Milk products

Mongolian milk products are an integral part of the country's nomadic culture and diet, reflecting its rich pastoral heritage and the harsh environment that shaped its cuisine. Here's a detailed overview of some of the most significant Mongolian milk products:

1. Airag (Fermented Mare's Milk)

  • Description: Airag is a traditional Mongolian beverage made from fermented mare's milk. It is a staple in the nomadic diet and plays a central role in Mongolian cultural practices and celebrations.
  • Production: Airag is produced by fermenting fresh mare's milk in a leather or wooden container known as a "khukhuur." The milk is left to ferment naturally, typically for several days, relying on wild yeast and bacteria present in the environment.
  • Taste and Characteristics: Airag has a slightly sour and tangy taste due to the fermentation process. It contains a low alcohol content (usually around 2-3%), making it mildly alcoholic. The drink is often served cold and is consumed during festive occasions such as Naadam and other celebrations.

2. Aaruul (Dried Curd)

  • Description: Aaruul is a dried curd or cheese made from fermented milk, primarily from cow, yak, goat, or sheep milk. It serves as a portable and nutritious food source for nomadic herders during long journeys.
  • Production: Fresh milk is curdled and then pressed to remove excess whey. The resulting curds are shaped into small rounds or squares and left to dry in the sun or indoors. Aaruul can vary in texture from soft and chewy to hard and brittle, depending on the drying process.
  • Varieties: There are different types of aaruul depending on the milk source and regional variations. It can be flavored with herbs, berries, or even tea leaves during the drying process, adding complexity to its taste.

3. Byaslag (Cheese Curds)

  • Description: Byaslag is a type of cheese curd made from fermented milk, typically from cow, yak, or goat milk. It is an essential source of protein and fat in the Mongolian diet.
  • Production: Fresh milk is curdled and heated until the curds separate from the whey. The curds are then strained and pressed into molds to remove excess moisture. Byaslag can be eaten fresh or aged, with variations in taste and texture depending on the aging process.

4. Urum (Clotted Cream)

  • Description: Urum is a rich and creamy dairy product made from boiling milk until the cream separates and thickens. It is commonly used as a topping or ingredient in traditional Mongolian dishes.
  • Production: Fresh milk is slowly heated in a pot until a layer of cream forms on the surface. The cream is skimmed off and further boiled until it thickens into a spreadable consistency.
  • Usage: Urum is often enjoyed with bread, biscuits, or used in cooking to add richness and flavor to soups and stews. It can also be sweetened with honey or sugar for a dessert topping.

Cultural Significance

Mongolian milk products not only sustain the nomadic population in a harsh environment but also hold cultural and social significance. They are often shared during gatherings, ceremonies, and celebrations, fostering community bonds and preserving traditional knowledge passed down through generations. These dairy products exemplify the resilience and resourcefulness of Mongolian nomads in utilizing their livestock to create essential foods that sustain them throughout the year.

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