The Nomad’s Cookout – Barbecue in Mongolia

Want the real cookout? Try Mongolia.

The guys for whom the cookout was the only cooking style were the nomads. Their barbecue styles were honed over centuries of travel, often in extremely inhospitable domains, and some of these methods are still practiced among the nomads of Mongolia till date.

The nomadic Mongolians have several barbecue methods; one of them being the „khorkong“. This involves the cooking of lamb (or goat) over the heat of hot rocks. The animal is first cut into pieces leaving the bone. The Mongolians then place ten to twenty fist-sized rocks into the fire. When the rocks are hot enough, they then place both the rocks and the meat in the cooking container. Interestingly, the utensil typically used for this is the metal milk jug, although any containers strong enough to hold the rocks will generally do the trick.

They then add the other ingredients: vegetables (carrot, cabbage, potatoes) to make a stew, and finally the salt and other spices. The food is layered, with the vegetables on the top. Finally, they pour in a quantity of hot water to create a steam bubble inside the jug, which is then closed with a lid.

The meat in this style is cooked by the heat of the stones and the steam inside the vessel. Sometimes the cook may put the jug back on the fire if he thinks it’s not hot enough. The stones will blacken from the heat and the fat they absorb from the meat. All through the cooking time (about an hour and a half) the cook will listen to and smell the food to judge if it is ready.

When done, the cook will hand out not only pieces of the food, but the cooled stones along with it, the stones being said to have beneficial properties if you hold them in your hands!

Another style of cooking in this part of the world is the „boodog“ („boo“ means wrap in Mongolian). Usually a black tail prairie dog or goats are cooked in this manner. No pots are needed for this recipe; after the animal is dressed, the innards are put back inside through a small hole and the whole carcass is cooked over an open fire.

The Mongolian barbecue found in most Mongolian restaurants, though, is not the authentic fare. So to get the real stuff, seek out the nomads and savor the food, stones and all!

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