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Diet of the Mongolians

Publish Time:2014-01-20 Author:ftwljsb Click:791

   Food of the Mongolians is generally divided into three types: grains, dairy food (which is also called white food, “chaganyidegen” in Mongolian means various dairy food), and meat food (which is also called red food, “wulanyidegen” in Mongolian means various meat food).



  Grains are mainly fried rice and one of the traditional foods of the Mongolians. Fried rice is fried broom corn millet and is divided into crispy rice and hard rice.

  Fried rice is fried according to several processes:

  Sopping: pour the winnowed broom corn millet into a large iron pot, add proper amount of water, and boil with slow fire. During boiling, churn up the rice with large iron shovel until the rice is swelling. And then, pour out the swelling rice and dry it.

  Frying: pour a quarter of the pot with fine sand, and then burn the sand with big fire until the sand is hot, and then, pour in about one liter of swelling rice and churn up with a special mixing bar. After the rice pops, take it out, and then fry another one liter of rice, repeat in such way. This is the method of frying crispy rice. The method of frying hard rice is different. For hard rice, it is unnecessary to sop with water and do not use sand, fry until the rice is half cooked. When frying crispy rice, it is better to burn the knot of almond. It is said that the fried rice fried with such fire is large in size and crispy in taste.

  Grinding: grind the broom corn millet with stone roller for three times, winnow the rough bran at first time, and winnow fine bran at the second time, and then sift out crushed dregs (which is called Zharimu in Mongolian and can be eaten) in the third time.

  Crispy fried rice can be eaten together with milk tea and milk, as well as together with watering cream and butter dregs.

  Crispy fried rice does not need boiling. Because hard fried rice is easier to be cooked than other rice, therefore, it is especially suitable for production and life of herdsmen. For herding in the wild, “aoteer” and “ayan” (Mongolian, which means travel and delivering goods and it means delivering salt from far away), fried rice is the best dry provisions for the journey.
In the past, the Mongolians of Hexigten also liked the food made of naked oats, such as streamed roe, streamed bread, coolie, and fried noodle, etc., as well as millet rice. Flour was rare, and people could only have noodle made of flour in festivals and celebrations. After the liberation, people’s diet has changed a little with the improvement of living conditions. They still drink milk tea every day, but will also cook two or three meals. The food is mainly flapjack, noodle, rice, dumpling, pie, and streamed bun, etc. People prepare pickles all over the year, and sometimes they may cook and prepare torn mutton. Butter cake is made of flour mixing with soured milk. Cakes fried with butter are common and are of various shapes, such as stick and dumpling, as well as sheep, dog, camel, and horses, and are all golden yellow. Because they are made of milk and flour, they are soft, crispy, and delicious and the food of Mongolians for sacrifice or treating guest.

Dairy food

  Dairy food is called “chaganyide” in Mongolian and means purity and good luck. Dairy food takes up a certain proportion of diet, and except for milk tea, it is mainly made into dairy products.

  Milk tea, which is called “sutaiqie” in Mongolian, is the favorite beverage of the Mongolians. They drink milk tea every meal. Eating the fragrant milk tea, crispy fried rice, milk curd, and butter as breakfast has been a habit of the Mongolians for a long time. In midsummer, they will cut the soured milk block and milk curd into small pieces and sop with tea in bowls, and this is the food of herdsmen. In autumn and winter, they will sop the fried rice in milk tea together with butter or cooked mutton and beef, which is the meal of one day. In spring when they are temporary short of food, they will cut the reserved butter or mutton fat into small pieces, and then put them into the bowl with fried rice and eat with hot tea. In a word, the herdsmen drink milk tea every meal. Therefore, it is the saying of “it is better to be lack of rice than lack of tea”.

  In the past, the Mongolians generally used wooden bowls with silver edges to present tea to the guests, but now they use delicate porcelain bowl. They fill the bowl with 8/10 tea and then present to the guest with both hands. If they deliver the tea with one hand or make noise when putting the tea on the table, it is considered as impolite.

  The tea bowl should be sound, and the use of damaged bowl is considered to be unlucky. When pouring the tea into the bowl, take the teapot and spoon in the right hand and pour from the left. The tea can neither be full nor only a half. When presenting the tea, finger should not dip into the tea. When pouring, mouth of the teapot or head of the spoon should be northward and inward instead of southward (pointing at the door) and outward. Because inward means fortune coming inside and outward means fortune flowing out.

