Travelling in Mongolia when you are vegetarian
Vegetarians, before undertaking a trip in the vast steppes of Mongolia, are often and understandably, worried about what they will find in their plates during their tour. So here comes our little survival guide, in order to enjoy your journey at best and feel carefree by being vegetarian in Mongolia.
It is renown that Mongols are great meat lovers. In fact, be assured to find sheep and goat meats in all traditional cooked dishes. A meal without meat is unconceivable for our Mongolian friends, who think that vegetables are only good for animals, and as for people have to eat meat.
So how to do, when the mere idea of eating meat, turns our stomach? Do not worry, even if you can’t unfortunately share the same dish as the Mongols, it is still possible to have a vegetarian diet for all the length of your trip in Mongolia.
Being vegetarian in Ulaanbaatar
Let’s start with the easiest part: eating vegetarian food in the capital. Still hard to believe, 10 years ago numerous vegetarian restaurants opened their doors and became very popular among the Mongolian youth looking for a new way of life. We currently count about 30 locations serving exclusively vegetarian dishes, and also the ones from Loving hut chain, which runs over 25 restaurants in the country. Another famous logo is Luna Blanca, which has adjusted few traditional dishes to the vegan trend, and where you can taste delicious Khuushuur made from Soja steak. Notice also the more selected Vegan Lounge restaurant. In addition to these exclusive vegetarian restaurants, you can also enjoy dishes without meat, in most of the restaurants of the capital.
Being vegetarians in the steppes
Of course, once you will have left the capital, the situation will become a tiny more complicated.
The traditional nomadic culture is based on breeding animals, and this is this pastoral way of life, which has contributed to the survival of Mongolians through the centuries. In fact, the weather conditions of the country make almost impossible the development of any agriculture. Meat and diary products are then traditionally considered as the base of Mongolian diet. The elderlies may think that a meal must be calorific and protein in order to resist at best the cold, dry, and windy climate that we find in the steppes, and so that the meat and the products from animals are the most adapted to their conditions of life.
Meat being adjusted and available in the steppes, it is all a diet that has been developed around it.
During your tours, you will stay in 3 sorts of locations, and according to that, you will have different possibilities.
Eat amongst the nomads as a vegetarianDuring your journey in Mongolia, you will probably have to stay for one or several days in a nomadic breeder family, and very often they will be the ones who will prepare your meal. If you are traveling with a guide, they will explain to the family that you do eat neither meat, nor diary products. The family will be surprised at first, but will do with it, and cook your meal without meat. On the menu: fried rice with vegetables, fried raviolis (Khuushuur) filled with mashed potatoes. Do not expect much variety, and you will certainly have to prepare yourself your meal. If you are traveling with an agency, they will prepare a meal adjusted to your diet, which will be then prepared by your guide. If you are traveling independently, you will have to bring your own food. Finally, it may occur that you will camp. If you are alone, you will surely need to make the necessary provisions according to your taste. During the tours the agency will take care of your meals. They will also have made the necessary provisions in accordance with your queries. Very often a cook will come along with you and will know how to adapt your diet at best.
Horseback Mongolia agency has got their own kitchens in Ulaanbaatar, in where 3 chefs work on the preparation of the meals. If we cook from here for all of our tours, varied meals based on meat and vegetables that enables us to bring variety in the diet of our customers during the tours. We also prepare 100% vegan dishes, as well as gluten-free for instance. All the dishes are either kept vacuum packed and frozen. However, the dishes need to be consumed within the first week of the trip; for longer trips we will get fresh supplies when possible, where you will have to adapt yourself to less varied meals, based on starchy food (pasta, rice) and canned (green beans, peas).
In conclusion, even if Mongolia is not a country of vegetarians, henceforth it remains a destination where the vegetarians can travel to without much worries. However, the longer your circuit will be and take place in remote areas, the more you will have to make sacrifices on the variety and delicacy of your meals. The most difficult circuits to organize for vegetarians are long hikes, and independently in remote areas without supply possibilities. Choosing a good agency used to arrange vegetarian meals, will make your journey more pleasant. In this way, Horseback Mongolia is the only agency in the country to have their own kitchens and prepare elaborated vegetarian meals and stored under vacuum packed.
Have a nice trip!