Mongolian Yak curd. Cycle tour of Mongolia | Crank and Cog.
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Mongolian food

Mongolian food is very much a meat and flour based cuisine with not much room for fruit, vegetables or spices.

A typical meal at a Mongolian restaurant, noodles and meat washed down with milky, salty tea.

Sometimes in the more upmarket restaurants, (easily distinguished by a table cloth at your table and a knife with your fork!) you may have a second  option on the menu… Rice with meat.


The lack of fresh fruit and vegetables was one thing we struggled with most in Mongolia.

The people are very self sufficient, raising, butchering, preserving and using every part of the animals they farm, additionally they produce their own milk, butter,whey curd and yogurt, along with baking their own bread and frequently venturing into the woods to gather wild nuts and berries or shooting marmot on the plains. So you can imagine shopkeepers would consider it a waste to have all the above lying unneeded on their shelves, therefore  the choice in a lot of shops consists of tined food, instant noodles, dried foods and grains, such as rice and semolina.  Very frustrating as a malnurited, vitamin deprived cycle tourer desperately craving a crunchy carrot!

On occasions we would come across vans selling water melons, carrots or onions on the side of the road, particularly on the outskirts of towns further west. The water melons of course were devoured with gusto.

Everything is ok with the world again!

We often wondered why there were so many stripped, naked pine cones discarded on the side of the road until we were handed a large one at a ger. Bemused as to what to do with it we were showed how to strip back the pine cone scales to reveal the little nuts inside, these little gems are packed full of vitamins and minerals and offer a good source of nourishment.
Patience and perserverance needed.

 It can be pretty tricky prizing the nuts out.

One thing I couldn’t resist was Mongolian curd, otherwise known as aaruul, which is made from cow, yak or camel milk. The milk is left to curdle and the solid parts are pressed into cakes and left to dry in the sun, usually by placing them on the roofs of the gers. They are easily stored and ideal for travel, the only problem is having the will power to ration them!
Delicious aaruul. I’m actually smiling here…



I really enjoyed Khuushuur, which is a mince meat, usually mutton,filled pastry pancake with onion, and found everywhere in Mongolia. It’s pan fried or deep fried and is a great comfort food.


  1. Hey guys! I just read your Mongolian blog posts, the whole place looks awesome. Its whet my appetite for everything except the food! Quite coincidentally I’m actually heading that direction at the moment myself! I’m currently camping near Rubtovsk after crossing over from Kazakhstan yesterday. Do ye have any idea when you’ll be reaching Barnaul? I should be there on 2-3 days before I head east in the direction of Biysk. It’d be cool to meet some fellow Irish cyclists on the road 🙂 I might just miss ye though if ye are heading in the direction of Novosibirsk so no worries if it doesn’t work out. All the best with the journey anyway 🙂 William


    • Hi William! We are currently in kosh agach, after crossing the border into Russia yesterday, we are trying to recover from a persistent stomach bug, so we’ll stay here until tomorrow,hopefully we’ll be well enough to continue on by then. As it stands we’re about 700 km from Barnaul, so we won’t be able to make it in 2/3 days, but from the sound of it, you seem to be traveling the Chusky Tract(M52), which we’ll be following, in the opposite direction to you of course. I reckon we could be in Biysk in about a week. It definitely would be cool to meet up somewhere along the way,we’ll keep an eye out for you! Unfortunately We don’t have regular access to Internet, so apologies in advance if we miss a future email of yours.


      • Hey Ciaran, hope ye get well soon. Those stomach bugs can be a real struggle to deal with when you’re on the road. I will indeed be following the M52. I’m hoping to reach Barnaul this evening and then to take a rest day there tomorrow. So all going well I’d be in Biysk 4 days from now so it might be closer to Gorno Altaysk that our paths cross. If it works out it’d be cool to meet up for a beer somewhere along the way but if not I’m sure we’ll bump into each other on the road 🙂 Best of luck with the Chiusky Tract! Enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It was great to meet ye as well and reminisce about everything back home. My longing for a good fry up is even worse than usual now! Haha, let’s hope so, I can’t take any more of them! I’ll be keeping an eye on your journal, I’m looking forward to seeing how ye get on in Romania 🙂 All the best with the rest of Russia and Europe. I’ll make sure to give ye a shout when I’m on the return leg back through Ireland. Hopefully I’ll catch ye in Costello’s then. Enjoy the rest of the journey and fair fecks for making it through Mongolia, it sounded like a proper test. All the best, William


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