INFORMATION FOR TRAVELERS
THE TRADITIONAL CUISINE MONGOLIA
WHITE ESSEN. MONGOLIAN MILK
Foreign people think Mongolian food is highly dependant on meat and diet.
It's not wrong, but it's not right. Residing almost a half of the population in
Ulaanbaatar city, the lifestyle in the city and countryside differ in extreme.
We lack knowledge what is edible and healthy from modern food trends and neither
have no idea why the native culinary traditions are important. To remind aback,
we introduce the Mongolian food traditions.
FIVE KINDS OF FOOD
White- diary products
Red- Meat products
Green - Plants and vegetable
Yellow - Butter and oil
Black - Water and distilled milk vodka
These are the five kinds of food of the Mongols.
Through their thousands of years' experience, Mongolians have developed and
obtained rich and detailed knowledge on milk processing. Milk is for Mongolians
the resource of life and the symbol of holy and sacred. The ancient custom of
offering milk for every incident happening is still kept, including welcoming or
bidding farewell, leaving for a long trip, or on starting any occasion,
worshipping ritual for the lord spirits of nature or praying someone a good
Milk is the only food that is most nutritious and contains the best proportion
of sustenance elements; and has the magic to support the cell development and
serve as antidote. There are hundreds of kinds of traditional diary products
made with different methods and technologies which is a wondrous contribution of
Mongol race to the world food culture.
The products made of milk differ depending on their specialties, quality, taste,
ingredients and efficiency and the technology and methods to make diary products
differ in each region, province, soum even at each family.
For instance, the airag (fermented mare's milk) from Saikhan soum of Bulgan
province and also from Erdenedalai soum of Dundgobi province are well-known for
its tase and quality. The diary products from Tamir and Chuluut of Arkhangai,
brown aaruul (dried curds) of Aj Bogd from Gobi-Altai and the urum (clotted
cream) made of yak milk in Za-vkhan are popular among Mongolians. The unique
taste and quality of these products are shaped by the local environment, land
ecology, fauna and flora, water and local unique technology of making the diary
products. Sometimes sheep and goat milk are mixed also with cow or camel milk,
but in most cases the milk of each five kinds of animals are processed
separately for making diary products to keep the quality, taste and ingredient
of the milk. Milk products are not only used as a meal, but also as medical
In summer when milk is abundant, Mongolians process and produce large amount of
products that could be stored for a long time as a food supply during harsh
times of winter and spring. These include: aaruul, dried curd; byaslag and
eezgii, two kinds of cheese made from sour milk; tsagaan tos, a distinctive
product made from the skim of the milk; shar tos, melted butter; frozen airag
(fermented mare's milk) and many other.
After a diet heavy on meat in winter, Mongolians have dairy products starting
from late spring 'to dean the stomach' and diary products are the main dish of
Mongolians in summer. Out of this necessity Mongolians have found creative and
ingenious ways to use the milk of all five of the domestic animals in the
country: sheep, cattle, goats, camels and horses.
Each of their milk quality and nourishment has been defined thoroughly in
thousands of years'experience.
The mare's milk is only for making airag and camel's milk is to make sour drink,
which are of high significance of medical treatment.
The summer diary diet carefully concerns with age, gender and physical
difference. In the morning and afternoon, children have boiled milk with dried
curd and clotted cream and young men drinks airag. Elder people have clotted
cream and barley with milk tea. When it's cold, for lunch one has butter flat
cake or tea with dried meat and rice. In the evening, elders have boiled milk or
yoghurt, if cold, soup with dried meat and young people eat rice cooked in milk.
During the day, whoever can have airag, yoghurt, aaruul and other milk products
as they wish.
MILK OF FIVE KINDS OF ANIMALS
The milk of mare and camel are used only for making sour drinks such as airag or
fermented mare's milk. Their milk and drinks support blood cell development and
cure weakness. Cow's milk is suitable making diary products and also for daily
consumption. The sheep milk is said to be of hot quality and goat's milk of cool
The hi-tech researches and studies of present days prove the deep knowledge of
our ancestors on processing milk. From their thousands of years' experience they
discovered the factors, quality and structure of milk upto molecular structure,
elements and components.
