20 Must-Try Traditional Mongolian Foods

Picture of 20 Mongolian Foods You Must-Try

Mongolia culinary scene is booming with many variety of dishes imported from Korea, Japan, Mexico, India and US, and so on. But, when visiting Mongolia, you will of course must try the local Mongolian Food, so we have put together what we think are the 20 most popular traditional Mongolian foods you must try.

1. Khorkhog (BBQ)

It is a unique Mongolian barbecue meat that has been pressure cooked with a piping hot stones inside a sealed container. The meat is usually mutton or goat and it is cooked along with root vegetables and sometimes cabbage as an option. The result is smoky meat and strong flavoured soup from the meat juice. The hot stones give healing energy (or just a nice warm feeling) when juggled in the palm of your hands.

Cooking Khorkhog in pressure container

Cooked Khorkhog meat with stone

2. Boodog (BBQ)

Similar to Khorkhog, it is a traditional Mongolian barbecue that uses goat or marmot carcass as the vessel/container to cook the meat inside with a red hot stones. It is usually accompanied by root vegetables and a splash of water to create intense flavoursome soup inside the carcass of the animal. Similar to Khorkhog the stone is juggled in the palm of your hand for its healing powers.

Due to recent outbreaks of Bubonic Plague, the practice of cooking Marmot Boodog is banned for now and for a good reason therefore you will just have to do with a goat boodog instead.

Boodog was traditionally made with marmot or goat

3. Jimbee

Jimbee is similar to Khorkhog but instead of pressure cooking in a sealed container it is cooked in a traditional oval-shaped pot and flat-rolled flour dough is used to seal the pot and lock all the juicy flavours inside. Cooking the meat with stone is optional as the main source of heat is from wood-fire and it results in a less smoky BBQ taste but a more juicy flavoured boiled/steamed meat. Personally, we prefer Jimbee to be cooked with stone for the BBQ smoky flavours.

4. Tsuivan

It is a stir-fried and steamed pasta dish (not noodle), and one of the holy trinity of Mongolian food. The basics of Tsuivan consists of mutton or beef, root vegetables and fresh pasta. Unlike most stir-fried dishes which use an open wok/container, Tsuivan starts off as a stir-fried dish, but water is added to make it like a stew which is used to steam the fresh handmade pasta. The result is a unique tasting stir-fried steamed pasta dish similar to tagliatelli in the presentation.

Many people describe Tsuivan as being a Noodle dish, however the traditional method of cooking Tsuivan does not contain any eggs, and it only contains flour, water and salt to make the dough. Also, only root vegetables are used during the cooking process as water-based vegetables turn into mush during the stewing and steaming process.

So you have been warned to not eat a noodle dish disguised as Tsuivan!

Tsuivan is everyone's favorite Mongolian Food

5. Khuushuur

Fried pastry filled with mutton or beef meat. It is similar to Russian Piroshki/Pirogi or various types of meat pastie/pie filled with meat and veg that you find around the world. You can also get them in vegetarian option which consists of carrots, cabbage, potato, mushroom. Khuushuur is very popular in Mongolia and it is the official food of the Naadam Festival in the summer.

Khuushuur goes well with any type of salad, including greens, tomoatos, potato salad, pickles and kimchi, and with any type of table sauce.

Luxury Khuushuur setup

6. Buuz

Inspired by the Chinese Baozi (Bao) dish, Mongolian Buuz is predominately made with mutton or beef exclusively. It is a popular dish to eat during the Mongolian Lunar New Year festival. The Mongolian buuz comes in many different shapes and sizes, but the most popular is the round shaped one's that look like the Mongolian ger/yurt.

There is also Mantuun Buuz (similar Chinese Mantou) which contains yeast in the dough for a Puffy Buuz.

Buuz comes in many different shapes and sizes

Steaming hot buuz on a table

7. Bantan (Flour Soup)

Bantan is a popular food for kids and it is also given to babies as their first solid food as the texture is very similar to porridge. It is also a popular food for curing hangovers, therefore making it the ultimate food for the entire family.  It is one the cheapest food to make as it only consists of 3 ingredients - flour, a small portion of meat and salt.

8. Bansh

Bansh is the smaller sibling of Buuz and is made with similar ingredients. However, the similarities end here as bansh is more versatile when it comes to cooking methods and eating. It can be eaten on its own boiled or pan-fried or cooked as part of a soup or eaten with Mongolian tea. Think of it like the Ultimate Tortellini or Gyoza that can morph itself depending on the cooking method. Popular bansh dishes include:

  • Banshtai Tsai (with tea)
  • Banshtai Khar Shul (with meat soup)
  • Banshtai Nogootoi Shul (with vegetable soup)
  • Sharsan Bansh (pan-fried)
  • Bashtai Tsutsgii (sour cream)

Bansh is the small cousin of buuz

A popular way to eat bansh is to cook inside a soup

9. Bituu Shul

It is soup cooked in a bowl that is fully sealed (bituu) with rolled-up dough. It is made of plenty of lamb, garlic and onions. This is the go-to soup for curing common cold and boosting your immune system and it is usually consumed during the cold months.

