Mongolia: what to eat

September 25, 2019

There are a lot of milk-based products, from yogurt to yak cheese, while vegetables are scarce due to the cold climate: learn more about the traditional dishes of Mongolia!

A table full of mongolian dishes

If much of the country you visit is understood through cuisine, Mongolia is no exception. Given the extreme weather and arid landscapes, the traveler who will be lucky enough to spend some time in a traditional ger with the nomads and share a meal with a local family, will be probably served soups with meat of the local livestock, beef or mutton, and dairy products.

Unlike other Asian countries, in Mongolia the use of spices on food is uncommon, because the rigid weather does not allow their farming and growth. Vegetables, at least in traditional cuisine and outside the capital, are quite scarce.

Mongolian cuisine

If your trip is due in summer, a season we recommend, since the weather is milder, you'll taste the delicious dairy products derived from livestock, the main source of livelihood for the Mongolian population. Typical products are yak cheese and yoghurt, to be eaten with pasties.

The huge quantity of animal fat in Mongolian diet allows local people to put up with the extreme cold.

Common dishes are:

  • khorkhog, different types of meat cooked in a sealed tin with heating stones and water
  • tsuvian, stir-fried noodles
  • buuz, steamed dumplings
  • huushur, fired dumplings
  • boodog, meat cooked directly in the animal skin
  • lapsha, noodle soup
Mongolia's traditional dumplings
Mongolian dumplings

Tea is commonly drunk, even at meals (in particular suutei tsai, salted tea with milk) and kumis, that here is called airag, a beverage produced by shepherds, prepared with fermented mare milk and a bit of alcohol.

Over the last few decades, the Mongolian cuisine has become more similar to international cuisine, at least in the cities, introducing more dishes with vegetables. Furthermore, due to geographic proximity, Mongolia cuisine is influenced by Russia and and Chinese gastronomy.