Our day in the Mongolian countryside continued to be one rich experience as our host family finished the process they had started (see previous two blog entries). It was fascinating to watch as they made final preparations for our evening meal.
Once the goat was cut into pieces, they began the cooking process. Not what we were used to, but actually fairly similar to what some of our young scouts have been known to do in the states. They used a milk can.
While all of the 'fun' we've been describing was going on outside, the family had been warming up the stove inside their ger. We sort of thought they would likely just pan fry the meat. Nope! They used the fire in the stove to heat rocks. And remember the pictures of the area? No trees, right? So what does one use for fueling a fire? Well, dried cow dung, of course!
He started placing pieces of goat in the milk can (see above).
Then, he would remove a hot rock from the fire box of the hot stove (you know, the rocks that had been carefully heated in burning cow dung), knock the ashes from them by hitting them and rolling them around on the top of the stove and then put them in the milk can with the meat. Then, more meat, more rocks, more meat, more rocks, some potatoes, beets, salt, etc. Cooked this way it is called Khorkhog (the k's are silent).
By this time, the ger was getting pretty hot inside. The heat didn't seem to bother them much. They were probably used to it. As for us, give us an good old air conditioned home any day!
Finally, he sealed the milk can and locked it closed, placed it on top of the hot stove and added additional heat using the propane torches. As you can see in the picture, the flame would, at times become quite large. We wondered how safe it was! We were sure glad they were experienced at all this!
It was really hot in there now, and most of us opted to wait outside for the rest of the cooking process.
About 75 minutes later, the can full of food was ready to eat! It actually tasted quite good! However, that goat was not really all that plump and well filled out. And the meat was a bit on the skimpy side as it was attached to and wrapped around the bones. But the flavor was really good and the potatoes and beets (Mongolian beets are orange and quite different from ours) were excellent!
As you might have figured out, they have no refrigeration. So what does one do with a milk can full of meat? They invite all of the neighbors over and have a big feast! They rotate those dinners between several ger families and don't worry about refrigerating anything -- at least not in the summer. No problem in the winter! Nature provides a wonderful deep freeze!
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Ulaanbaatar. A bit later than we had anticipated, but we counted it as worth it!
Don't you wish you were here? Don't worry. We watched very carefully and would be happy to provide the same meal when we return home! Anyone got a spare goat?