Mongolia doesn’t seem like the most popular tourist spot – even less is known about the country, the people and their food. The same is true for me. The very first time I travelled to Mongolia was to work and live there. My arrival at the airport was met with a rather bleak impression of the very airport. Having travelled widely, I have seen many airports, but this one suddenly seemed on the verge of collapse.
My association with the country were limited to wide-open grassland, Genghis Khan and horses running around freely. Mongolia and Ulan Bator aren’t like other countries and their capital cities – there was nothing I was looking forward to see, simply because I didn’t know what there was to see.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed my stay in Mongolia very much. I got to know beautiful people, was met with hospitality and made wonderful friendships. However, there will always be one memory that stands out – a weekend trip with my friend to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park.
Located in the north of the country and bordering Russia, the park is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places on earth – at least in my opinion. Besides rock formations that resemble a turtle, I was most stunned by life itself
Back to the Basics
Many Mongolians still live the life of a nomad – constantly moving around. That includes of course house and kettle. We did as the locals do and stayed in a tent, a so-called Yurt, over the weekend. This Yurt isn’t just a tent, but functions as a house for many. After all, it is easy to move if you live in a tent.
“I have never in my life eaten such tender meat. Although it wasn’t cooked with fire, it still had the flavour of fire, wood and even stones.”
Don’t be fooled by the romantic idea of sleeping in a tent in the midst of the Mongolian steppe – yes, it is cold in these tents. The highlight of the weekend was something else though. We had a traditional Mongolian BBQ in the open. Lamb and beef weren’t cooked with fire, but with hot stones. The meat is placed in a big bucket-like container made of copper. On top of that come the pre-heated stones and a lid to seal it all off.
I have never in my life eaten such tender meat. Although it wasn’t cooked with fire, it still had the flavour of fire, wood and even stones. I will always remember this meal, not because we ate with our hands, but rather because of the people I shared a meal with.