  When adding tea for the old or honored guest, take over the bowl and then add tea, and do not add tea when the guest holding the bowl. When adding tea, start from the elder. And add tea for the guests when the tea is only a half left. In some places, the host will firstly present a bowl of tea to the guests, and then place the teapot in front of the guest and let the guest to help himself. However, the first bowl of tea must be presented.

  The Mongolians are not only particular about courtesy, but also enthusiastic and hospitable. When a guest visits, they will firstly arrange the table. In the center of the table, they will place a big wooden plate full of fried rice surrounded with milk curd, butter, brown sugar, and various cakes in porcelain plates, and then present the hot milk tea to the guest. If there is no such food as milk curd when presenting tea or there is no tea, the host will be “ashamed and uncomfortable” and anxious, and the guest will think “there is no tea and no face" (which means that the guest meets cold reception). The Mongolians win admiration of the world with their sincerity for treating guest, and if the guest is unobtrusive and does not eat and drink, the host may think that the guest is insincere and will be unhappy. If the guest feels free to eat and drink, the host will be very happy.

  The method of making milk tea is to mash the brick tea firstly, and then boil the tea in teapot or pans and add fresh milk. When the milk tea is boiling, tease it with spoon frequently. When the tea and milk are mixed with each other, put a little salt, and thus the milk tea is ready. When boiling the milk tea, do not use basic water, otherwise, and the tea may fade and lose its taste. Boiling new tea with tea root will make the tea taste bitter.

  Milk curd is called “huluda” in Mongolian. Ferment and settle the fresh milk in a small porcelain tank to make the cream float and protein settle. And then, pick up the white fat on the top, and the fat is called “Naijiaokou”. Remove the water of the protein settled, and then boil and mix the protein in the pot and place it into a wooden mould. After the protein solidifies, take it out, and thus the milk curd is ready. Kesigiten has other methods: one method is to properly mix until thread can be pulled out; another is to add some fresh milk when mixing, and the milk curd made by such means is white, soft, tender, and delicious.

  Bushilage is also a kind of milk curd. Boil the fresh milk in a pot until there is crème, extrude water from the deposits with gauze, and then press it into flat and square. Solidify and dry it in shady and cool place. Such milk curd is not sour and easily deteriorated, thus it is only made is autumn and winter.

  Ejige is another kind of milk curd. The method of making is the same with that of Bushilage, and only that it is not filtered and pressed with cloth, but fish out the deposit with spoon and dry it. It tastes soft and delicious and does not change in favor.

  Crème is called ‘wulumu” in Mongolian. Method of making: boil fresh milk in a pot, winnow the bubbles with spoon, and then use slow fire to steer up the fat and form a layer of crème, pick up the crème piece by piece with the thickness of about half of a finger. The crème is ivory, fragrant, sweet, and delicious and it the elite of dairy food.

  Butter is called “shalataosu” in Mongolian. Boil the fat in a pot, mix it, and then boil with slow fire to separate water and fat. The fat floats and protein settles. The upper layer is butter and lower layer is sour fat which is also called “Chagantaosu”. Butter is the main food for tea of the herdsmen.

  Soured milk is called “ailege” in Mongolian. It is made of the watery milk extracted when making the milk curd by adding some fresh milk and fermentation. When it become sour-sweet. Soured milk is also the material for brewing koumiss, and in the meantime, it also helps sobering up, detoxifying, and stimulating the appetite. In the past, it is also used to cook hide and skin.

  Dairy food is one of the ample foods of the Mongolians. The dairy foods of Hexigten pastoral area are of various kinds and delicate in making, as well as excellent in appearance, favor, and taste, and are the best among the dairy foods. Because Yingchang was a temporary palace in Yuan dynasty and Emperor Shundi moved to Yingchang in late Yuan dynasty, the method of making dairy food of the court of Yuan dynasty came down in the folk, and therefore, except for the Hexigten Banner, the five counteis in north of Chifeng, Xilingol League, Hohhot, and Beijing also send cars to Hexigten to buy dairy food on festivals and celebrations. Milk curd is especially popular.


