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HomeCulture“Meat. We Eat Meat”: Mongolian Cuisine, There and Here

“Meat. We Eat Meat”: Mongolian Cuisine, There and Here

Noodles with meat at Arvin/Photo: David Hammond

When I arrived in Mongolia, one of my first questions was, of course, about what food people eat in Mongolia. My guide explained emphatically, “Meat. We eat meat.” As I traveled, I found this to be only a slight oversimplification. There is a good bit of dairy (from yak, camel, horse, sheep and goat, which are also sources of meat). In the city, root vegetables introduced when the Soviet Union controlled Mongolia—carrots, beets, potatoes—are common, mostly in salads. Urban options include foods introduced from other meat-loving cultures and there are noodles, lots of noodles, but the focus, both urban and rural, is on meat.

Almost eighty percent of Mongolia is steppe pastureland, which supports huge herds of grazing livestock. The remaining twenty percent is divided almost equally between barren desert and forested mountains. Less than one percent of the land is arable. Therefore, grain,…

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