Delicious fresh and local produce at a fruit and vegetable market in Bulgan Aimag, northern Mongolia
Being Vegetarian In Mongolia
May 10, 2021
Khar Nuur in Zavkhan Province, Mongolia
Khar Nuur Zavkhan
May 19, 2021
Traditional Mongolian barbecue

Traditional Mongolian Barbecue

Firstly, accept no restaurant imitations when it comes to the traditional Mongolian barbecue. Known as khorkhog, Mongolia’s traditional barbecue is a Mongolian favourite for a celebration. There are two options, the main one being an entire goat is cooked through with hot rocks. However, if you’re a little short on time then the second version works equally as well – a few kilos of mutton or goat cut into convenient sizes (leaving the bone in) and cooked with hot rocks in a pot.

Here’s our informal guide to preparing a traditional Mongolian barbecue.

Firstly, don’t confuse khorkhog with boodog – that’s barbecued marmot and a whole different blog post.

  • Collect your rocks and heat them in a fire – twenty or so small rocks (the size of a small fist) will do … no need to bring mountains. The rocks in this photo are the rocks once the khorkhog has been cooked so they’ve turned black from the heat and from the fat of the meat that they’ve absorbed.

Rocks for traditional Mongolian barbecue

  • Cut up the meat (mutton or goat) into ‘chunks’ and season as demonstrated by Turuu in the kitchen of Batbold & Jargaa at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park.

Preparing the meat for Mongolian barbecue

  • Layer the cut meat and the rocks into a chosen pot – milk urns or large wok-type  pots (with a lid) are quite typical for this.
    Place carrots and potatoes (some people place cabbage but I’m still out on this) on the top adding any extra seasoning. You then add water to the pot until there is a sufficient quantity to create a ‘steam bubble’ inside the pot.

Preparing the traditional Mongolian barbecue

Cooking the traditional Mongolian barbecue

  • When the meat and rocks are layered, you put the lid on and let the rocks do their work! Make sure there are no gaps between the lid and the pot.
  • If need be, place the pot back on the fire (embers not full blaze) and the heat of the stones and the steam will cook the meat inside the pot. It can take up to an hour or more to cook.
  • How do you know when its done? The ‘cook’ listens to and smells the steam to judge when it is ready. It’s best to remove your watch, have a beer and relax!

Traditional Mongolian barbecue

  • When ready, the hot stones are removed. They are said to have beneficial properties so are passed person to person each who toss them hand to hand.
  • Diners usually eat khorkhog with their fingers, although one can use a knife to slice the meat off the bone.

To finish this post, here’s the experience of preparing, cooking and eating a traditional Mongolian barbecue in the words of our guest Lynn McCaw (who took the images above during her Untamed Mongolia small group experience):

‘Khorhog is a party meal, to prepare and eat with friends and to be accompanied by much beer, vodka, laughter and jokes. We enjoyed a wonderful khorhog with our hosts at White Lake, overcoming the language barrier with ease after everyone’s vocal chords had been lubricated with vodka.’

Mongolian vodka and traditional Mongolian barbecue

For the full khorkhog experience go to this link. However, it does show the traditional way Mongolian herders kill their sheep and goats (making a small incision in the chest and squeezing the aorta) – https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=tF6ckaJhmBk

It’s hard to prepare a vegetarian version of khorkhog but if you are vegetarian and are considering visiting Mongolia, here’s our guide to being vegetarian in Mongolia – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/being-vegetarian-in-mongolia/. 

If you’re inspired by our informal blog posts, why not consider exploring our Mongolia with us? Here’s a link to our range and style of tour experiences – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolia-tours/

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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