I’ve recently stumbled upon this youtuber Mike Chen and his channel Strictly Dumpling. I’m not that big of a foodie myself, but I do like food. This guy is next level though and I’m always amazed at how much he can eat. Looking like Jackie Chan’s twin, check out his videos of when he visited Mongolia back in 2017.
Flying Mongolian airlines experience:
Traditional Mongolian food guide, his experience in the chain restaurant Modern Nomads (click here to visit their website):
Now to be honest, normal Mongolians don’t eat like this at restaurants especially alone. These kinds of food that he’s ordering are usually for parties or special occasions or usually just for the entertainment of the tourists. Modern nomads does a good job in presentation as well as giving the whole nomadic experience with the presentation of their food and aesthetics of their restaurants.
Real Mongolian Diner
If you really want to know what the average urban Mongolian eats I suggest you try these kinds of diners (please read Caution message at the end of the article, for your general safety):
The interiors of these places are usually quite simple. All the bare necessities (Jungle Book song comes to mind) only.
Price range would be around 3,000 – 10,000 ( $1 – $4 USD) depending on the food and also the location of the place too. If one of these places is in the city center, price will be relatively higher than of places near the ger districts or outskirts of the city. A plate of rice, meat and some veggies would be around 4,000 (less than $2). 1 khuushuur / buuz would be 500 – 1,000 ( $0.20 – 0.40 USD). Portions are quite big here too.
The average urban citizen eats their food here and this is the maximum price they are willing to pay. Of course with these kinds of prices the quality follows. The meat, veggies are of the cheapest variety and let’s not get started on sanitation standards. These places have been under a lot of scrutiny on health safety issues, as well as the questionable source of their meat (there have been places that secretly used dog meat), but then again the average Mongolian let’s say taxi driver won’t be seen eating at Modern Nomads for his lunch break for a plate that’s at least 15,000 MNT.
So what’s the solution here? Maybe source the cafes that have received some sort of legal permission to operate? Be willing to pay just a bit more for better food? In reality it’s probably not that simple. I’m probably not shedding enough light onto all the different varities of these diners, but it’s a start. The diner chain called Sholondoo offers better quality fast food, and you can find them almost at every corner. If you don’t want to go into a sketchy one, I suggest Sholondoo / ШӨЛӨНДӨӨ***.
Your tour guide will never bring you to eat at these places, even though they might take a quick food break here while you’re in the museums.
If you really wouldn’t mind getting a stomach ache for 1-2 days, or if you’re the eat anything and you’re always ok type, then try these places and feel like a real city dwelling average Mongolian.
*** CAUTION 1: I advise you travel with a “male” Mongolian, preferably in groups, into these diner places. If you’re not Macho-Man, don’t get all ballsy and go in there alone. CAUTION 2: If you’re a male foreigner, it’s best not to go in with a single female tour guide, or friend or translator etc., 🙂 I’m all for gender equality and all that but this is Mongolia. You kind of need to set your mindset back a few decades when it comes to inter-racial opposite gender acquaintances / friends especially in places that are not used to receiving tourists and foreigners.