling which would cause the pastry to burst during the cooking process. Then fold the other ha If over the filling and squeeze the edges firmly together. Start from the right side using first finger and thumb turn the edge over to form a crimp. Repeat with the remaining pasties. While you prepare huushuur put on a frying pan with some cooking oil, heat it until the temperature raises enough to fry the huushuur. Huushuur is fried for 5-10 minutes depending on the temperature. Be careful not to heat the oil too much, then the meat cannot be cooked enough although the pastry is burnt.

2. Milk tea with dumplings: It is one of the popular dish people perceive as a good way of helping one to recover from a fatigue. Dumplings specially prepared for this cooking makes the tea with milk more tasty. If the tea is made to help one to revive strength, usually mutton is minced for dumplings and they put 7 mutton dumplings into the tea, while tea is getting ready. Each region or ethnic group has their own specific recipe for this dish; I will share with you the popular recipe.

Recipe: Weak green tea is made, and then fresh milk is added. The meat minced. Then pastry is prepared, divided into much smaller rolls than huushuur and flattened as described above for making huushuur, but much smaller, be careful not to make it too big or too thin. Small amount of meat is placed on the flattened pastry on the one half, fold the other half of pastry over the filling and squeeze the edges firmly together.

3. Herdersman-driver: This dish comes from nomads' experience. In old times, herders invented a quick way of cooking for their comfort and convenience to cook in their bowl, while they were moving their animals around. Mongolians call this dish as "stew soup." This soup which is perceived to be helpful to revive strength, and recover from fatigue, is made of fresh mutton and wild onion, picked out of the open steppe. If one suffers from chronic illness or feel weak, this soup will help one to recover energy at any time of year. It is also one of the stew dishes.

Recipe: All ingredients are thinly sliced meat, salt, onion and water. All of them are put into the bowl. Then bowl is covered by a flattened pastry and edges are squeezed not to let the air into the bowl. Then the bowl is placed in the saucepan with boiling water and steamed.

4. Salbadai: Fresh meat is prepared as in the previous recipe. Pastry is rolled to make it thin and flat. Then the pastry is chopped in small square or noodle. Square or noodle is put into the boiling meat soup, until it is ready. This dish is in the daily menu of Mongolian people. Usually they call this dish soup as "homemade noodle."

5. Gurvan undur (Three-tall): This dish is offered to the most respected guest and it is referred as the dinner to honored guest.

A T-bone, a rib, and a backbone are considered to be higher or upper bones of animals and their meat is tender and tasty. Therefore, they are offered to the most respected guest.

Recipe: In the bottom of the saucepan, various vegetables are layered with some water, on these layers a sheep T-bone, rib and backbone are placed and then the saucepan is covered by a thin pastry, and edge of the pastry is squeezed to the saucepan not let air into it. Then thedish is stewed.

6. Buuz: A kind of Mongolian ravioli steam cooked is a traditional dish offered in big plates to the guests during the festive time. Buuz is cooked for special occasions and also belongs to stew dish menu. Buuz have different names depending on their size.

Recipe: Mincing is made manually, and seasoned. Seasoned meat is placed in the pastry prepared as the same as for dumplings and edge of the pastry is pinched to make a ball-like shape. Then they are put in the steam saucepan for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size and whether they were frozen or not. The person making the buuz has to work a lot being careful to make them the same shape and look fine. As a stew some juice is produced inside the pastry. Nourishing.

7. Horhog and Boodog: it is known from the history that the stew was one of the main technique of cooking of nomadic Mongolian people. Pans and saucepan or pots were introduced only 200 years ago. Before this invention, people cooked the meat using animals' own skin as a cooking utensil. Meat was taken out of the skin through only opening in the head of the animal, and then the skin was used for the delicious meal with specific technique called boodog, which is offered to the respectable guests. Nobody teaches how to do it, but Mongolians can cook it.

Text by R. Oyunjargal
Photo by Rachka

Photo. The white food of the Mongol.

Photo. The white food of the Mongol. Tsagaan sar mongolian lunar new year.

Photo. The white food of the Mongol.

Photo. The white food of the Mongol. Tsagaan sar mongolian lunar new year.

Photo. The white food of the Mongol.

Photo. The white food of the Mongol.Tsagaan sar mongolian lunar new year.

Photo. The white food of the Mongol.

Photo. The white food of the Mongol. Tsagaan sar mongolian lunar new year.



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