MILK OF MONGOLIAN MARES
The mystery of Mongolian traditional drink airag, which can be drunk as much as
anyone, children, elders, men and women wish, exists in mare's milk it's is made
of. Because the proteins in mare's milk are so small, it can be easily digested
through the cells of digestive organs and is very nutritious. Mare's milk is
very sweet, rich in glucose, thus it's easily fermented and finds its unique
tastiness and quality. Its component and quality is almost the same as human's
milk and these two are the only milk that don't go sour. Mare's milk is rich in
vitamins and combines rare elements of zinc, calcium, copper and cobalt. It also
has hormone of 'acetylcholine' that restores cells of nervous system, improves
blood circulation by enhancing the coronary activity and reduces high blood
pressure. From ancient times, Mongolians used mare's milk and airag for medical
purpose because of its magic to recover the strength and cure diseases of
digestive organs and illnesses such as tuberculosis. Mare's milk is used as
antidote for any poisoning and toxic and even used as treatment for animals that
are injured or poisoned by plants.
THE CAMEL MILK
The milk of Mongolian two-humped camel is very unique and of special quality for
it inhabits in the regions of Gobi desert in the south and Western part of Altai
mountain range, where the fauna highly differs than other regions. Camel milk is
very nutritious, rich in protein and oil, vitamin and minerals, thus is of high
significance for medical treatment. In ancient sutras, if s written that
'camel milk cures many diseases including swelling, tuberculosis, chronical
diseases of liver and other internal organs' and even it's used as antidote
for poisoning and toxics such as radioactive substances. One feature of camel
milk is it keeps its freshness for longer period of time in comparison to other
animals' milk and if raw it stays fresh for 2-4 days and if boiled, for 7-10
days. The urum or clotted cream of camel's milk is white colored, thin without
butter and if drink recovers strength and if apply to skin, it can treat the
backache and kidney disorder. Because camel delivers its baby later than other
animals, Mongolians have a celebration and ritual of Call of Camel for this
event. During this ritual, the camel herd is gathered at the camp, the camel
milk is boiled and shared to everyone and the male camel is blessed.
MILK OF SHEEP AND GOAT
Being the main dominative part among the livestock, sheep and goat provide most
of the milk and diary products. Sheep milk is rich in protein and oil and very
nutritious. As indicated in the ancient Mongolian sutra of traditional medicine,
it cures scurvy and its yogurt, if drink constantly, helps to sleep well,
reduces high blood pressure and improves coronary activity. Many kinds of diary
products are made of shep milk, including cheese, eezgii, curd and dried curds.
Goat's milk is rich in vitamins as it reaches to the plants growing in the
rocks, stony cliffs and edgy places, where other animals can not climb or
pasture. The ancient sutras say 'Goat's milk is of cool quality, thus cures
typhoid fever, pestilence, respiratory and blood diseases. It also treats
stomach ache and kidney disorder...'. Yogurt made of goat' milk is thin, but
very tasty and nutritious so it's used as food for weak ill people.
THE RITUAL SPRINKLING
The ritual of Milk Sprinkling is an ancient tradition to worship the lords and
spirits of nature and to offer the essences of milk to the Father Heaven and
Mother Earth. This ritual is held mostly at the end of spring when all animals
deliver their new-bom offspring. A prayer of sprinkling is told and an incense
made of butter, cream and juniper branches is burnt at the west side or in four
directions of the camp. The milk of the first mother animal that delivered its
baby that spring is offered to the nature.
This ritual is done by two women, of whom one holds the vessel with milk and the
other sprinkles with a sprinkling spoon. They offer the milk to the 99 skies, 77
earth spirits and to the lords of mountains and rivers while going around the
camp in a clockwise direction.
When giving ritual sprinkling of sheep's milk to the nature:
To the high king, Eternal Blue Sky
To the Mother Earth and billion stars
The Golden sun and Silver Moon
On this good fortune day
We offer this ritual of sprinkling
The milk of black sheep
Not tasted, no one touched
To ask for blessing and
To protect the sheep herds
When milking sheep:
Let the milk fill the vessel
Let your wish come true as you hope or
May the vessel be full
Milk be affluent
Livestock be many
When boiling milk:
May your pot be full of milk
and give you lots of oil and butter.
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