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Galloping Gourmets

After the long train trip we go for a big meal. In the carnivalesque cuisine of Mongolia, meat is cheaper and hence more plentiful than vegetables. But it’s cooking based in the scarcity of the steppes so all parts of the sheep are eaten including the testicles. The first dish I order is mutton porridge, a glutinously thick stew with suspicious globs of meat in it. It reminds me of a hearty Scotch broth, minus any of those annoying veggies.

As the Mongols were nomads they needed meat in any form including their national animal, so the horse is eaten. Which brings me to the main – skip ahead if you’re a Black Beauty fan. The Cowboy dish has three hefty horse ribs with potatoes on

the side and a doughy dumpling pancake over the top. Perhaps this pancake is for modesty or to grandly unveil the meat beneath.

And what does Mr Ed taste like? A nutty meat that could even be another cut of mutton. It’s definitely no racehorse as there’s fat lining the bone, though another piece is rangy like good game. It would have been good to wash down with koumiss (fermented mare’s milk) but the menu only runs to beers. Dessert items include peanuts, chewing gum and cigarettes – all good walking foods so we take the hint and head out.

Way of the Rails #1: Quick Guide to the Train Life

We splurged between Datong and Ulaan Baatar and got a 2-person soft sleeper. This cosy cabin is like a pokey hotel room – only one of us can open our bag at a time and stowing on the top bunk makes more space. The top bunks folds down and there’s a nice fold-down ladder. There’s a share shower – basically a hose, sink and drainable floor, but it does the job for a train. You also get a large thermos flask that conductors will re-fill (or let you re-fill depending on their friendliness) from the coal-fired boiler at the end of the carriage. As well as tea and coffee, it makes for budget saving soups and noodles.

Of course there’s also the dining car. Our ticket includes dinner which in China was a couple of dollops of meatballs, rice and carrots and celery on the side. It’s bland but bearable. And you can throw in a couple of beers if you’re after flavour.

In the morning and on the other side of the border, we couple with a new dining car complete with ornately carved woodwork and a Mongolian ala carte breakfast. My sausage omlette comes with a sauerkraut-like slaw of carrots and cabbage. It’s springy and flavoursome, making a change from cup noodles.


  1. So what you're saying is Mongolia is not great for vegans. Or that if I go there I will have to survive entirely on a diet of beer. Actually, that might not be soooo bad... now, post some picture of you drinking kourmiss. Please.

    (PS I once ate raw horse.)


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