What is Mongolian BBQ? Authenticity, Ingredients, & Recipes.
Are you curious to know why Mongolian Barbecues are all the rage these days? In this post, we discuss the origins of Mongolian Barbecue, What makes a Mongolian Barbecue Mongolian, and What goes into making an authentic Mongolian Barbecue.
What is a Mongolian Barbecue?
Mongolian Barbecue is a tasty stir-fry dish made with a variety of thinly sliced vegetables and meats. It is marinated briefly in a variety of sauces, oils, and wines as per taste. The chef cooks it by constantly tossing it over a large, circular griddle at hot temperatures. One can add rice, noodles, or have them with steamed buns.
The all-you-can-eat Mongolian Barbecue restaurants are almost everywhere.
When you go to a Mongolian Barbecue eatery, you can stack your plate with vegetables, meats, and sauces of all kinds, before taking it to the chef. The chef will cook it masterfully on a large, round griddle, and your food is plated and ready to eat.
If you are allergic to soy, be careful as a lot of Asian sauces are made with soy sauce as the base. Some other ingredients that trigger allergies can be shellfish and peanuts (these are used as toppings).
If you are prone to allergies, be sure to inform the restaurant captain about your allergies.
Authentic Mongolian Barbecue Dishes
Mongolians being a nomadic culture, predominantly depend on meat, dairy products, and animal fats. The extreme climatic conditions of the Mongolian plains have heavily influenced traditional diets.
Some of their well-known dishes are:
Khorkhog (pronounced har-hook) is a Mongolian Barbecue dish.
Khorkhog is made by stacking meat and vegetables upon each other inside a vessel along with heated rocks.
The vessels used are large, round bottom pans.
Water is poured over the contents, and the vessel is then put on the traditional Mongolian fire stove. Sometimes instead of water, they use a fermented dairy product made from mare’s milk – Airag.
The steam produced by the fire stove cooks the food, while heated stones that are placed in the vessel help to sear the meat and add flavor to the dish.
Sheep and goat meat is the most commonly used.
Marmots were used until recently, but they were banned once they were identified as carriers of the bubonic plague.
Vegetables like onions, carrots, cabbage, and turnips are added in the cooking process.
How to Make Khorkhog at Home?
Equipment you’ll need
Large vessel with a lid to close, stones, stove, tongs, a grill to heat your stones.
The meat of your choice (Sheep or goat), onions, carrot, cabbage, garlic, salt, pepper, water.
- Heat the stones thoroughly, for about an hour.
- Place the large vessel over the stove and add water, salt, and pepper.
- Fill the vessel, alternating between layers of meat, hot stones, and vegetables.
- Add more water to fill the vessel and then close the lid and tightly seal it.
- Cook for an hour or so and keep checking the progress. If still uncooked, keep it for longer.
- After it’s done, separate the meat and vegetables in bowls
- Serve the dish with pickled cucumber, bread, rice, and the delicious broth of the Khorkhog.
Khorkhog is traditionally eaten without cutlery. You use your hands and a knife to separate big chunks of meat from the bone.
Mongolian etiquette follows the order where the head of the house takes the first bite and then served to others.
The stones used for cooking are also passed around to rub their hands with. They believe that the stones have healing properties because of its contact with the meat fat.
Boodog (pronounced bow-dug or bow-dawg) is another authentic Mongolian Barbecue dish.
Though the name has ‘dog’ attached to it, don’t worry, it has nothing to do with dog meat!
Boodog is a dish where the meat is cooked by inserting hot stones, meat, and vegetables into a deboned carcass.
It takes up to 5 hours or more to prepare and cook the Boodog.
The meat used is either goat or sheep.
Mongolians make Boodog for special occasions and it is traditionally eaten in the winter. It is a version of Khorkhog that is made without using any utensils.
Because the process requires tremendous skill and a lot of time, this is not a ‘must-try at home’ barbecue recipe.
Blowtorch or open fire, wire, knife, stones.
1. One whole Sheep/Goat
2. Vegetables like onions, potatoes, and carrots.
Heat the stones thoroughly, for about an hour.
Slay the animals at the neck. This is the opening where the innards and bones will be taken out of.
Remove innards, bones and chunky meat carefully without puncturing the skin. This forms a ‘sack,’ which is used for cooking the Boodog.
Keep organs like liver and kidney aside as it can be stuffed back in.
Start adding alternative layers of meat, vegetables, and hot stones.
Close the sack with a wire. Make sure there are no holes in the sack. If so, make sure to close it off; otherwise, the Boodog will not cook well.
Use a blowtorch or open fire to burn off the animal’s fur. Scrape the charred fur off.
Continue until only smooth skin is left.
You can place the fat (skinned from inside the animal) on top and use the blowtorch to melt it. This will give a crispy exterior.
The boodog is ready when fats start dripping from the surface of the skin.
Cut a slit vertically and serve.
The heated stones from the inside and external heat applied outside thoroughly cooks the Boodog.
The steam pressure that builds up inside the Boodog ‘sack’ tenderizes the meat.
If the steam makes the sack inflate too much, let some steam out by poking small holes in it to avoid an explosion.
Nowadays, even alcohol like vodka is added in small quantities to tenderize the meat.
The broth formed inside it poured into a bowl and can be drunk.
The broth is distilled fat that Mongolians drink to help them survive the harsh Mongolian winters.