  Koumiss called “arag" in Mongolian is made from fermented soured milk, and its brewing and drinking methods are as below:

  Leaven (yeast) means the acidophilic milk or soured mare’s milk. Good leaven is considered heirloom by the Mongolians. However, it is not a secret for neighbors and be relieved. Family without leaven asks for leaven from those who have leaven is called “leaven inviting”.

  “Leaven inviting” should be done on a lucky date. People who invite leaven must bring gifts, and tie white cloth or hada to the vessel for inviting leaven and fill the vessel with half a kilogram to one kilogram of fresh milk to show respect. According to the habit of the Mongolians, guests can not bring back empty bag, especially can not bring empty bag out but must have something in the bag. Otherwise, it is great disrespect to both the guest and others.

  Family presenting the leaven accepts the fresh milk as present and gives half a kilogram to one kilogram of acidophilic milk to the visitor immediately.

  The person inviting leaven hold the leaven in his arms and run home immediately to prevent the yeast from dying. If the distance of leaven inviting is far, riding is necessary and the fresh milk should be filled in enclosed vessels such as jar, pot, and bottle, etc..

  After inviting the leaven home, it must be put into jar or big tank and added with milk for cultivation, which is called leaven cultivating. It can not be put into iron vessels. With the fermentation of leaven, add more milk gradually and change the vessel.

  Adding milk should be carried out in the morning and at night. Generally, add fresh milk in the morning and add whey at night. It is all right to add twice milk. If there is whey, cool it in advance. If hot whey is added accidentally, it may kill the leaven.

  When the leaven is fermenting, the milk added should be appropriate, and this is the key to cultivate good yeast. If milk added is too much, the leaven will solidify; and if the milk added is too little, the leaven will not ferment. In this regard, experience is important and there is not fixed proportion. Generally, milk added should be 2-3%, and whey added should be 7-10%. In the meantime, pay attention to the temperature which is better to be 20℃-25℃. If the milk added and temperature is properly controlled, the leaven may gurgle and is green.

Returning to pot

  The koumiss returning to the pot for the first time is called arizha, and that returning to the post later is called haorizha. The koumiss brewed and added with acidophilic milk to increase purity is called mixed pot returning koumiss.

Equipment for brewing koumiss

  A range made of earth or brick, one big iron pot with seven stamps or eight stamp, cooling pot, wooden bucket, jar for receiving the koumiss, belt for sealing vapor, and tank for stocking materials.

Brewing method

  After igniting the fire, wash the big pot and fill the iron pot with acidophilic milk, and cover with the wooden bucket, with mouth of the bucket downwards, and then hang the rope of the koumiss receiving jar on the hook above the wooden bucket. Place the cooling pot on upper port of the wooden bucket and bind the joints of the wooden bucket and cooling pot to prevent air leakage. Fill some cold water in the cooling pot. Heat and brew after everything is ready. When the cold water in the cooling pot warms up and becomes hot, change the water. The water should be changed three or four times. At this time, the vapor distilled is cooled by the cooling pot and condenses to water drops and flows into the koumiss receiving vessel. Unveil the belt when it is time, bring down the cooling pot, and take out the koumiss receiving jar. For the koumiss received every time, worship the God of Fire with one small spoon.

  Thirty kilograms of acidophilic milk can produce about 1.5-2 kilograms of koumiss. After extracting the koumiss, dish out the cooked acidophilic milk in the pot and pour in new acidophilic milk, and brew koumiss again according to the above processes. Reserve sufficient leaven so as to cultivate leaven and brew koumiss continuously. If the first pot of koumiss is added with new acidophilic milk and heated continuously, mixed pot returning koumiss is produced (two pots of acidophilic milk can produce only 1.72 kilograms of koumiss). Such koumiss is hard and the content of ethanol of it is one times higher than that others.


  Fire should be proper. If the fire is too big, the koumiss will flow out instead of dropping into the jar. Prevent air leakage, if there is any leakage, output and purity of the koumiss will be decreased.

