Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The real Mongolian BBQ ...

As we sat watching the snow start to fall, wondering just how long we'd be snowed in for we we're treated to a genuine Mongolian BBQ.

Baiscally the ingredients are hot water, meat, potatoes, carrot - hot stones are added to the wok, then it's sealed with wet tea towels and left to cook on the ubiqitous burner found in all Mongolian countryside homes (thankfully we were in wood, rather than dung burning country now). After 30 minutes it emerges with a strong smoky flavour - certainly one of the better countryside meals we had.

This is what it ends up looking like
Mongolian BBQ

I don't think I can give an accurate account of our visit to Mongolia without some further comment on the food.

There were some nice restaurants in Ulan Bator, however outside the capital the food was at best uninspired, at worst bloody awful or unsanitary. Our experiences seems to hit both extremes in equal measure.

In the countryside dried meat (mainly unchewable), home made noodles, carrot & potato form the basis of 99% of meals - with 2 choices, either wok fried or in soup form. Whichever you go for it will have far too much salt. Guaranteed.

In Central Mongolia we were offered putrified sheeps head - apparently the pinnacle of this delicacy is the roof of the mouth. I think we managed to decline without causing too much offence ... but it also became apparent that our disgust at unusual foodstuffs cuts both ways.

On being asked what we wanted for dinner one evening I jokingly said "lobster" (as if we had a real choice anyway). Being completely landlocked most Mongolians have never seen a shrimp, much less know what a lobster is, so out came Mel's very useful Point It: Traveller's Language Kit book and we explained.

It was just after the part where you drop them alive into boiling water that our driver, Ochiro, turned green and had to leave the Ger for a breath of fresh air. Also in the point it book we're frogs - "do you eat those too?" our guide asked incredulously. "No, only the French eat those" we explained. At least there was one thing we all agreed on.

A few days after this our guide unearthed an unexpected can of seafood cocktail as we stopped in an aimag (regional) capital for fresh supplies. Excited at the prospect of a decent meal I provided simple instructions on how to make a simple seafood spaghetti (garlic, onion, tomato sauce). It arrived back with beef in it. Enough said.


T1RBO said...

Still watching with envy here - food looks as good/bad as a night out in Leeds...

Take care

Adrian Christie said...

Hi Mark,

I've followed your exploits - looks like a great trip. Not sure I could hack fresh sheeps head let alone putrified!

all the best