by Mark and Cinda

Yesterday our language school went on an end-of-year picnic.  It was a beautiful day for it (we changed the day to Friday after hearing that there may be snow in the forecast for Saturday)

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Our language school (not everyone from the school is pictured)  From the left is Toya Bagsh, our family, Toya’s brother-in-law and Mondahai a teacher from Ulaan Baatar, Ali and Averi, Oyunga Bagsh’s husband and daughter, Aruna Bagsh, The Lains, Toya Bagsh’s husband, Inxhee Bagsh and husband and Oyunga Bagsh.  (Malo, a student from Brazil was also with us, but she took the photo.)  Never realized how tall we are!  And how white! 

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We drove a few miles south of Darkhan along the river that flows through Darkhan

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Annika and Averi wading

 

Having a picnic is not just a meal, it’s an all day event.  We got set up and started with the first round of Sharlock (shish-ka-bob or Shishkie or Charasco).  Beef, marinated in some vinegrette, with dried apricots and red onions.   

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The Khorkhog is a traditional Mongolian dish.  Originally it was done by de-boning an entire sheep through the neck (this is an incredible skill that doesn’t get done much anymore, except for with marmot).  Rocks are then heated in the fire to red hot and were placed in the sheep to cook.  The neck was sewn up.  Today there are a few different variations on this theme.  Mutton is still the favored meat by far (did I mention there are an estimated 40,000,000 sheep in Mongolia- yes 40 million you read that right).  Some people will use milk canisters (think the big metal ones) that are filled with layers of hot rocks, meat and vegetables.  The bad part about these is that its like a pressure cooker without a release valve, it can blow up, especially when rolled around to distribute the juices. 

Most Khorhog does not have much seasoning, ours had some tomato base and Korean seasoning which was outstanding. 

[Note: Mongolian BBQ as popularized in many restaurants in the US does not exist in Mongolia – except for BD’s BBQ – a US chain with a franchise in UB.]

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Step #1: Build the fire.  The Khorkhog containers are the pans seen in the foreground and background.

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Step #2: Cut up vegetables and meat. 

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Step #3: Start adding hot rocks and meat together and cover

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Step #4: Cover and cook for an hour or two.  This is a heavy pan that seems to seal and pressure cook but allows excess pressure to vent.

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It’s good that everywhere one goes in Mongolia, a stray dog or two is sure to follow.  That makes it easier for us foreigners to discreetly dispose of the excess fat and grissle we find it difficult to eat, but that the Mongolians deem as the best part of the meat.  Annika and Averi handled the secret disposal for their parents on this occasion by giving it to a mother dog who was sticking close.  Annika and Toby didn’t care for the main dish, but they found plenty of other things to eat.

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