Posts Tagged With: Food

What Do You Call a Mexican Restaurant in Mongolia?

Mexikhan Logo

IMG_0808Last night we celebrated Dia de los Muertos with a full restaurant of expats and Mongolians, with fabulous seasonal decoration and a lively floor show. There was a set menu of sangria, sopa de hongos (mushrooms and pancetta in broth), horchata, chilaquiles and tres leches cake to finish. All of it was quite good, and the chilaquiles (right) actually had some chile warmth, which we appreciated.

No mariachi band, unfortunately, but there was a man who did tricks with fire — is there a term for these guys? — a three-person band and two contortionist acts.

Contortionist PyramidMongolian contortionists are famous and perform around the world, as well as locally. I asked our friend if booking them is like getting a magician for your kid’s birthday party, and, well, yes, it is.

And here’s our server in her Day of the Dead makeup:
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Overall, it was an enjoyable night — in that culturally-dislocated way we’re coming to expect. We hear the restaurant is owned by three partners: one Mongolian, one Mexican and one Irish. (It sounds like the beginning of a great joke, doesn’t it? “Three guys walk into a bar, a Mongolian…”) Add to that a bunch of expats from western countries that don’t celebrate Dia de los Muertos, and the whole thing felt pretty random. Fun, though.

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Mongolian Food Calls My Bluff

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Lamb organs

For most of my life, I’ve thought of myself as a food person. And over the years, I’ve gotten more and more adventurous, gotten better at cooking, learned more about why people eat what they eat (and been very judgmental too, I must say), all that. But here I’ve reverted to the narrow, picky habits of childhood; Mongolian food has called my bluff.

People who like Mongolian food describe it as meaty, fatty and bland, and from the locavore/anthropological point of view, this is both correct and appropriate. Traditionally, people eat what is easy to obtain, and nomadic people who live with their flocks of sheep/cows/horses/goats in a climate with a short growing season are going to eat a lot of meat and dairy. I get it, I really do. I just can’t eat this way.

IMG_0782My very kind and welcoming colleagues made an office lunch last week of a very traditional, common dish of dumplings in milk tea. The dumplings are small, like har gow with lamb filling, and milk tea — which is drunk everywhere — is tea made with milk, butter and salt. I tried to eat it, but could only manage a little. Of all the meat that I don’t like, lamb and mutton are the worst, because of that smell. It’s really embarrassing.

There are some vegetables included, mostly cooked together as a stew or dressed in mayonnaise and on the side, often with pickles and ham added for an eastern European flavor. Green salads are available at the more upscale, western restaurants — the kind I used to snark about in Malaysia: “Oh, they’re afraid of the local food, only eat at those bad western places.”

IMG_0797 This week we had two days of order-in-for-a-meeting office lunches, and I got the dish at right: beef goulash with rice, mashed potato, carrot salad and stewed cabbage. I ate around the goulash, while everyone else had lamb buns — the size of my fist, like bao — and salad of hardboiled egg and ham.

Now that we’re in our own apartment with a kitchen, we can cook dinner at home, and that’s been a relief. Most restaurant food seems bland to me, and the portions are huge, consistent with the local taste. I thought we Americans served the biggest portions, but if I can’t finish a soup and salad, that’s saying something.

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