The traditional Mongolian plate is heavily based off of six
meats: beef, horse, camel, goat, sheep/mutton, and yak. Mongolian
dishes must contain foods with higher calories and vitamins due to
the cold, dry and windy weather. Meat is not only the most suitable
staple to the Mongolian diet, but also, historically, the most
Even more than meat, Mongolian's diet focuses heavily on
creative variations of dairy products. According to Eurasianet
(June 2010), traditionally, milk is seen as sacred. Women in the
countryside and urban apartments make offerings to the sky with
milk, tossing a spoonful in the four cardinal directions every
morning. With this milk, they then make many variations
including; dried curd (aaruul), yoghurt (tarag, aarts), cream that
forms on top of boiled milk (orom), dried cheese (eetsgii),
home-brewed vodka made from aarts (nermel), melted butter from
curds and orom (shar tos), cottage cheese (byaslag), fermented
mare's milk (airag). Airag is often further distilled to produce a
Mongolian vodka (shimiin arkhi).
Over the past decade, international trade relations have
developed, specifically with China. Markets are growing and
flourishing with a greater variety of foreign fruits and
vegetables. With the development of technology and internet access,
there is a constantly escalating access of information about
healthy diets and nutrition.
Undral Tumurkhuyag, the official contact of Loving Hut
Association in Mongolia, shared that most new comers to
vegetarianism are hearing about it on the television and the
internet. The awareness of health and a balanced diet is becoming
more important and many homes focus to have at least half the plate
filled with vegetables.
In 2006, Ananda's Café opened as the first vegetarian restaurant
in Mongolia. It's quickly caught on, and today there are over 20
vegan and vegetarian restaurants Ulaanbaatar. Every year, more and
more vegan and vegetarian restaurants are opening throughout
Mongolia. One of the most recent restaurants, the Vegan Lounge,
opened in May of 2011. Of the 130 Loving Hut Restaurants throughout
the world, 25 are in Mongolia, specifically with 15 in Ulaanbaatar.
There are currently 2,500 vegans in Mongolia. It is unsure how many
vegetarians are in Mongolia.
As a vegan for five years, Undraa explains that the Loving Hut's
Association's biggest goal for Mongolians is to not only eat vegan
but to also live vegan and organic. "In Mongolia, we have so much
land, yet most of our fruits and vegetables are coming from China.
We should plant our own vegetables in our own soil… In fact, right
now, many of our association members are planting sea-buckthorn
seeds. They are planting sea-buckthorn by their own hands. Then
hope to sell the fruit to the people and get people to consume
organic, Mongolian fruit." Undraa also promoted many benefits for
Mongolians to convert to vegan or even vegetarianism.
Vegetarianism is becoming a trend in
People are turning to vegetarianism in reaction to the extreme meat
consumption and becoming conscious of healthy diets and meditation.
Spiritually, "by eating meat, we gain a lot of bad karma and
retribution. Following veganism (not only food but also the clothes
and products one uses), we will not gain bad karma. Killing any
animal is never right," explains Undraa. Most vegan and vegetarian
restaurant owners in UB are Mongolians following Christian or
Buddhist spiritual movements.
Many new vegan and vegetarian restaurants focus on soy-based
meat substitutes to copy traditional Mongolian dishes such as buuz,
huushur, bantaan and tsoivan. Luna Blanca sells frozen-faux mutton
dumplings in local supermarkets. Lastly, Undraa explained that most
customers are surprised at how easy and energetic vegan diets make
you feel. "It's very soft. Meat is heavy and hard on our bodies and
vegan is more comfortable in our bellies. Most of our customers eat
vegan because it's healthy or often because they have diabetes,
then choose to eat vegan…If regular meat eaters decide to become
vegan, of course, it's very difficult. But if you sincerely wish
it, becoming a vegan is very easy and healthy."
Why not try it, or even just cut back?
Right now in Mongolia, the meat cost is high. It's beneficial to
become a vegan in our economy and Loving Hut, along with many other
restaurants and organizations, agree on how much more energetic and
healthy it will make you feel. Although traditionally, many
Mongolians believe meat is essential to fatten up in the winter,
it's really not necessary in the progressive day and age.