10. Bintei Shul 

This is a soup you eat with fried thin flatbread and the soup usually consists of only 3-4 ingredients, such as meat, carrot, potato, swede or cabbage.

11. Khuistaa 

Another import from China, but with a Mongolian twist. It is made with meatballs, root vegetables and glass noodles and served with Mantuun (Mantou) for soaking up the soup. What makes Khuistaa unique is everything has to be cooked seperately and combined together at the last minute into the borth before serving. It is a time consuming dish to make and whenever it is served it is rejoiced.

Khuistaa is one of the favourite imported dishes from China.

12. Chanasan Mah

Any type of meat that is boiled, including the organs and sheep’s head is referred to as chansan mah (boiled meat) and it is usually consumed with boiled root vegetables and a side of Korean kimchi and any pickled vegetables. You might be thinking this is quite bland, but fear not as the Mongolian livestock feed on naturally growing organic grass that is free from any chemicals, the meat is flavoursome and juicy.

Boiled meat served with carrots and pickels

13. Lavsha

Think of this dish as the Mongolian equivalent of a noodle soup. It usually consists of mutton or beef with plenty of fat and fresh homemade eggless noodles. Traditional lavsha contains no vegetables but you may sprinkle some spring onions or herbs for garnish.

14. Borts

Is air-dried meat of lamb, beef or goat. Once the meat has been dried it can be preserved and eaten after many years. Borts is a great food to take on long travels as it’s easy to carry, does not require a fridge and it can be mixed with pretty much anything to give it a unique tasting flavour to soups, stew or stir-fry. Most Mongolians mix Borts with Lavsha to give more depth to the already delicious soup.

15. Uuts

Uuts is an entire sheep’s back and tail that has been boiled/steam and it is then displayed as a whole on the table for carving. Uuts along with Buuz and Tsagaan Idee form part of traditional festival food and it is most commonly associated with the Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian Lunar New Year).

16. Budaatai Khuurga

Similar to the Russian or Uzbek Plov from Eastern Europe. Budaaitai Khuurga is cooked with rice, lamb/beef as the main ingredients and whatever else can be found in the fridge, such as egg, carrots, peppers, potato, spring onion, mushroom. Therefore the taste and style of Budaatai Khuurga can be different from one place to another. Here are the most common types of Budaatai Khuurga:

  • Egg Fried budaatai khuurga
  • Russian style budaatai khuurga
  • Uzbek style budaatai khuurga
  • Meat Stew/Goulash style budaatai khuurga (rice served separately)

17. Khuurga

Khuurga is a stew or goulash type of food cooked in a pot. The most common Khuurga is made with lamb or beef and root vegetables, and it is similar to the European stew. Nowadays Khuurga can be anything made in a pot with any meat or vegetable combination, and with any herb or spices. Given its flexibility and variations, Khuurga is the most commonly made food in the Mongolian kitchen at home.

Mongolian goulash or stew known as Khuurga

18. Tumsnii Huchmal

This is the Mongolian version of the cottage/shepherd's pie. Instead of pre-cooking the meat, Mongolians traditionally season and cook the meat from raw with the mash on top. It was initially inspired by the East European Котлеты (Cutlet) and instead of serving the mash and meat separately, Mongolians added the mash on top of the meat and by accident created the cottage pie. As you may have noticed, Mongolians do like to wrap, cover and contain the meat with flour and this is the perfect adaptation of using potatoes to achieve a similar result.

Only recently with the advent of YouTube and social media, people have started to copy the British cooking method as it’s easier to get the seasoning right before adding the mash on top. But, as a purist, we suggest you try the traditional method as the meat texture is similar to a cutlet as opposed to a savoury mince.

19. Boortsog

This is the Mongolian equivalent of a doughnut. It is a deep-fried dough and it is usually eaten during breakfast or as a light snack. It is usually topped with clotted cream, but you can eat with jam, chocolate or dip it into your Mongolian tea when it becomes too dry and hard.

20. Tsagaan Idee

Known as the white dairy food and it is the staple food of the nomads living in the countryside. Most common tsagaan idee consists of:

  • Byaslag (cheese)
  • Aarul (dry curds / hardened cheese)
  • Ezgii (roasted dry curds)
  • Urum (clotted cream)
  • Khailmag (fried clotted cream with raisins)
  • Tarag (yoghurt)
  • Suu (milk)
  • Airag (fermented mare’s milk)
  • Suutei Tsai (milk tea)