Food Of The Nomads – Mongolia’s Ultimate Street Food

Expeditions to Mongolia
April 8, 2015
Arts in Mongolia – The Mongolia Project
April 16, 2015

If you’re a regular to my blog (thank you!), then you’ll know I’ve previously written other posts under the heading Food of the Nomads. Because Mongolian food gets such a bad rap from travellers and guide book writers and….well, almost anyone who isn’t Mongolian, I thought I would run a series of posts introducing you to the delights of a typical Mongolian table. And that’s not meant to be sarcastic.

So far you’ve been introduced to khorkhog (the REAL Mongolian barbecue) and what to expect during Mongolian Lunar New Year (a whole lot of dumplings). So. now for your introduction to khuurshuur.

The oranges are for decoration purposes only 😉

First, you have to battle with the spelling and pronunciation but once you’ve won those two small challenges, all you have to do is eat this delicious Mongolian staple. Basically, khuushuur are Mongolia’s version of a handheld meat pastry. It’s a circle of wheat flour dough folded in half around a filling of minced or ground mutton, sometimes beef, and deep-fried. The meat is typically seasoned with onion and salt. 

For vegetarians, these can easily be made with vegetables – usually potato, cabbage and carrots are the main vegetarian ingredients if you’re buying them in Mongolia at a road-side guanz (restaurant but this description would probably lead to expectations that wouldn’t necessarily be met!).

Cooking up a storm in Bulgan in Omnogobi Aimag. This is one of my favourite road-side gers selling freshly made khuushuur.

By now, you probably have worked out that I like Mongolian food. Just to prove that others do like it, here is one of EL’s  repeat guests Emer Levins writing about her love of khuurshuur:

‘It was on the train that I first heard the word khuushuur. A local cross-border trader had joined my carriage as I travelled from Russia into Mongolia. As we struck up a conversation we inevitably ended up on the topic of all things best in Mongolia. When it came to food khuushuur and buuz (dumplings) were his top tips. However, if I’m honest buuz was easy but khuurshuur took me a bit of time to get my head around. It took several tries on his part before I could make out what the word was and then several goes on my part before I could pronounce it in any form that he approved of.  The way I remember how to pronounce is like this  – hore-shore. 

However, having tasted it I will forever remember how to pronounce it as it’s Mongolia’s most delicious and abundant fast food. A firm favourite with Mongolians, it usually makes an appearance at a stall or two at festivals and can be found in most local restaurants in the aimags (towns). You’ll find the drivers will never turn down the offer of some khuurshuur! 

So, what is khuurshuur? It usually comes approx the same size as a small pitta bread, crescent in shape and filled with deliciously flavoured mutton.  It’s typically deep fried and at its best when hot.  Sharing some khuurshuur with new friends or old, in a dusty van in a new aimag or at a festival with a bottle of beer is a uniquely Mongolian experience.  Highly recommended to all who travel  through the open expanse of this land.’

Waiting for our dinner in the small town of Zereg in Khovd Aimag in Western Mongolia. You probably will never pass through but it’s worth stopping for the khuurshuur. Some of the best in Mongolia!

There’s no need to go upmarket. Just grab napkins and eat. Mongolian’s add spicy ketchup or Maggi sauce to accompany khuurshuur. They cost between 800 and 1500 tugrik each,  an absolute delicious bargain! 

If you’ve been to Mongolia, please let me know what your favourite local food was. If not, and you’re thinking of visiting, what are your concerns about the food? I always like to know. It helps with menu planning 🙂 Please do get in touch, Jess

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