I was invited today to join in a Mongolian barbecue, prepared by local Mongolian friends, on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. After over 30 minutes of driving we reached a little settlement of gers where the cooking was going to take place.
There were eight of us, getting to know each other during the trip, sharing the curiosity of the local customs and traditions. In our discussions, the word barbecue brought images of grills and the sounds of sizzling. Yet when we arrived, there were no signs of coals and smoke…
In fact, what we were about to witness was preparation of khorkhog – one of the most traditional Mongolian meals. To make it, you need lamb (or mutton, although I am never too sure here what kind of meat I am being served – I’m not very good at making out the individual flavours), cut into large pieces, left on the bone. The barbecue part comes in when the cook heats up fist-sized rocks in a fire before layering them with meat inside a sturdy pot, such as a metal milk jug.
The layers of stones and meat are also topped with a few vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes and onions. The pot is then finished off with enough hot water to create bubbling steam, turning the milk jug into a home-made pressure cooker.
After over 90 minutes of cooking, we were served the khorkhog stew with some bread and broth, as desired.
Our host encouraged us to take the hot stones in a competition who could hold them the longest. I must say it was rather nice to have something hot in my hands after walking out in the countryside for over an hour. It was also fun to eat the meat with our fingers, although the stewed mutton was not exactly my cup of tea. Let’s say I won’t be making it at home any time soon 🙂