Our introduction to the meat-filled Mongolian fried pastry called huushuur was during a picnic in the Gobi. We also had huushuur in restaurants and during the Naadam Festival, where it was prepared by vendors in open-air stalls. Huushuur can be eaten out of hand, as a hearty snack, or it can be turned into a meal by adding a salad. (Two salads we frequently encountered in Mongolia, which would be appropriate: carrot and garlic salad—grate a carrot or two, grate in garlic to taste, add a little mayonnaise to bind it and a dash of salt; or shredded cabbage tossed with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper). Huushuur is good hot, but is also excellent at room temperature.
Mongolian Fried Meat-Filled Pastries
2-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
water to mix
1 lb. chopped or ground beef or mutton (see Notes below)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1–2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
oil for cooking Continue reading
Grilling meat for hungry customers.
Eating in Mongolia is pretty straightforward, and is little changed from the dining traditions recorded by Marco Polo when he crossed this land 700 years ago. As our guide stated on a number of occasions, the Mongolian diet is “meat. We eat meat.” It was certainly something he consumed with relish. But in all fairness, while his assessment isn’t far from the truth, it is a slight oversimplification.
Salads have become fairly common because of Russian occupation for much of the 20th century, and they appear at virtually every meal, including breakfast. (Well, in towns they’re common. The fifty percent of the population that is still nomadic and living traditionally doesn’t have salad.) The salads tend toward beets, carrots, and cabbage, inevitably shredded, singly or combined, with either a vinaigrette or mayonnaise, and usually with garlic. Soup is commonly served at lunch and dinner, and ranges from Russian borscht to traditional Mongolian mutton soup with handmade noodles. Desserts are rare (maybe why they all have great teeth). Continue reading
When I was young, the name “Outer Mongolia” was often invoked to express the idea of the farthest reaches of the earth. This made the idea of visiting Mongolia seem both impossible and desirable. Fortunately, today, since the fall of Communism, Mongolia is not impossible to visit. But it’s still not easy.
Actually, it’s not that hard to get to the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar (often called U.B. by locals). You can take a direct flight from Chicago to Beijing, then catch the two-hour Beijing to U.B. flight (which will probably be late), and you’re in Mongolia. Continue reading