Sheep are Mongolia’s most important livestock. Most herders are nomadic and usually move four times a year, once each season. Their staple food is meat, in summer supplemented by a variety of diary products. Vegetables are rare, as the herders usually do not have gardens.
Yaks are among the five main species of livestock.
When you visit a ger, you will always be offered suutse tsai – salty milk tea (if you drink it as if it is a soup, it is delicious!), various dairy snacks, and, in season, Airag – fermented horse milk (pictured).
In summer, many Mongolians in the countryside will nearly exclusively eat dairy products. Aruul (dried cheese curds) are a popular snack.
Horses are as important to Mongolians as they are to North American cowboys. Children learn to ride when they can barely walk.
A popular way of cooking meat is putting hot rocks in a large container, adding mutton and some water, and closing it tightly for several hours. The meat, served in large chunks, gets very tender. The fat, which is drunk hot while it is still liquid is for the real mutton fan only… This is the real Mongolian barbeque, a far cry from the so-called Mongolian grill restaurants that have spring up in the west.
In the Socialist days there were many large State wheat farms in the country. They used a crop rotation system, in which the field was divided into strips; half the strips were planted one year, the other half left fallow. The following year the strips were switched. This technique is often used in Canada too. Still, yields were low and costs high. Many of these farms were not sustainable, and after the fall of communism many collapsed. Now the few farms that remain have to compete against subsidized wheat imports…