Food and milk products
The main ingredients of the Mongolian diet is meat and milk products. Anything green or leafy is considered goat's food. Although a diet with lots of mutton fat, fermented milk and salty tea is not a popular dieters choice it has provided much sustenance, energy and nutrition for the nomad for centuries. There is not a lot of variation in the diet of the Mongolians but it is amazing the number and variety of meals that they can produce with such limited ingredients. Milk is taken from yaks, cows, sheep, goat and camels. Try to the yak's cream - it is really to die for. The woman's work is the milking. Sheep and goats are harnessed together, shoulder to shoulder, and milked early morning and at dusk. Throughout the summer mares are milked every two hours to make the mare's milk, `airag'. Milk not fermented is used to make the salty tea. In addition to cream, milk and yoghurt, a variety of cheeses and curds make up what is known as the `white foods'. Appropriately, white is considered to be the colour of luck by the nomadic peoples.
Meat is eaten from sheep, cow, goat, camel, yak and sometimes horse (although only in very hard times) Although Buddhists, Mongolians would not survive without being meat eaters, a short prayer is always said before the slaughter, which is carried out in the most humane manner. The herdsman lies the sheep down on its back, a small slit is made in the chest of the animal and the death is quick and relatively trauma free as the herdsman tightly squeezes the aorta. They say the sheep die happily as it is the first time the herdsman has allowed it to lie back and gaze at the blue sky. Every part of the animal is then used - either eaten or used for clothes or coverings. The woman, not allowed to watch the actual slaughter, then has the equally gruesome job of cleaning the innards and preparing the meat. Meat is usually cured and dried to last throughout the winter and spring. Herdsmen don't like killing animals during these seasons when they are lean. Animals are usually only killed when they are fat and on special occasions. `Khorhog' or `bordog' are favourites for celebrations. This is when hot rocks are placed into the skin of the animal, or an urn, followed by chunks of meat and water. The neck of the animal is then sewn up and the meat allowed to roast. Marmots are also hunted in the summer months and their meat is considered a delicacy.