  Koumiss, which is called “alayinarihei” in Mongolian, is a traditional precious beverage made by the Mongolians. Its characteristics lie in: apparent, fragrant, low in alcohol content, tender in nature, sour and sweet in taste. It feels not hard when you drink it, but the aftereffect is great. For a person who can drink a bottle of beer will be drunk if he drinks 1-1.5 kilogram of koumiss. Sober up from drunk caused by other wines may need four hours, but sober up from drunk caused by koumiss needs at least 6 hours. However, koumiss does not harm people and it can dispel cold, activate blood, relieve muscle, and invigorate the kidney, stomach, and spleen, and strengthen bones if drink at proper amount continuously. Therefore, the Mongolians drink koumiss as medicine to cure stomach diseases, waist and leg aches, and phthisis.

  Since ancient times, herdsmen on the steppe had used koumiss to treat honored guests. According to the Travels of Marco Polo, Emperor Hubilie of Yuan dynasty filled koumiss in golden bowls to reward officers who had performed excellently. On the Nadam Fair and wedding of the Mongolians, young people always hold hada and koumiss with both hands to present to the elder and honored guests to show the sincerity of the Mongolians that is as pure as the koumiss and the wish of everlasting happiness. In the past, the Mongolian only drank but did not cook and played the finger-guessing game, and instead they put on dairy food and sheep ribs. They ate, drank, talked about funny things, or played the horse head string instrument and sang folk songs to add the fun.

Meat food

  Meat food: button is the most common and favorite food of the Mongolians. And the most common and famous food of the Mongolians of Hexigten is “torn mutton" and “sheep ribs”.

Torn mutton

  Tear the whole sheep into several pieces, boil it with water and salt only, without other seasoning. After the mutton is cooked, take it out from the pot. Do not cook it thoroughly. Place the mutton on a big copper plate, the whole family surrounds the plate and each one with a Mongolian knife, cutting and eating. The basically cooked mutton without any seasoning taste fragrant and delicious, tender and nutrient.

Whole sheep banquet

  This is a kind of banquet for treating honored guests of the Mongolians. Cooking process of the whole sheep: remove the skin of the sheep after slaughtering, keeping the skin complete, remove the hoof and insides, and boil the sheep with head. Add various seasonings to the soup, and put the sheep on a big plate after the sheep is cooked and place it in a lying gesture. Cut the sheep and eat it. Another method is to cut the sheep into seven or eight pieces (four legs, ribs, chest, and backbone after slaughtering and cleaning. The edge should be neat while cutting the sheep to keep good looking of each part. Cut from the seventh rib on the backbone to the tail as one section (which is called “wugucha” in Mongolian), and then cut the four legs, head, neck, and shoulder, boil with the tail. Take the mutton out of the pot after the mutton is cooked and place in a big rectangular plate. Place the four legs in order, and then place the ribs. Boil the head separately and draw a cross on the forehead with knife after it is cooked, paste the head with butter and place on the top. Place all pieces in a shape of lying sheep in a big plate. When putting to the sheep to the table, mouth of the sheep should point at the guest. After the banquet starts, the honored guest will cut a little and taste, and then everybody cuts and eats. Some also bring out the heart, liver, lung, and blood sausage of the sheep one by one and invite the guests to taste. Cooking method of the whole sheep is the same with that of torn mutton, and the whole sheep is also fresh, delicious, tender, and fragrant, and is the best food for treating guest and sacrifice.

  Banquet of boiled sheep in soup, which is named Zuoma banquet, is king of old banquet of the Mongolians. It is to kill a two-year-old (young) sheep, without removing the skin, remove and insides and hair with boiling water, and then boil the whole sheep. Place the cooked whole sheep in a wooden or copper plate and put it on the table, with the head pointing at the honored guest, and after making the banquet congratulations, cut the sheep and eat it. Before eating, cut one piece for worshipping heaven, earth, God of Mountain, God of Tree, God of Water, ghost, ancestors, and khan, and then everybody divides the sheep. Banquet of boiled sheep in soup is the supreme banquet for celebration, sacrifice, wedding, and title succession in Yuan dynasty, but now such banquet has disappeared. However, there is still the habit of boiling sheep, sheep head, and hoof, with hair removed, in the folk. In Qing dynasty, Hexigten paid tributes to the court on December 25 every year. Among these tributes, there were 20 boiled sheep in soup which were used by the court to hold Zuoma banquet for the emperor.

  When treating guest with torn mutton or whole sheep, the Mongolians will present a kind of porridge cooked with the mutton soup together with a little millet. Such porridge is called “harimo” and called “meat porridge" in Chinese, it has a unique taste.

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