Mongolia Is More Than Barbecue

Culture Corner: Mongolia

By Erica Sanderson

A country isn’t very well known when nobody knows where it is, what the people look like, or anything else in between. Student response ranged from: “I’m getting an Indian, Spanish feeling and I don’t know why” to “P.F. Chang’s Mongolian Beef is the best ever.” Let’s hope this Culture Corner is enlightening enough so we can at least pinpoint Mongolia on a map.

“Is that in Africa?”

No. Americans’ knowledge of geography is as limited as their awareness of the public option. Mongolia lies crammed between Russia and China, in that vast continent called Asia. You might know it. Sarah Palin can see it from her house. Google Map it before you mentally combust.

In Syracuse University students’ defense, it’s no wonder Mongolia has become lost on the map. Rarely studied in school, one of Mongolia’s ancient rulers may be more recognizable than the actual country: Ghengis Khan, headed up the golden oldie Mongolian Empire. The name should ring a bell since the Great Wall of China was built to keep him and Mongolians out. “I don’t know anything about Mongolia.”

This was the number one answer.

Mongolia has one of the harshest climates due to the insane mountains and the Gobi Desert. The weather is highly unpredictable, like Lady Gaga’s wardrobe choices. Winter temperatures can drop to -63 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes Syracuse look like a tropical vacation spot.

If you think Syracuse has prepared you for this environment, read more at

Almost half the population is nomadic. Search your brain for that 10th grade global studies vocabulary word. So herding livestock is big. Mongolia provides a decent amount of the world’s cashmere production. Nomadic life is mostly the same, except people sometimes use “iron horses,” aka motorbikes, in place of real horses. Let’s hope there are no motor-sheep accidents.

Get your inner Mongolian on by visiting, an online magazine all about this and more.

Mongolian Food.

Students didn’t know what constitutes Mongolian cuisine, but like most food obsessed Americans it’s the first thing on their minds.

Airag, fermented horse milk, is the national drink of choice, like how America runs on Dunkin'. Aged Airag has the alcohol proof equivalence of a glass of wine. That’s a hell of a fun way to strengthen your bones and rot your liver. Who’s up for a mare-stand?

The traditional nomadic dishes are no P.F. Chang takeout meal. Here are some popular options:

Boodog The dish comprises a marmot or goat being cooked with hot stones in the stomach. Preparation would only be enjoyed by the likes of Dwight Schrute, which involves breaking the animal’s knees and slicing the neck. No further details will be released.

Chanasan Makh The most popular nomadic dish is made from boiled lamb and innards. All lamb parts, including the bones, are boiled in salt water and the animal’s blood is poured into the intestines for blood sausage. The “goodies” are placed in one large bowl for the taking.

Mongolian Tea Warning: this is not the kind of tea you’re thinking of. Mongolian tea is made with milk and salt. Meat is frequently added. See more nomadic Mongolian cuisine at Image courtesy of

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