Food in Mongolia
What's Mongolian food like? These Young Mongols are venturing beyond traditional mutton and flour to bring new and fresh food to Ulaanbaatar. Featuring interviews with Enkhzaya of Rosewood Restaurant and The Butchery and Enkhbaatar Dorj of AYC, Mongolia's first juice bar.
Food in Mongolia
What do you think Mongolian is like?
For starters, the Mongolian barbecue you may have heard of is actually Taiwanese and has no connection to Mongolia. Maybe you've heard that Mongolians drink fermented mares milk. They sure do! It's called 'airag'. Traditional Mongolian food contains 2 staple ingredients: mutton and flour. Produce is harder to come by because of the country's harsh climate and remoteness.
And if you know someone who's been to Mongolia, perhaps you haven't heard the best things about its cuisine. These young Mongols are working to change that.
The restaurant scene in Mongolia is ever-changing. It changes very quickly and it changes a few times in a year. And what I mean by that is Mongolians are really not against change, they're for change. And they embrace it, at least in our industry.
So, if somebody's doing something different, you'll see everybody else doing the same thing in the next six months, which isn't a terrible thing. Now, you would think that it is copying somebody but that's how an industry evolves. Somebody brings in a new technique, new idea, a new plating, a new design, and then others copy.
I believe that your ingredients have to be amazing for you to make amazing food, on a consistent basis. Try to face a vendor and see how they're raising their animals and growing their food and what kind of transport system our food goes through it before it gets to us.
I think when we first got here in 2011, and started Rosewoods (Restaurant), you could only get it at the markets and it was all mostly Chinese vegetables that where coming in the trains and they were not good quality at all.
And so we've really made a push to get new products into Mongolia and we work with our vendors. And I'm happy to say over the last five years, we have pushed the vendors enough now that you can find, you can go into markets and you can get fresh mint and basil, and Brussels-sprouts, and you might not be aware they are actually a regular item at the markets and people are starting to use them.
They weren't available here, so what we ended up figuring out was we had to control the supply. And so ended up doing is we started to contact vendors and farmers that we could trust, that would work with us to create a new level in the meat supply industry. And so we opened The Butchery.
It was mostly meant to be a supply our restaurant with fresh meat but has evolved into something more than that. We have a regular guest base that come in and in shop for their home and household. And we have some restaurants they're interested in getting meat from us now.
What we're trying to do is traceable. We want to be able to tell you where the animal came from what it ate and how we cared for it and how we slaughtered it and it in a humane way. And we know how it was done.
Mongolia can't export most of its meat because it doesn't meet any standards. And at least with The Butchery, we're not making a huge dent but we hope that people see what we're doing and a light bulb goes off and there's other businesses that try to do it on a larger scale. Even if we don't do it, that's fine, but as long as somebody can take an example and say "oh wow, they're doing something different and this is really needed and people want it" and they see the demand and the end the need I think it will drive our industry further.
And for those of us more into vegetables than meat, Ulaanbaatar's newly opened AYC Juice Bar has partnered with local greenhouses to bring Mongolians produce and nutrients through freshly squeezed juice.
AYC Juice Bar is producing cold pressed vegetable & fruit juice and our juice bar is the first in Mongolia. We work with the local greenhouses which are really sophisticated operations. Mongolia is not fruit growing country, so we import all the fruit from Europe through Russia. We strongly believe that our business is important to Mongolians. Our products are full of nutrients and valuable minerals and vitamins. In the long run, regular use of our products can prevent many diseases so it's really important. I think our stories are becoming more popular because we do the right thing.